3005 N. Hancock Ave., 632-4144
The North End Diner is dead; long live the North End Diner. Of course, the new Springs Café — good luck finding that on Google — isn't exactly like the former tenant. For instance, the walls have been cleaned up into a mostly blank white, but the open kitchen and cozy lunch counter remain, and there's a lot of diner on that menu, to go with the Mexican influences.
Our server recommended the taco platter ($7.25), which brought a trio of buttery, house-fried shells filled with moist but fairly bland chicken, tomatoes, cilantro and shredded cheddar. (Pretty small additions of guacamole and sour cream ran an extra dollar and 50 cents, respectively.) Sides of fresh-tasting refried beans and Spanish rice were also quietly seasoned. A pair of smothered breakfast empanadas ($7 plus $2 for green chile) were fun, with a medium-heat chile full of pork chunks, but sat heavily afterward. — Bryce Crawford
Blue Ocean Japanese Restaurant
103 S. Union Ave., Pueblo, 719/696-8241, blueoceansushico.com
In the former Wireworks Coffeehouse on the Riverwalk, 11/2-year-old Blue Ocean performs swimmingly, with complimentary banchan (a nod to the Korean ownership) dropped alongside miso soup and a small salad (orange ginger dressing = yum) even before you order, literally within two minutes of being seated.
A Pokey Salad ($13.95) exudes freshness, its sesame-oil-drizzled sashimi arranged over thin cucumber slivers and green tobiko (roe). The Green Mountain and Pueblo rolls ($13.95 each) find fun, unusual flair: The former packs spicy crab, cucumber and cream cheese under red snapper and kiwi to odd but enjoyable effect, with a sweet finish. The latter places local green chili slivers over salmon and spicy tuna for some serious heat and a buttery backbone. Mango mochi for dessert tastes almost like a Creamsicle. Overall: total win. — Matthew Schniper
Green Man Taproom & Beer Garden
320 S. Weber St., 237-2711, greenmantaps.com
I feel like I'm drinking inside the great banquet hall of a half-finished Game of Thrones set, with ornate gold curtains hung from low arches that curve heavenward in this former church. Copper-emblazoned central bar segments reflect divinity-laced late daylight, contrasted by a wide sight-line behind the counter revealing dark scrim tacked over raw wood framing. You've never drunk in a place like this: It's badass.
Forty-four brews from which to choose, many rare and damn-near exclusive? Brilliant. Execution? Full of early growing pains. From menu misspellings to a 10-minute wait to get owner Scott Simmons' attention for our final round, then an accidental failure to apply the Thursday $2 half-pints discount to applicable beers on our bill, overwhelm remains on display at Green Man, a month after launch. Visit our IndyBlog to hear why, all this in mind, I still believe it will reach vegetation deity status, soon. — Matthew Schniper