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Streetcar520 forges its own path in McCabe’s shadow

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Cocktails like the Bon-Journ-O show Streetcar520’s new spirit. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Cocktails like the Bon-Journ-O show Streetcar520’s new spirit.
The shadow of the deceased McCabe’s Tavern looms large over owner Ari Howard’s new concept, Streetcar520. The spot went head-to-head with Jack Quinn’s for best Irish pub in town for years in our Best Of competition. And now, the space appears entirely different: re-imagined as a hip global-contemporary spot with cool graffiti murals and a stripped-down industrial look.

Our visits start at the bar, managed by Dak Keeling. We start with a Bon-Journ-O, a mix of High West American Prairie bourbon, Fernet-Branca, Peychaud’s Aperitivo and Carpano Punt e Mes, served on the rocks. Per the Inglourious Basterds-referencing name, it’s something American (bourbon) masquerading as Italian (a bittersweet aperitivo). It’s complex but approachable, as each sip travels from sweet to layered herbal bitterness. We find success and an interesting concept once more in the Sloe Dancing in a Burning Room. It’s a mix of Lee Spirits Co. GinFuego and strawberry ginger gin, absinthe, rosemary simple syrup and lemon juice, served in a martini glass. Up front, it’s sweet and herbal, with a finish that travels rapidly through spicy, sweet and sour.

For hot days, Streetcar520 serves frosé, or rosé served out of a slushie machine. Customers can get a glass served “plain jane” or, for another buck, with one of four fruit syrups. We try blood orange for a delightful and refreshing treat, booziness balanced somewhat by the mild syrup.

For food, McCabe’s fans do have one critical component to return to: the lauded curry dip. It’s still good, and salty house-cut fries pair great. We also try the roasted artichoke, served bisected with a crust of garlic and Parmesan, with a fresh, bright lemon aioli for dipping — strictly indulgent and buttery. From one of many vegan offerings, we try the Bodhi bowl, a pleasant combination of veggies, legumes and quinoa, with a turmeric-tahini dressing. It’s a fun salad with many bites to be built.
Location Details Streetcar520
520 S. Tejon St.
Downtown
Colorado Springs, CO
633-3300
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, to 1 a.m.

Come entrées, the banh mi, offered with pork or chicken, delights. Crisp veggies do great, and while the tart kimchi could use more heat by our measure, there’s a nice balance. Slices of roast pork make for a deeply satisfying savory counterpoint, and the subtle funk from chicken liver mousse takes it over the top. Also strong, the trout fillet comes nicely cooked atop sweet cauliflower purée and garlicky greens, with curry roasted cauliflower around the plate, a respectable dual exploration of the vegetable.

Less strong, the duck confit mac and cheese feels like two separate dishes piled one on the other. Below, green chile mac and cheese’s creamy white cheddar/fontina/Parmesan sauce lacks flavor from the chiles. Atop, shredded duck confit plays nicely with a chipotle barbecue sauce and red chile-dusted pepitas. Together, it’s too busy, resolving forgettably.

Howard happens to drop by after we’ve ordered a falafel burger. She, my editor and I discuss her ongoing difficulties getting the falafel patty crisp on the outside without being heavy and dry on the inside — her concerns are well founded, as arugula and tzatziki can’t save the day. She tells us ours hasn’t been served with off-menu-but-normally-there harissa sauce, which we agree would improve the sandwich. Still, a requested side of vegan/gluten-free mulligatawny soup’s an east Indian delight, lovely spices and filling lentils aplenty.

So though McCabe’s may linger on in some local memories, what Howard’s (re)built among its bones shows a unique vibrancy. Streetcar520 stands on its own legs just fine.

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