In the past five years, Dave Brackett has opened Pizzeria Rustica and TAPAteria, two Old Colorado City restaurants that profess to offer an authentic dining experience, be it Neapolitan or Spanish in nature. He relies on local ingredients and a stringent "green" philosophy.
Indy: How would you describe the Springs' current dining scene? Even opposed to 10 years ago, do you think it's grown at all, or is it kind of stagnant?
DB: I think there's definitely more independent restaurants, particularly here on the west side. I think we've got the most diverse group of independent restaurants here. ... So, yeah, I think it's basically Powers Boulevard and Briargate Parkway chains against independents downtown, and up this way, and in Manitou.
Indy: What do you think we're doing right, and what do you think we're doing wrong?
DB: I think everybody's pretty much in a hunker-down mode. You see some of the ideas that people have to expand, like Mason Jar going up north and then trying to rebrand it as Zane's, but that's just a death-trap location. So I think the big lesson now is the way people are commuting and going out and traveling is, if you can't be easily reached, either by a main highway, or walking or cycling or something, if it's too hard to get to, people just aren't gonna go there.
Indy: Is there anything you'd like to see more of, specifically, other than just fewer chains?
DB: We definitely need a really good fresh seafood grill and oyster bar. [Now-closed] Palapa's tried to do it too big; it needs to be a 40- or 50-seater. And of course we've got big things going, like Colorado Mountain Brewery going into Roundhouse [on 21st Street] — that'll be huge. And so there's some bigger independents that are doing some expansion. ...
I guess the fundamental problem that I and my wife have is, when we want to go out to eat, we're kind of flummoxed. If we [don't] want to go to The Famous or Marigold, or maybe MacKenzie's, we start running out of options.
Indy: As far as opening new spots, what do you think the current environment is like for the aspiring restaurateur?
DB: It all depends on somebody's individual situation. It's hard to get loans now, so you've got to either have money, or friends and family and stuff. I was able to get a Patriot Express Loan when I started Rustica, as a veteran, which really helped out. But we really bootstrapped TAPAteria on our own.
Indy: Other than your restaurants, what's your favorite restaurant around?
DB: Well, this is our age-old problem. I guess we go to The Famous as much as anywhere. ...
Indy: Any other thoughts?
DB: I guess my bottom line is, we took our slow-food group up to Boulder, and we just had a fantastic weekend up there; between the farmers market, and going to a vineyard and going out to three different restaurants, all of which were better than any restaurant in Colorado Springs. ...
Fundamentally, until we get more of that demand from people that want high-quality, farm-to-table, green, sustainable good stuff, as long as they're going to keep going to Jack in the Box and all those places out on Powers, then we won't get there.