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The 2010 Bites Dining Guide

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Welcome to Bites, an Independent resource for dining out locally.

In the coming pages, you'll find an alphabetized rundown of more than 140 Pikes Peak area eateries. Any restaurant that we reviewed in 2009, and is still open, has been included and marked with a review date. Also, any restaurant voted to the top of a 2009 Best Of category is in here.

In addition to these two collections, we've incorporated a third: the restaurants we consider must-know spots. These are the places to which you'd take out-of-town guests, or that you'd count on yourself for a perfect brunch or date night.

We readily acknowledge that this does not make for a complete compilation. While we have the appetite, we unfortunately have neither the manpower nor the space to feature every taqueria, tapas bar and Thai joint in the city.

And we expect some of you will have much to say about what we've missed. With that in mind, please take note of p. 25, which includes guidelines for submitting your own reviews on our Web site. You can also sound off by writing to

A couple notes: Pricing is indicated with a dollar-sign system. Places with one dollar sign generally sell entrées in the $5 to $10 range; two signs, in the $10 to $20 range; and three signs, $20 and up. Also, in the back of the guide, you'll find indices (organized by cuisine and part of town) for easy navigation.

So dig in. And happy dining to you and yours.

Matthew Schniper and Bryce Crawford

Adam's Mountain Café

Café/Vegetarian ~ $$

Manitou Springs: 934 Manitou Ave., 685-1430,

Best of 2009

Adam's Mountain Café beautifully blends slow food and good food. With conscientious eating comes delicious dishes like the orange almond French toast or cream-sherry new red potatoes for breakfast, and a nut-laden Planet Burger or a pear and pecan salad for lunch. Sit back, enjoy the quirky art of Manitou's own Charles Rockey (it lines the walls) and lift a glass of organic wine to toast Adam's 16th year of winning Best Restaurant for Herbivores.

Amanda's Fonda

Mexican ~ $

West Side: 3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975

Best of 2009

Our readers voted Amanda's Fonda the Best Mexican food in the entire city, and have done so 10 times. This staple of the west side dining circuit has clearly won a loyal following with its hefty portions of Tex-Mex standards. We love their stellar creekside patio space most.

Amuzé Bistro

Gourmet ~ $$$

Tri-Lakes: 292 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 481-1700,

Reviewed: April 23

Originally constructed in 1874 as a bunkhouse for Denver and Rio Grande railroad workers, this warm, cottage-sized space is now the playground of skilled chef Bill Sherman. Once an engineer on fighter planes, Sherman brings similar attention to detail to the creative and complex menu. Highlights include duck with a huckleberry habañero pan sauce and a red chili crème brulée. Entrées top out at a $48 filet mignon; reservations are a must.

Arharn Thai

Thai ~ $

Powers: 3739 Bloomington St., 596-6559,

Reviewed: April 30

Owner and Bangkok native Doungsamorn "Pong" Peanvanvanich proves that when your plates abound with bright, crisp vegetables, floral, pore-opening spices, and generous strips of meat, you don't need a flashy name. "Food" (the English translation of "Arharn") will do. Service is quick and friendly, and Pong should be commended for bringing Thai to the east side and new dishes to town, like the pad Thai ho kai, a great pad Thai version wrapped in a neat egg purse. Try the outstanding fish cakes and papaya salad, and finish with mango sticky rice.

B&E Filling Station Restaurant

Gourmet ~ $$

Tri-Lakes: 25 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 481-4780,

Venture out to Palmer Lake for a special Sunday brunch at 14-year-old B&E, and you'll find lovely dishes like buckwheat pancakes with bourbon maple syrup and crab cakes and eggs. Head out for dinner during the week and enjoy gourmet treats like green chili pork osso bucco, almond-crusted salmon and New Zealand rack of lamb, all with decadent sauces prepared by chef and owner Chris Bohler.

Bara Sushi & Grill

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Briargate: 1645 Briargate Pkwy., #245, 599-7330,

Reviewed: Dec. 10

An extension of Denver's flagship operation, this Bara sports sharp, ultramodern décor and beautiful food presentations. If you've never tried bacon on sushi, get the Bara Roll, where it joins asparagus and baked salmon. Lunchtime offers some affordable options, such as a stocked $10.50 box. Bara's Nigiri pieces are as fresh as anyone's locally, and most of the fancy sushi creations deliver. Ask your friendly server to steer you away from any skinny rolls.

Barney's Diner

Diner ~ $

Downtown: 129 W. Las Animas St., 632-1756

Reviewed: Aug. 6

Barney's turns 45 in 2010, as the vinyl booths held together by strips of red duct tape will attest. This is a classic, cheap diner (topping out at around $6) frequented by everyone from hipsters to businessmen in ties and Martin Drake Power Plant workers from across the street. Oddly (and wonderfully), it stocks sustainability-minded products from local Ranch Foods Direct and Decker and Son Sausage Co. And of course, you can get everything from biscuits and gravy to chicken-fried steak and corned beef hash. On the first Wednesday of the month, fried chicken meals send lines out the door.

Bhan Thai

Thai ~ $

Academy (North): 1025 N. Academy Blvd., 574-3401

Northwest: 4431 Centennial Blvd., 266-1309,

Three words: tom kha gai. It's a magnetizing mélange of lemongrass, galangal, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and bird chiles spinning around a coconut broth packing chicken or shrimp. If that doesn't do it for you, try the spiced noodles: drunken, black soy or otherwise.

Bird Dog BBQ

Barbecue ~ $

Powers: 5984 Stetson Hills Blvd., #200, 596-4900

Briargate: 1645 Briargate Pkwy., #243, 599-4655,

Add your dog's mug shot to Bird Dog's tabletop collection while diving into some of the juiciest barbecue in the city. Go for the DogHouse, a plate of brisket or pulled pork with hot links and Polish sausage, all covered in baked beans. For date night, go with the prime rib plate; served with okra and the "shotgun spud." End with the peach cobbler.

Bistro de Pinto

Gourmet ~ $$$

Downtown: 26 E. Kiowa St., 473-3538,

Best of 2009

Bistro de Pinto, operated by Tammy and Mike Pinto, has been a downtown fine-dining fixture since 2006. Awarded Best Wait Staff in 2009, Bistro shines in a cozy dining room with offerings like the brandy apricot chicken, a Macadamia-encrusted chicken breast with chef's whipped potatoes and brandy apricot sauce. Meats are sourced from Ranch Foods Direct, one sign that the Pintos put a lot of care into their creative menu.

The Black Bear

Gourmet ~ $$$

Green Mountain Falls: 10375 Ute Pass Ave., 684-9648,

Chef and proprietor Victor Matthews offers a dining experience that few in town can replicate. Start with an artisan cheese with white truffle honey course, then move on to the Lacquered Duck — the bird is salted overnight, then rinsed and steeped in honey syrup. Alternatively, you could go with the Chef's Table Tasting Menu, where the chef or one of his star Paragon Culinary School pupils comes out and customizes a full-course meal for the table.

The Blue Star

Gourmet ~ $$$

Cheyenne Mountain: 1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086,

Best of 2009

Restaurateur Joe Coleman's original Springs venture, the Blue Star, took first, second or third in a stunning nine Best Of categories last year, including firsts in Overall Restaurant, Innovative Menu and Wine List. The bar side offers a more casual atmosphere with a less expensive menu, perfect for drinks over small plates and conversation. Beyond swinging doors, the dining room features a contemporary menu of gourmet entrées like duck, short ribs and lamb decked out in creative sauces, with yummy sides like sweet potato pancakes and bleu cheese mashed potatoes.

Bona Dea Teahouse & Emporium

Tea/Café ~ $

Old Colorado City: 1824 W. Colorado Ave., 473-8322

Reviewed: July 30

Bona Dea welcomes you with a striking purple fence that frames a garden of wild flowers, tea roses and lilies. Walking in, you notice that each spot in the dining room charmingly represents a stop in owner Lari Trogani's travels. Once seated, look for the perfectly seasoned chicken salad with pineapple, green pepper and almonds, as well as "Apsu's Imperial Delight" of finely chopped crab, lime, sesame seeds and cilantro.

Borriello Brothers

Pizza/Italian ~ $

Multiple Locations:

Best of 2009

From eight stores in Colorado Springs, Borriello Brothers dishes out the pizza that Independent readers consistently find the best. Pies are 18-inch, hand-tossed New York-style beauties, topped with the standards of your choosing. The outfit recently added personal-sized gluten-free pizzas, and also serves up salads, subs, appetizers and calzones — which, honestly, we've never tried, because, well, there's awesome pizza to be eaten.

Briarhurst Manor Estate

Gourmet ~ $$$

Manitou Springs: 404 Manitou Ave., 685-1864,

Best of 2009

If you didn't have your wedding at the area's Best Place for a Wedding and Best Restaurant for a Wedding Reception, maybe you've heard about or attended someone else's. If so, you know the Manitou landmark should be more than a once-in-a-lifetime stop. An extensive wine list complements fine-dining winners like the braised bison short ribs, Rocky Mountain oysters and Colorado lamb chops. Plus, the place is haunted, which is cool.

Café 36 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Gourmet ~ $$$

Downtown: 30 W. Dale St., 477-4377,

Operated by Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Café 36 boasts the undisputed best restaurant view in the city from its stunning terrace. Go for the three-course lunch for $20, truly a great deal for quality food, or catch a pre-Sagaji-Theatre-show dinner of Tuscan braised Colorado lamb shank and crispy Brie with warm cherry ginger compote. Don't miss this outfit's excellent desserts, either.

Café Banzai

Korean/Japanese ~ $

Downtown: 230 Pueblo Ave., 227-7357

Reviewed: March 12

Located on that funny diagonal street next to the Rocket Room, Café Banzai is a Portland, Ore.-transplant run by the talented Mr. Kwi Kim. His L.A.-style (thin-sliced) beef short ribs, marinated in pear and apple pureé and teriyaki sauce, is the go-for dish. But you can't beat $5 daily lunch specials that will actually fill you up. Kim recently added Japanese curries (more of a brown sauce than what you find in Indian and Thai dishes) and ramen noodles (the real deal, not your college food), as well as a traditional Kimchi (available in 16-ounce jars for $4) made by his wife.

Carlos' Bistro

Gourmet ~ $$$

West Side: 1025 S. 21st St., 471-2905

Delicious appetizers like shrimp cocktail or tuna tartare start the night off right, and superb cocktails, like the key lime martini, keep it going. Owner Carlos Echeandia is famous for working the dining room, a friendly gesture that helps blunt any sticker-shock following your meal.

Caspian Café

Mediterranean ~ $$

Central: 4375 Sinton Road, 528-1155,

It's Mediterranean in spirit, but multi-ethnic in practice. Consider that the French-inspired Steak Niçoise, a pan-seared ribeye with sautéed tomatoes, Spanish olives and shallots, among other ingredients, shares menu space with a delicious beef and lamb kebab served with a refreshing yogurt sauce and pita bread. Don't forget dessert and live belly dancing on the weekends.

The Cliff House at Pikes Peak

Gourmet ~ $$$

Manitou Springs: 306 Cañon Ave., 685-3000,

Best of 2009

Outside of the Penrose Room, the Cliff House served us our favorite entrée of 2009: phyllo-wrapped Colorado lamb with mint and an apple/apricot purée over spinach and a sweet balsamic redux. The historic hotel's cushy wicker-chair-filled veranda rivals the most comfortable dining anywhere in the city, and the new Red Mountain Bar & Grill offers killer patio views. Eat in the main area for a special, yet affordable meal and pick from elegant fish and game entrées; relax in the bar for more mellow appetizers. Just watch the drink list for a few overpriced items.

Coffee Cup Café

Café/coffeehouse ~ $

Monument: 251 Front St., 488-0663,

A Second Cup

Monument: 13860 Gleneagle Drive, 481-6446,

Reviewed: July 2

After a fire and a three-month hiatus, the Coffee Cup is back to offering its signature biscuits and pork gravy, served along outstanding country potatoes. Its second Gleneagle location offers a coffee bar, spacious booths, microbrews and, notably, a salmon entrée served with delicious, crisp-roasted vegetables.

Coquette Creperie

Creperie ~ $$

Manitou Springs: 915 Manitou Ave., 685-2420,

Reviewed: Oct. 22

Head to this coffeehouse-meets-hipster-bar (Manitou's answer to downtown's Shuga's) for outstanding dessert crepes like the Cheeky Monkey (bananas, Nutella, chocolate sauce and whipped cream) and luscious drinks like a lavender-infused mocha. But step carefully when it comes to the somewhat pricey savory options: What sounds alluring doesn't always really work on a crepe. For instance, the New Yorker (salmon, egg, red onion, hollandaise) remains fishy, and the Tokyo overwhelms some wonderfully prepared sesame-crusted ahi tuna with a wasabi cream cheese. Worth commendation: Coquette's organic and fair-trade sourcing, with all crepes gluten-free.

The Corner Café

Café/Sandwich ~ $

Downtown: 7 E. Vermijo Ave., 520-1843,

Best of 2009

Owners Virginia and Bob Smoot brought their homey ways from California in 2004 and immediately captured the hearts of the court crowd and downtown workers. Their sandwiches, made from sustainably sourced meats, are entirely satisfying, especially next to fries and a cup of Bob's outstanding pork green chile. Look for humorous breakfast specials like the Hot Garbage and Big Smokin' Doobie burritos, enormous masses that highlight said chile beautifully.

Craftwood Inn

Gourmet ~ $$$

Manitou Springs: 404 El Paso Blvd., 685-9000,

Using local meats and in-season vegetables, Craftwood is the perfect place to sample the gustatory goodness Colorado provides. Take, for instance, the Herb & Merlot Hunter's Elk Steak: marinated and grilled Grande Premium Colorado elk meets (and falls in love with) a red wine sauce and crisped yucca chips. Colorful Colorado, indeed.

Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen

Cajun ~ $

Academy (South): 6502 S. Academy Blvd., 282-8479,

Best of 2009

Owners Martin and Kathy Anderson took Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen through some major changes, moving from the north side to South Academy and reworking the menu for a more casual, less expensive dining experience. But they've come out the other side with a true gem, as evidenced by their Best Cajun win. Try the Gulf Shrimp Po-boy and look for lunch prices all day.

The Curry Leaf Restaurant

Sri Lankan ~ $

Downtown: 26 S. Wahsatch Ave., 447-0608,

Best of 2009

The Curry Leaf is the Springs' only Sri Lankan restaurant, and it's a rock star. The entirely unique cuisine draws from Indian, Malaysian, Dutch, Chinese and Portuguese influences, producing outstanding curry profiles punctuated by flavors like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and spices you've likely never heard of (rumpe, goraka). Get a Sri Lankan iced coffee, naan-style roti flatbread, the chicken curry and, for dessert, coconut caramel custard.

Dale Street Café

Café/Bistro ~ $$

Downtown: 115 E. Dale St., 578-9898,

Set in a charming Victorian home, Dale Street boasts a diverse menu, ranging from quiche and frittatas to pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, salads and entrées topping out at a $19.95 ribeye. Consider the walnut-crusted mahi mahi, gorgonzola gnocchi or famous cream of artichoke soup. Three-course meals begin at $11.95.

Edelweiss Restaurant

German ~ $$

Cheyenne Mountain: 34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220,

Best of 2009

This mainstay of fine European cooking has won Best German 12 years in a row. With schnitzels like wiener, zigeuner, rahm and jager all priced between $15 and $16, those Raspberry Mousse or Triple Chocolate tortes are just ... dessert. Pair your meal with a tall glass of German beer and in summer, enjoy one of the most comfortable patios in town.

El Camarón Loco

Seafood ~ $$

Academy (South): 2704 E. Fountain Blvd., 477-6940

Reviewed: July 23

This nearly four-year-old eatery is the sixth of a statewide family franchise that began off Denver's Federal Boulevard. It sports an 80-plus-item, shrimp-dominant menu and happy crustacean murals above clean booths. But more impressive, it shows teeth — literally. Expertly fried fish come head-intact, and delicious, molten bowls of Caldo 7 Mares are stocked with seafood — including four snow crab legs creeping out of the soup. Get a ceviche-style Aguachiles goblet to feel like a king, and hit the Camarones Rellenos (cream sauce-covered, bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with ham and cheese) for obvious reasons.

El Taco Rey

Mexican ~ $

Downtown: 330 E. Colorado Ave., 475-9722,

El Taco Rey may translate as "The Taco King," but it's the smothered avocado and pork burrito that's the real king here. Just make sure you've scoped out a seat before ordering, though there's certainly worse ways to spend your time than standing around, shoveling in pork swimming in spicy heaven juice.

El Tesoro Restaurant & Gallery

Southwestern ~ $$

Downtown: 10 N. Sierra Madre St., 471-0106,

It's Santa Fe-style dining, under new ownership, on an unassuming side street. It's a refreshing start of ceviche — lime-marinated seafood covered in a salsa of tomatoes, scallions, cilantro and jalapenos — punching you in the taste buds while original artwork on display does the rest. Lastly, it's a delicious chile relleno: a whole Poblano chile filled with Mascarpone, goat and white cheddar cheeses, topped with ginger salsa.

English Dockside

Seafood ~ $

Academy (North): 2220 N. Academy Place, 380-7732,

It's strip-mall seafood, and if that turns you off, don't go — more for us. English Dockside has perfected the art of serving fresh seafood in the mountain air. Just look at the variety: whole snapper, swordfish steak, soft shell blue crab. Plus, Thomas English and members of his lovely family have recently added burgers and wings to the menu.

European Café

Café ~ $

Manitou Springs: 935A Manitou Ave., 685-3556

Best of 2009

This Manitou stalwart is the domain of chef and owner Bozena Jakubczyk, who is inarguably gifted in the kitchen. On a first visit, get the crepes with sweet cheese, "delectable packets of cream-filled goodness," in the words of a co-worker. On a second visit, order one of the café's equally yummy egg dishes. Then, schedule a special order of Jakubczyk's pierogi for a third stop in.

Everest Nepal

Nepalese/Tibetan ~ $

Downtown: 28 E. Bijou St., 473-3890

It's rare to find a place where the lunch buffet stands against anything dinner has to offer. Everest Nepal is such a place. Start with a fresh salad, grab the standout tandoori chicken, and finish with the killer rice pudding. In between, thank your lucky stars for Nepal and Tibet's proximity to each other, and your proximity to the cuisine of both of them.

The Famous

Steakhouse ~ $$$

Downtown: 31 N. Tejon St., 227-7333,

Best of 2009

The Famous is the truly upscale, high-end winner of Best Steakhouse and Best Restaurant for Carnivores. Expect to pay more than $40 now for the best steaks — filet mignon, New York strip, porterhouse or the exemplary bone-in Kansas City strip. During the afternoon hours, enjoy a lunch menu with slightly smaller cuts of reasonably priced, quality meat.

Front Range Barbeque

Barbecue ~ $

Old Colorado City: 2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596

Central: 4935 Templeton Gap Road, 598-8895,

Best of 2009

From owner Brian Fortinberry's down-home family recipes to the top-notch musical talent that plays at the Old Colorado City location, Front Range Barbeque continually keeps the quality high and the Best Barbecue awards rolling in. "It's pretty simple, really," says Fortinberry. "Just creating a laid-back atmosphere where people can come in and have a good time." Or, as in the case of the east location, where people can hit the drive-thru and take home a simply succulent spread.


Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Downtown: 22 S. Tejon St., Suite A, 630-1167,

Fujiyama anchors downtown's need for food not ending in "-warma." With bamboo-accented walls, an intimate sushi bar, hibachi grills and a full liquor assortment, there remains very little reason not to indulge, especially with creations like the Tiger Mask roll: shrimp tempura, crab, spicy tuna, avocado and tempura flake.

Glad's Original Bar-B-Q

Barbecue ~ $

Academy (South): 3750 Astrozon Blvd., #110, 392-4156

Fort Carson: 1510 Chiles Ave., 576-1851,

Reviewed: Oct. 8

Ever since Alabama natives Grey and Marilyn Davis started inviting young soldiers into their home for food and counsel 20 years ago, they've had one goal in mind: to bring comfort through home cooking. Dinners range from $5.99 to $14.99; go for the fall-off-the-bone barbecued ribs, covered in a thick, zesty spice rub. For your two sides: The cabbage has a little bite, the collard greens are spot-on, and you can't go wrong with the extra cheesy mac 'n cheese.

The Goose Berry Patch

Diner ~ $

Out-of-Town: 660 State Hwy. 115, Penrose, 372-3910

Reviewed: May 14

Heart-adorned window shutters, goose-print lace curtains, knickknacks galore: The Goose Berry Patch exemplifies small-town charm. It's worth a stop when headed south down 115, mainly for its outstanding pies and probably the best blackberry cobbler we've ever had. But you'll also enjoy any one of seven specialty burgers and the cream-cheese-filled jalapeño poppers that come with a delicious raspberry pepper jelly dip.

Heart of Jerusalem Café

Mediterranean ~ $

Central: 4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554

Manitou Springs: 718 Manitou Ave., 685-1325,

Best of 2009

While sharing the Best Middle Eastern crown with Taste of Jerusalem (run by his former partner), Hussein Abukhdeir offers his own distinct spin on some desert classics. Look for the Heart of Jerusalem sandwich, a mix of lamb, beef and chicken breast. With the addition of a Manitou Springs location and a stuffed falafel option, the future looks ever-tastier.

Il Vicino

Pizza/Trattoria ~ $

Downtown: 11 S. Tejon St., 475-9224,

Best of 2009

Il Vicino removed its in-house brewery several years ago to make room for more tables, a sign of demand for its delectable wood-oven pizzas, delicious panini and heaping salads. Oh yeah — and that beer, now brewed elsewhere for them. We could've lumped these guys in with the chains, as they have operations in New Mexico, Kansas and Missouri in addition to Colorado, but they've always felt like a local and were voted co-Best Local/Regional Restaurant Chain. Plus, the pizzas taste just too damn good to ignore.

India Palace

Indian ~ $

Academy (North): 5644 N. Academy Blvd., 535-9196,

The all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffet is as American as chana masala which, when we need that Eastern fix, is all we could ask for. India Palace shines with its delicious vegetable curry, lamb vindaloo and addicting butter naan. With additional catering options and a solid wine and beer list, it's a must-try.

The Iron Springs Chateau

Dinner Theater ~ $$

Manitou Springs: 444 Ruxton Ave., 685-5104,

Reviewed: Aug. 27

We admitted that a "morbid curiosity" led us to check out Manitou's campy dinner theater outfit, and we conceded some pleasant surprises from a talented cast. But outside of some fun, strong drinks, we had to knock the pre-performance menu as supermarket deli quality. Soggy-bottomed fried chicken, watery green beans, dry buttermilk biscuits, unremarkable cole slaw — you get the idea. Leave the eats to the tourists, Iron Springs' main demographic, and go for the show.

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub

Irish/English ~ $$

Downtown: 21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766,

Best of 2009

"Quinn's," our regular Best Irish Pub winner, is a downtown staple, and offers more than a good pint of Guinness in a traditional pub setting. It's also home to an enormous weekly running club, traditional Irish music sessions and a pub quiz. When the beers leave the belly wanting, hit up some bangers and mash, a shepherd's pie or plate of fish and chips. American standards are also available.

Jake & Telly's

Greek ~ $$

Old Colorado City: 2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406,

Best of 2009

The lamb kebabs are delicious, the occasional complimentary ouzo is delightful, and the Greek salad decadent. Plus, with the reuniting of the Topakas brothers (the aforementioned Jake and Telly) and extensive menu changes, Jake & Telly's is positioned to continue to defend its Best Greek title.

Joey's Pizza

Pizza ~ $$

Briargate: 1829 Briargate Blvd., 265-6922,

Reviewed: April 2

Long Island-born Joey Stasolla's worked in pizza since he was 14, and says he knows 20 different ways to sling a pie. Visitors to this north side spot can definitely taste his expertise. Enjoy the light, crisp and delicate Margherita pizza ($18.99), which sports a mild pomodoro sauce, fresh basil, garlic and Roma tomatoes. With great taste to back up the awesomely named Rocky Balboa hoagie, plus satisfyingly full-flavored salads, Joey's delights across the board.

José Muldoon's

Mexican ~ $

Downtown: 222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311,

Best of 2009

Both day and night, this Tejon Street fixture accommodates diners and provides bar access on its expansive patio, which our readers named the best in 2009. Thanks to its outdoor heaters, not even winter can shut down the revelry. Drop in for a margarita and the Pollo or Vegetable Topolobampo plate, or the grilled buffalo fajitas.

Joseph's Fine Dining

Gourmet ~ $$$

Cheyenne Mountain: 1606 S. Eighth St., 630-3631,

Owner Joseph Freyre, a wizard of tableside presentation, would gladly speak for his restaurant, but his menu speaks for itself. Try the Colorado lamb chops with rosemary mint au jus, or the crab-stuffed Idaho white trout draped in a white wine chipotle cream sauce. For the ultimate encore, it's got to be the Cherries Jubilee Flambé.

Judge Baldwin's Brewing Co.

Brewpub ~ $

Downtown: Antlers Hilton Hotel, 4 S. Cascade Ave., 955-5600,

Reviewed: Sept. 3

Judge Baldwin's menu has radically improved under former Plate World Cuisine chef and two-time James Beard House invitee Ryan Blanchard. Though the outfit's beer sadly remains one-dimensional, its ale and cheese soup satisfies. The calamari is another stellar starter, but we were most pleased to find recent improvement on the Maine Lobster Roll. Now in a non-greasy hoagie, generous chunks of perfectly handled fresh lobster simply shine. Happy hour offers absurd food specials.

Jun Japanese Restaurant

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Academy (North): 1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368

West Side: 3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690,

Best of 2009

Jun is a charter member of the local sushi circuit, and you only have to look at its annual awards for Best Japanese and Best Sushi to see why. Tasting its hand-rolled goodness doesn't hurt, either: Start off with the crisp crunch of the vegetable tempura and fill up fast with one of the combination plates that feature a smattering of California rolls, a ginger-dressed salad, more tempura and teriyaki of your choice.

Keg Lounge

Pub food ~ $

Manitou Springs: 730 Manitou Ave., 685-9531

If you're not expecting to run into mouth-watering items like a tender filet mignon burger and the juiciest buffalo burger in Manitou, all sourced from Ranch Foods Direct, than you're not expecting the Keg. Look for the flat iron steak, covered in sautéed mushrooms. For lighter fare, go for the awesome berry salad — or just drinks.

King's Chef Diner

Diner ~ $

Downtown: 110 E. Costilla St., 634-9135; 131 E. Bijou St., 636-5010,

Best of 2009

Winner of the greasy spoon trifecta (Best Late-Night Dining, Green Chili and Diner), King's Chef brings the pain through the power of its green chili. It's equally good at the 13-seat purple castle and its expanded Bijou Street location. Note that we are not recommending the New Mexico Stomper, an hour-long eating challenge to finish five pounds of hamburger meat; that call must come from within.

Kura Japanese Restaurant

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Powers: 3478B Research Pkwy., 282-8238

Reviewed Oct. 1

The baby of Sung Brinck, a former server at Jun, Kura tends to surprise at every turn. The asparagus-wrapped beef is wonderfully tender, and the asparagus itself bites you a bit. The crab balls are California crabmeat formed into spheres, covered in panko crumbs and flash-fried; combined with the sweet and creamy wasabi mayo, it's a winning combination. Lastly, don't miss the moshi, sugar-sprinkled domes of frozen custard wrapped in rice.

La'au's Taco Shop

Taqueria/Hawaiian ~ $

Downtown: 830 N. Tejon. St., #110, 578-5228

La'au's at Bristol

Cheyenne Mountain: 1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555,

Fun to say, more fun to eat — that's La'au's. Start with the filling, add the salsa, experience the bliss. The mahi mahi tacos are probably the best in the city, and are closely followed by the peanut-marinated huli chicken tacos. Wash it all down with bottled beers from Bristol Brewing Co., which hosts a satellite La'au's location Wednesday through Sunday.

La Baguette

Café/Bakery ~ $

Multiple Locations:

Family-owned and -operated, La Baguette specializes in freshly baked, French-style bread, and delights the senses with its savory French onion soup. Options like tomato and mozzarella plates, pasta tortellini and a delightful spinach salad (with eggs, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette) are but some of the tasty creations you'll find at this staple.

La Casita Patio Café

Mexican ~ $

Multiple Locations:

Best of 2009

With its pink stucco buildings, La Casita doesn't trade in subtlety — it trades in value, and delicious, bountiful salsa. The side bar containing the multitudes of choices is merely one of the reasons La Casita wins Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Restaurant. Others include the beef fajitas with guacamole, a large plate merging tender beef, grilled veggies and the best tortillas in the city.

La Creperie Bistro

Creperie ~ $$$

Downtown: 204 N. Tejon St., 632-0984

It's fine French dining in a small, intimate setting with a wonderful sidewalk patio. Each crepe shines for its unique flavor, but we recommend the seafood option with mushrooms, covered in a delicate white-wine sauce. Additionally, a solid wine list and offerings like escargot make La Creperie an ideal destination for the Francophile in your family.

La Perla Tapatía Mexican Taqueria

Mexican ~ $

West Side: 511 N. 30th St., 228-6006

Reviewed: June 11

La Perla Tapatía is home of the torta ahogada, or drowned sandwich — a giant baguette roll filled with pulled pork and tomato sauce for $7.50. It's the most popular street item from Guadalajara, Mexico, where owner Sergio Lauriano grew up, and La Perla Tapatía is, to our knowledge, the only place you'll find it in town. Lauriano also serves a great tacos al pastor: pineapple-juice-tenderized pork stuffed into soft corn tacos. Take your food down with a lovely homemade horchata (a vanilla- and cinnamon-flavored sweet rice drink) while enjoying the authentic atmosphere complete with soccer posters and Spanish television.

Lake Terrace Dining Room at The Broadmoor

Gourmet breakfast ~ $$$

Cheyenne Mountain: 1 Lake Ave., 577-5733,

Best of 2009

Lake Terrace is a special spot for occasions like Mother's Day. Winner of the Sunday Brunch category, the restaurant features an unmatched 70-item-plus, pricey-but-worth-it spread with every type of breakfast station you could want and, yes, wicked ice sculptures. Chef Siegfried Eisenberger serves an international cuisine of the week to shake things up, too.

Lanna Thai

Thai ~ $

Briargate: 8810 N. Union Blvd., 282-0474

Reviewed: Dec. 31

A beautiful new addition to the Thai circuit, Lanna dishes outstanding curries that are true to temp — hot means hot. Go for the Pa-Nang Talay, which features buttery scallops, perfect calamari and quality shrimp and white fish in a basil-rich coconut milk bath. The starters, like spring rolls and traditional soups, burst with fresh spices such as cilantro and galangal. Standards like pad Thai and papaya salad rank high. Don't worry about asking them to hold the MSG; this isn't Americanized Thai.

Lanshing Café

Chinese ~ $

Briargate: 9475 Briar Village Point, #150, 266-8351

Reviewed: Jan. 8, 2009

After tasting some creations, it's obvious that longtime restaurant owners Cheau and Simpson Jiang have a passion for food. Each dish — like the perfectly cooked pork egg foo young — is made fresh. They're also not afraid to pile on the veggies: the delicious garlic chicken features bamboo shoots, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers and garlic.

Lemongrass Bistro

Vietnamese ~ $

Academy (North): 6840 N. Academy Blvd., 592-1391,

Look to Lemongrass Bistro for standout Vietnamese in an area dominated by chain outfits. Their dishes are both beautiful and fragrant, with mint, basil and cilantro greeting you at the door and wowing you at the table. Get the unique beef lemon appetizer or the classic pho (rice noodles and brisket). Then dive into a bun noodle bowl, a signature entrée you can get with chicken, beef, pork, tofu or the Lemongrass Three Amigos (chicken, beef and shrimp together).

The Little Market & Deli

Café/Sandwich ~ $

Downtown: 749 E. Willamette Ave., 635-0769,

Reviewed: July 16

Folks living within blocks of this residential market and deli have kept it open since 1902, making it the oldest grocery store in the city. That fun fact would be irrelevant if it weren't for several unique, homemade sweet and savory items that make the charming spot worth a visit. First, the potica (pronounced paw-TEET-zah), an egg-basted, Bohemian rolled sweet dough loaf filled with walnuts, butter and brown sugar. Second, the runza, a doughy German/Russian round stuffed with cabbage, onion and ground beef. Little Market also serves sausages, sandwiches, salads and sides while stocking one of the most diverse drink selections in town.

Little Nepal

Indian/Tibetan/Nepalese ~ $$

Cheyenne Mountain: 1747 S. Eighth St., 477-6997,

With a diverse menu, Little Nepal is the perfect place to escape to a different kind of mountain cuisine. At the $9.66 lunch buffet, feast on a wide variety of vegetarian and meat soups, salads, curries, masalas, saags, vindaloos and makhanis. At dinner, order à la carte and mop your favorite Himalayan dish up with a cheese-, potato- or lamb-stuffed naan bread.

The Loop

Mexican ~ $$

Manitou Springs: 965 Manitou Ave., 685-9344,

Best of 2009

The Loop seldom fails to claim Best Bar for a Margarita, thanks to a list of a dozen fun specialty versions that include top-shelf infusions and fruits. Tourists keep it rockin' in summer and faithful locals keep it alive in winter. The menu is huge and includes a lengthy fish section, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, taquitos, tamales and even burgers.

Louie's Pizza

Pizza ~ $

Multiple locations:

Louie's may not be the most gourmet pizza in the city, but there's a definite appeal to its greasiness. Take the garlic bread topped with melted mozzarella (wait, don't take my garlic bread): simple, yet buttery deliciousness that pairs perfectly with marinara. In addition, with five locations, it's as familiar as Gen. Palmer's horse.

Luigi's Homemade Italian Food

Italian ~ $$

Downtown: 947 S. Tejon St., 632-7339,

1958. That's the year Leo and Anne Cervetti opened Luigi's in the Springs. Now, their daughter Gina Costley and her husband Les carry the torch. And the traditional Northern Italian food (with its Chicago influence) hasn't changed. Delicious manicotti, ravioli, lasagna, pizza ... it's all there, with a salad or soup and fresh bread included. End with a spumoni or tiramisu.

MacKenzie's Chop House

Steakhouse/Gourmet ~ $$$

Downtown: 128 S. Tejon St., 635-3536,

Go underground and enjoy the exposed-brick cool of other downtown carnivores at MacKenzie's. We recommend the New York Strip — an eight-ounce cut of choice strip loin topped with smoky tobacco onions — medium-rare. For ridiculous flavor, go with the Beef and Brie: tenderloin tips served with baked Brie and garlic crostinis.

Maggie Mae's Restaurant & Pub

Pub food ~ $

Central: 2405 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 475-1623

Best of 2009

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the menu offers pages of options, from the hearty "meat lover's omelet" to its green chili, one of the best in town. In business for 38 years, and yet still something of a secret, Maggie Mae's is a worthwhile destination — especially if you've got a Bush/Cheney sticker on your ride.

Mangia Mangia!

Italian ~ $$

Woodland Park: 407 E. Grace Ave., 687-3400

Reviewed: Oct. 15

The name means Eat Eat!, and many Woodland Parkers return often to do just that, as evidenced by customers greeted by name. In our October review, we advised the outfit to focus on tightening sauces and flavors, as well as service; a recent visit showed improvement. We like that all entrées come with quality dinner salads, and we love the sausage puttanesca plate and the gluten-free pasta option. Though the penne pasta pignoli still tastes only like the sum of each forkful and needs more olive oil, we found a new favorite with the well-executed beurre blanc salmon filet.

Margarita at PineCreek

Gourmet ~ $$$

Northwest: 7350 Pine Creek Road, 598-8667,

At dinner, enjoy one of award-winning chef Eric Viedt's three-, five- or six-course prix fixe options ($34 to $75), which defy cuisine categorization and change almost daily. If that's too pricey, head downstairs for a much cheaper bar/lounge menu that changes each fall, or just come at lunch. In the summer, be aware of dinner-and-a-movie nights on the riverside patio, and the Saturday morning Colorado Farm and Art Market.

Marigold Café and Bakery

Gourmet/Bistro ~$$$

Northwest: 4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776,

Best of 2009

For almost 18 years, Marigold has been charming diners with a French bistro-inspired menu of gourmet, contemporary cuisine and standout baked goods. Readers honored it last year with nods for Best Bakery and Best Restaurant for Dessert — 'nuff said on the sweet side. For savory: Start with escargot or a loaded salad, then hit one of the quality fish, steak, pasta or pizza entrées.

The Mason Jar

American ~ $

Old Colorado City: 2925 W. Colorado Ave., 632-4820

Northwest: 5905 Corporate Drive, 260-6555,

This 28-year-old comfort food restaurant is so family-friendly, it's almost your-mother's-kitchen-esque. Southern fried catfish will give you a taste of the bayou, but for something with a little more gravy, get the chicken-fried steak; more than a million people who've ordered the classic can't be wrong. To finish, go with the buttermilk-crusted fruit cobbler.

McCabe's Tavern

Irish/Pub food ~ $

Downtown: 520 S. Tejon St., 633-3300,

While an easy pick for corned beef and Guinness, McCabe's is much more than that. A solid mix of local and European beers will quench your thirst, and the menu will take care of the rest. Start with some Scotch eggs (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, then breaded and fried) and then, if your heart's still beting, move on to a Reuben sandwich done exactly right.

Mediterranean Café

Mediterranean ~ $

Downtown: 118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115,

Best of 2009

Before the other falafel-slingers downtown, there was the Mediterranean Café: winner of Best Gyro for rightful reasons. If you haven't tried the Half & Half (gyro and falafel together), you must. The Med Café's sauces are always vibrant, its pita is perfect, its meats burst with flavor, and salad options please the eat-light crowd. Watch for delicious fish items on the daily special menu.


Gourmet ~ $$$

Downtown: 101 N. Tejon St., 302-0280,

Enter through the pseudo-subway entrance on Kiowa Avenue and say goodbye to the Springs. Descend into Metropolitain, and you venture into an ultra-chic city nightclub sporting uppity eats. Depending upon your mood, grab a martini and a cheese plate or glass of wine and the pine-nut-encrusted lamb loin.

Miyake Sushi and Mongolian BBQ

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Academy (North): 3609 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 268-2565

Reviewed: May 21

Miyake Sushi is the domain of John Yi. Let him get you going with a crisp tempura soft-shell crab appetizer, then a fresh chili-and-garlic-sauce stir-fry from the Mongolian grill. Enjoy a sizzling chicken teriyaki entrée served with veggies and rice, and a mean Miyamoto Musashi roll of tuna, eel, crab, salmon and roe that conquers with a sweet and savory blend.

Mollica's Italian Market & Deli

Italian ~ $

Northwest: 985-A Garden of the Gods Road, 598-1088

Cheyenne Mountain: 1872 Southgate Road, 635-9889,

Already a 20-year fixture of Garden of the Gods Road, family-owned Mollica's recently opened a second, much larger location at Southgate. Its huge deli, market and dining space will still treat you to the classics: lasagna, tortellini, manicotti and maybe the best cannoli in town.

The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant

Fondue ~ $$$

Manitou Springs: 733 Manitou Ave., 685-0277,

If you've never taken a date to Mona Lisa, perhaps you've never been on a date. It's never too late, though, to get on that horse. Of the three cheese fondue offerings, go with the strawberry salsa-enlivened South of the Border. Then pick a platter (traditional, seafood or wild game) and finish with the heavenly delight known as angel food cake (among fruits, pretzels and other treats) dipped in customized melted chocolate.

Monica's Taco Shop

Taqueria ~ $

Multiple locations

Best of 2009

Its perennial Best Taqueria win confirms what most already know: If you want the best quick tacos, you get 'em at Monica's. The juicy carne asada tacos come wrapped in hot corn tortillas and go great with the red or green salsas available at the counter; same for the spicy chicken cradled in fresh, hard shells. Monica's even sells calling cards, so you can dial your friends to tell them how great the tacos really are.

Montague's Parlour

Tea/Café ~ $

Downtown: 1019 S. Tejon St., 623-6774,

You come for the "Mama Mia!"-sized hot chocolates and mochas, and you stay because you're comfortably trapped in the depths of a Victorian chair with a hot bowl of pumpkin-tomato soup steaming in front of you. Before you leave, you can't help but grab a pastry or slice of cake for the road. We understand.


Gourmet ~ $$$

Tri-Lakes: 443 Hwy. 105, 481-1800, Palmer Lake,

Inside the posh Inn at Palmer Divide, moZaic offers splendid views and European-inspired treats for all tastes. You can't go wrong with the three-course prix fixe menu ($22), but there's no harm in heading another route — say, an antipasto plate followed by bison short ribs, duck ravioli or the Colorado lamb. Over wine, of course.

Mucky Duck

Café/Bistro ~ $$

Green Mountain Falls: 10530 Ute Pass Ave., 684-2008

Sunday brunch brings nearly a dozen styles of eggs Benedict covered in delicious Hollandais e. But don't fill up, because dinner is coming, and dinner demands Colorado lamb, or even elk. For outdoorsy types, a recently expanded patio should help welcome in the warmer months.

Nanay Betty's Filipino Restaurant and Karaoke Bar

Filipino ~ $

Academy (South): 1863 S. Academy Blvd., 596-4019

Reviewed: Aug. 13

The Philippines may be some 7,000 miles from Colorado Springs, but Nanay Betty, her daughter Maribeth and her husband Plenty Groover have brought that ginger-amped soul food taste here to roost. Apps include dense and satisfying beef egg rolls that provide a perfect prequel to adobo chicken, which swims in a rich red sauce. And that chicken segues so nicely into fried plantains wrapped in a rice paper, flash-fried and topped with a sugary glaze.

Nawlins BarBQ and Seafood

Cajun ~ $$

Powers: 3317 Cinema Point Drive, 571-9777,

Reviewed: July 9

Hurricane Katrina may have taken Martin Allred out of New Orleans, but it didn't take New Orleans out of Martin Allred. And for that, we can be thankful. His Nawlins menu screams authenticity, from appetizer (light and crisp fried green tomatoes) to entrée (juicy pulled pork sandwiches, with perfectly matched sweet and spicy homemade sauces) through dessert (wonderfully fluffy beignets).

The Nile Café

Mediterranean/Egyptian ~ $

Manitou Springs: 954 Manitou Ave., 685-1410,

Reviewed: June 18

We largely bonked the Nile when it opened in late spring, for things like runny, bland hummus and poorly thought-out seating. But a recent visit showed sharp improvement. The spot's added comfortable tables (beyond just hookah booths), and the hummus has gained both flavor and consistency. The veggie plate and Meze platter have always been great options for sampling the Nile's respectable baba ghanoush and tzatziki. Though the chicken shawarma still fails to excite, the falafel and Kafta Kabob rate well. Enjoy belly dancers late on weekend nights.


Gourmet ~ $$

Downtown: 121 S. Tejon St., 634-6674,

Best of 2009

Chef Shane Lyons and crew keep things interesting at Nosh, with a diverse menu that demonstrates lots of play and experimentation in the kitchen. One of three Joe Coleman power ventures downtown, Nosh works largely off a small-plate concept, from calamari and edamame to gnocchi and charcuterie. Of course, you can also just drop in for a happy hour drink and sweet potato fries, or in the summer, for live music on the expansive patio.

Oakley's Café & Bistro at Sundance Mountain Lodge

Gourmet bistro ~ $$

Monument: 1865 Woodmoor Drive, 481-6000,

Reviewed: Dec. 24

Dine from the same menu in either a bright, Western-themed room or a dark, jazz-style bistro, and start with the waffle-cut fries sprinkled with bacon, bleu cheese and green onion, then drizzled with ranch dressing and a tangy, spicy buffalo sauce. Or at breakfast, hit the Colorado Benedict, which should come with a green chili hollandaise. Some temps and flavors have been awry on the entrées (speaking to the newness of the venture), but you won't stumble on the excellent Italian peach and mango sorbet for dessert.

The Olive Branch Restaurant

Café/Bistro ~ $$

Downtown: 23 S. Tejon St., 475-1199,

Stop in at any time of the day, and you'll understand why the Olive Branch has weathered 20 years downtown. Breakfast brings well-executed renditions of all the regulars, lunch earns loyalty with standout soups, salads and sandwiches (plus a rippin' lemon bread), and dinner tops out at $15.95, with lots of vegetarian options.

The Omelette Parlor

Diner ~ $

Central: 900 E. Fillmore St., 633-7770,

Best of 2009

The Omelette Parlor is one of those Sunday standbys whose parking lot is always jammed. It's won Best Breakfast every year since 1996, testament to its loyal customers and the great food they crave. Try the kitchen-sink-in-a-tortilla Thunderbird omelette, or one of our favorite sweet plates like the Belgian Wonder Wa-fulls or Paddy-Cake Paddy-Cakes.

Oscar's Tejon Street

Cajun/Pub food ~ $

Downtown: 333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070

Powers: 5910 Omaha Blvd., 574-7447, (opening mid February),

Best of 2009

Though Oscar's still serves bar standards like burgers and club sandwiches, owner Phil Duhon overhauled the menu with a Cajun flair last year. His standout crawfish bisque earned him a writer's nod for Best Unusual Soup in a Local Restaurant, a new award to go along with his perennial Best Smokin' Patio pick. East-siders, take note: Duhon's Powers-area venture, Porky's, is rebranding into Oscar's East sometime in February.

Panino's Restaurant

Italian ~ $

Downtown: 604 N. Tejon St., 635-7452

Cheyenne Mountain: 1721 S. Eighth St., 635-1188,

Though it also has single locations in Minnesota and Fort Collins, Panino's remains family-owned and -operated, offering a menu complete with pizza, pasta and salads, and the signature Panino sandwich. Each of the 35 Paninos (buffalo chicken, Philly, Reuben, Grinder, etc.) comes wrapped in a crispy, toasted white or wheat dough. Enjoy daily happy hours and weekly specials, like Tuesday's all-you-can-eat pizza for $6.99.

Pantry Restaurant

American ~ $

Green Mountain Falls: 6980 Lake St., 684-9018

It's the breakfast you can never make yourself, tucked into the mountains you can't wait to get to. It's the perfect French toast, boasting a rich cinnamon flavor. It's the juicy half-pound burger that you're a little afraid of. And it's all made fresh, from scratch.

Paravicini's Italian Bistro

Italian ~ $$

Old Colorado City: 2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200,

Best of 2009

Co-owner Franco Pisani calls Paravicini's food "vibrant," and ain't that the truth — the food that won Best Italian practically explodes with color and flavor. Enjoy signature originals such as veal scaloppini with spicy Italian sausage, onions, hot and sweet peppers, capers, olives and garlic, as well as the tortellini carbonara and beef-and-spinach lasagna. Pisani and co-owner Tex Sexton also run Palmer Lake's La Zingara.

The Pepper Tree

Gourmet ~ $$$

Cheyenne Mountain: 888 W. Moreno Ave., 471-4888,

Though the view is killer, we think you'll be more enticed by the heady vapors rising from your Chateaubriand for Two: a 16-ounce center-cut filet mignon topped with a béarnaise sauce and served with a bouquetière of vegetables. Coming in at $39 per person, it's not for the faint of wallet or heart. But it's damn good, and nothing beats tableside food service.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

Brewpub ~ $$

Downtown: 2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800,

Best of 2009

Phantom is a downtown cornerstone, boasting well-kempt pool tables, solid beers and superior pub food. It won three Best Of categories last year: Brew Pub, Happy Hour and Restaurant for Tourists. The blonde ale and smoked gouda soup is legendary for good reason, and you can usually find a great steak or fish dish on the dinner menu. Beer of the moment: Solar Roast Coffee Stout.

Pizza Time

Pizza/Italian ~ $

Briargate: 8794 N. Union Blvd., 282-4177,

Reviewed: Nov. 19

Roger and Imelda Chugh's Pizza Time is a family-friendly place offering a solid mix of pizza, subs, salads and pasta. Particularly notable are the two-person Antipasto salad — greens, bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, salami, pepperoni and ham — and the numerous gluten-free options (including pizza dough, pasta and beer). The Philly Cheesesteak is a great pizza alternative. Finish strong with a Hawaiian shaved ice.

Pizzeria Rustica

Pizza/Italian ~ $$

Old Colorado City: 2527 W. Colorado Ave., 632-8121,

Dinner with wine and dessert at Pizzeria Rustica can easily run $60 a couple, but, hey, it ain't cheap to operate one of the only Green Restaurant Association's three-starred pizzerias in the country. And after tasting the sustainably created goods, your meal will feel like a steal. The Antipasto di Gorno pops with marinated, fire-roasted tomatoes and peppers, cured meats and perfectly complementary cheeses. The Rustica pizza is superb: bright tomato sauce lying under ribboned prosciutto and arugula, with a ricotta kick hidden in the crust.

Poor Richard's and Rico's Coffee, Chocolate and Wine Bar

Pizza/Drink house ~ $$

Downtown: 322-324 N. Tejon St., 632-7721,

Best of 2009

Poor Richard's is to downtown what the heart is to the body. Loyal diners love the hand-tossed pizzas with gourmet ingredients and dough alternatives (wheat and spelt), as well as the great salads and sandwiches. In Rico's, you can order from the main menu while enjoying wine, coffee or a drinking chocolate. Saunter through the adjoining toy or bookstore afterward.

Rasta Pasta

Italian Caribbean fusion ~ $$

Downtown: 405 N. Tejon St., 481-6888,

Reviewed: Nov. 25

Rebecca Taraborelli and her husband Matt fell in love with Rasta Pasta in Breckenridge and Fort Collins, and eventually pestered their way into rights to a Springs store. Their menu relies heavily on a proprietary blend of dry jerk seasoning and a house marinara sauce, with choice of heat level. Our favorite dish: the Tortellini Jamaica Mon, of ricotta-stuffed noodles, pineapple, bananas and grapes in a white wine sauce.

R&R Coffee Café

Café/Coffeehouse ~ $

Black Forest: 11425 Black Forest Road, 494-8300,

Reviewed: Feb. 12

Not merely a coffee shop with assorted danishes, R&R is an earnest dining spot with some gourmet flair. Roastmaster Ryan Wanner considers himself a medium-profile roaster and "can't stand the sugar-bomb-style drinks." His are well-balanced and let the coffee and espresso speak for themselves. Chef Robert Hudson rocks everything from soups to house-baked breads, which he uses for outstanding sandwiches and the like.

Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone

Gourmet ~ $$$

Pueblo: 123 N. Main St., 719/542-9999,

If you try one thing, make it the pan-seared Australian sea bass: a perfectly crisped, flaky filet riding a shrimp-laden rice cake covered in a breathtaking miso beurre blanc sauce next to baby bok choy. You could try confession to get to heaven, but we think this is more fun.

Ritz Grill

Gourmet bistro ~ $$

Downtown: 15 S. Tejon St., 635-8484,

With so many loyal downtown lunchers, the Ritz can't really change up its daytime menu for fear of reprisal. (No peppered Ahi is not an option.) Dinner bumps up the menu's innovation (and price points) with uppity eats like a $27 filet mignon. After food service, the space turns into one of the most lively club scenes downtown, with weekly live music and DJs.

Roman Villa

Italian ~ $$

Central: 3005 N. Nevada Ave., 635-1806

It's hard not to be synonymous with great Italian food when you've been around since 1959, and literally have served generations of families from an intimate, 14-table dining room. Start with a soup or salad, then tackle the baked tortellacci (giant marinara-and-cream-covered tortellini with spinach, mozzarella and ricotta) or the homemade Italian sausage. Oh, and don't forget the pizza.

Roungnapa/House of Yakitori 8

Thai/Japanese ~ $

Central: 319 N. Chelton Road, 597-8374

Reviewed: Feb. 5, 2009

Focusing on both Thai and Japanese yakitori, Roungnapa shines with family recipes. Seafood lovers should try the pad phed pla muk, a combination of finely cut tender squid, bell pepper, onion and spicy Thai sauce. Poultry fans might opt for the delicious chicken teriyaki, juicy chicken in a sweet, dark sauce flecked with red chilies.

Rumi's Kabab

Afghani ~ $

Downtown: 36 E. Bijou St., 635-7749

Reviewed: Oct. 29

Our first taste of traditional Afghan cuisine approximated a fusion of the essences of Indian and Middle Eastern food, minus the curry and hummus. Think yogurt sauces, lentils, lamb and beef kababs, floral teas, sweet rice pudding and baklava, all spiked with intoxicating spices and infusions like rosewater, cardamom and mint. Hit the $8.99 lunch buffet to sample widely, from garlic yogurt-topped baked pumpkin to barley soup and daal. Or dine at night and get the aushak (stuffed raviolis), a kabab platter and the ferni (a panna cotta-like pudding).

Saigon Café

Vietnamese ~ $$

Downtown: 20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888,

Best of 2009

Outstanding buns (noodle bowls) are at the heart of the mystique cast by this seven-consecutive-year Best Vietnamese winner. But it goes well beyond, with a big menu, great value, good service and plenty of space: The outfit has expanded in recent years to accommodate crowds of lunch and dinner regulars. Expect fine renditions of all the usual suspects, from lo mein and fried rice to meat stirfries.

Salsa Latina

Mexican ~ $

Downtown: 28 E. Rio Grande St., 328-1513

Owner Danny Aguilar spent years toiling under his father at local favorite El Taco Rey, and he learned more than a thing or two about how to produce that magical, smoky green chili. One bite into his smothered burritos at Salsa Latina proves that the family recipe is alive and well. ¡Dé gracias a dios!

Sakura Sushi and Grill

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

West Side: 3117 W. Colorado Ave., 632-7866,

Best of 2009

Sakura takes home our Best Sexy Sushi Roll award for its Pink Lady Roll (a salacious amalgamation of crab tempura, cream cheese, cucumber, steamed shrimp and avocado), but the restaurant delivers across the board. We also like the Negihama Roll a simple, yet delicious, combination of green onions and yellowtail.

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill

Mexican ~ $$

Central: 802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244

Briargate: 9420 Briar Village Point, #100, 955-6650,

Best of 2009

You don't win Best Chips and Salsa, the hallmark of any good Mexican joint, by resting on your laurels. All the salsas at Salsa Brava are made fresh daily, and they complement a wide menu of Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas, enchiladas, chile rellenos, chimichangas and more. But specialty plates are worth a look, too — consider blackened mahi mahi tacos and the seafood rellenos.

San Chang House

Korean ~ $

Academy (North): 3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707

Best of 2009

If it always seems to be the strip-mall joints that shine brightest, it's because of spots like San Chang House, the Indy's winner for Best Korean. Thanks to a mean bulgogi (thinly-sliced barbecue beef) and a sweetly spiced dak gui (similar, but with chicken), it's understandable that San Chang boasts a huge patronage of loyals.

Schnitzel Fritz

German ~ $

Powers: 4037 Tutt Blvd., 573-2000,

Reviewed: Feb. 19

When Mitch and Anke Verburg, the folks behind Elke's German Deli in Fountain, opened Schnitzel Fritz, north siders finally got an outlet for those jaegerschnitzel cravings. The schnitzels here are baked in an imported German oven and offered au naturel or with toppings like lemons and capers, mushroom gravy or grilled onions. Also look for yummy rahmschnitzel, featuring a rich brown sauce with capers.

Second Street Art Market and Wine Bar

Café/Wine bar ~ $

Monument: 366 Second St., 488-2506,

Reviewed: March 19

This art/wine/dining space owned by Douglas and Heather Buchman soothingly mixes colors, textures and sounds. The light wines pair perfectly with tapas-style dishes like the Provençe, a plateful of Brie, smoked salmon, sweetened nuts and fresh fruit. For heartier fare, look for the rich and sweet chicken corn chowder or the Brie, sun-dried tomato and artichoke hearts baguette.


Café/Drink house ~ $

Downtown: 702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412,

Best of 2009

Shuga's is hipster heaven, with an artistic touch just about everywhere. (I'm sure there's a doorknob they missed or something ...). It nabbed Best Of awards last year for Place to Chill, Café, and Bar for a Specialty Mixed Cocktail. The lavender martini is rightfully legendary, as is the spicy Brazilian coconut soup. But the rest of the menu deserves attention, too, from the cheese or bruschetta plates to funky, yummy sandwiches like the Quebec (Brie, prosciutto and apple on ciabatta).

Silver Pond Chinese Gourmet

Chinese ~ $$

Academy (North): 5670 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343,

Consistently voted some of the best Chinese in the city, Silver Pond offers a comprehensive list of gourmet Chinese. With multitudes of tofu, noodle and fried rice dishes, it's a vegetarian-friendly menu. But those who enjoy their meat (and something different) can revel in orders of strawberry or mango chicken and shrimp.

Slayton's Tejon Street Grill

American ~ $$

Downtown: 28A S. Tejon St., 471-2311,

Reviewed: June 4

Originally Slayton's Legendary Pit Barbeque, Slayton's updated its name and menu last fall. With a focus on general American cuisine, Slayton's earns acclaim for dishes like the Wagyu Kobe beef cheeseburger and a smoky and tender pulled pork sandwich. For something lighter, look for the seared ahi tuna salad: a blend of cherry tomatoes, candied pecans, sliced mango and avocado and Jack cheese, all topped in a habañero vinaigrette.

Sonterra Grill

Southwestern ~ $$

Downtown: 28B S. Tejon St., 471-9222,

Sonterra cradles you into its cactus-plant-accented bosom through warm colors and a ceiling painted to look like drifting clouds. In conjunction with the perfectly seasoned dry-aged center-cut filet, which could be sliced with an infant's spoon, it creates a near-and-dear relationship between atmosphere and food. (Having a kick-ass margarita will only heighten that sense, by the way.)

South Jersey Subs

Sandwiches/Deli ~ $

Academy (North): 1726 Brookwood Drive, 531-5100,

Reviewed: Dec. 3

John Kondratow's South Jersey Subs nails the East Coast vibe with a combination of quality ingredients and deftly prepared sandwiches. Most menu items are prepared daily, like the zesty ground Italian sausage sub. Off the grill, there's the ample Genoa salami, capicola and provolone sub, full of veggies of your choice. Some service issues notwithstanding, SJS is a hole-in-the-wall that more than holds its own.

SouthSide Johnny's

Pub food/Sandwiches ~ $

Downtown: 528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487,

SouthSide Johnny's caters to everyone from bikers to suits, with an accessible menu of burgers and the like, highlighted by gourmet treats like a mahi mahi salad, Kobe sliders and powdered sugar-dusted sweet potato fries. At dinner, nab a strip steak or ribeye. While marketed as a bar and music venue first, Johnny's surpasses average bar food.

Squeak Soda Shop

Dessert ~ $

Northwest: 812 Village Center Drive, 265-4677,

Reviewed: Sept. 10

The creation of Coronado High School graduate Joey Suntken, Squeak takes you back to when all you cared about were sweet, creamy and fizzy things. Grab some Pop Rocks, Laffy Taffy or wax bottles and get down with some Nintendo Wii or Monopoly. Try one of the sodas made with pure cane sugar or Splenda, and a spritz of cucumber, pumpkin pie or black cherry flavoring.


Steakhouse ~ $$$

Central: 3802 Maizeland Road, 596-9300,

With the various awards with which the Indy has consistently recognized 29-year-old Steaksmith, it's pretty redundant to hit them all again. So suffice it to say that this is a go-to place (especially with new happy hour pricing) for incredible meat cuts aged in-house for up to eight weeks and complemented by maybe the best wait staff in the city.

The Summit at The Broadmoor

Gourmet ~ $$$

Cheyenne Mountain: 1 Lake Ave., 577-5733,

This is where chef Bertrand Bouquin takes a playful respite from the rigors of providing five-star dining in the Penrose Room. Eat here for significantly less money and you'll still enjoy a top-notch meal designed for the season. The commanding, glass-enclosed wine turret (a complex wine rack behind the bar) deserves staring time during a pre- or post-dinner drink.

The Sunbird

American ~ $$$

Central: 230 Point of the Pines Drive, 598-8990,

Famous for its Sunday brunch that includes bottomless champagne and dishes like London broil and a delicious eggs Benedict, the Sunbird shines at dinner, too. Consider the Sunbird Salmon Oscar: Atlantic salmon topped with crabmeat, asparagus and a creamy Hollandaise sauce next to rice pilaf. And the view is gorgeous 24-7.

Sunflower by Day /Moonflower by Night

Café/Wine Bar ~ $

Downtown: 287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0649,

Reviewed: June 18

Lowell Development's Sunflower by Day serves gluten-free and whole-grain pastry options, high-quality build-your-own sandwiches and fresh soups. The sister restaurant of Montague's Coffee House, Sunflower stands on its own with a perfectly sesame-and-poppy-seed-dressing-accented spinach, avocado and grapefruit salad. Try it with the delightful chilled gazpacho. Come back Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings, when the café transforms into the candle-laden Moonflower by Night — a hidden date-night gem filled with tasty small plates, creative wines and scrumptious desserts like the Brazilian Avocado Cream.

Swiss Chalet

Gourmet ~ $$$

Woodland Park: 19263 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, 687-2001,

The humble, wood-walled construction belies the delectable European-inspired items inside. Brought to us by the same folks as the Pepper Tree, Swiss Chalet offers perhaps the best escargot in the region in addition to entrées like the peerless Chilean sea bass covered with grenobloise (browned butter, capers, parsley and lemon).

Tabeguache Steakhouse

Steakhouse ~ $$$

Woodland Park: 407 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, 687-8536,

Reviewed: Jan. 15

The first thing you need to know about the Tabeguache is that it sources all of its steaks locally through Ranch Foods Direct. And the mountain steakhouse's concern for quality food translates into proper care for the meat once it hits the grill. The natural flavor is all you need, though the filet mignon's bacon wrap doesn't hurt. Either the Strawberry Fields or feta spinach salads make a great starter with a glass of Colorado wine; the flaming Bananas Foster says farewell fondly.

Taste of India

Indian ~ $$

Academy (North): 4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428,

Best of 2009

Taste of India is about as unpretentious a sit-down place as you're going to find anywhere. Don't be fooled by the relaxed atmosphere, though — the tastiest butter chicken in the city and a Best Indian win attest that this family-run place will take care of you. Lunch buffets here are legendary, and you'll quickly understand the outfit's fine reputation within the local Indian community.

Taste of Jerusalem Café

Mediterranean/Yemeni ~ $

Downtown: 15 E. Bijou St., 477-1777,

Best of 2009

Co-winner of Best Middle Eastern with Heart of Jerusalem Café, Taste of Jerusalem and owner Abdul Nasser offer their own Yemeni spin on the classic (and delicious) shawarma sandwich. For the vegetarian in you, go with the falafel sandwich; the offering shines with perfect seasoning, and a wonderful crunch complemented by garlicky hummus.

A Taste of New Orleans Café

Cajun/Southern ~ $

Downtown: 333 N. Tejon St., Unit B, 667-7286

Reviewed: Jan. 22, 2009

Beth Mell just moved her mellow, Big Easy operation downtown after a year in Old Colorado City. The expanded space accommodates her upgraded menu of authentic New Orleans cuisine, which includes Po-boys, Cajun barbecue and seafood galore. The pecan-crusted catfish rocks; also try the jambalaya and finish with Ms. B's signature bread pudding dessert or fluffy beignets.

Taste of Thai Spice

Thai ~ $

Academy (South): 1609 Lashelle Way, 226-1999

Clad in a strip-mall robe, Taste of Thai Spice is easy to miss. But doing so would be a huge mistake — after all, the food here tastes like it does on the streets of Thailand. It's the best Thai in the city, hands-down. Pad Thai, any curry dish, and the papaya salad all shine as exemplary tastes of, well, Thai spice.

Tomo Sushi

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Academy (North): 975 N. Academy Blvd., 597-2422

Tomo II

Academy (North): 8029 N. Academy Blvd., 277-0200,

Tomo gets so many things right, it's hard to choose which to highlight. The original location boasts a roomy, but relaxed dining room, highlighted by a stone fireplace. The huge rolls, including the awesomely named Tijuana Ninja Roll, are creative and flavorful. And, from our own personal experience, we can assure you that the plum sake goes down like water.

Tony's Bar

Pub food ~ $

Downtown: 311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566,

Best of 2009

Tony's, a Midwestern-tavern-themed bar, is so entrenched downtown that it's won Best Neighborhood Bar for 10 years and Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Bar for five. Beyond cheap pitchers, you'll find locally famous fried cheese curds and well-orchestrated standards like fish 'n chips and an array of sandwiches. Plus, an owner named Eel.

Trinity Brewing Company

Brewpub ~ $

Northwest: 1466 Garden of the Gods Road, 634-0029,

With almost monthly house-made beer releases and a rare tap selection of obscure beers from around the country, Trinity is a bastion for hops lovers. Its eclectic menu — featuring items from seitan Buffalo wings to Colorado buffalo sliders — helps this sustainably minded outfit fend off the hunger pains of smart-minded drinkers.

Vietnamese Garden

Vietnamese ~ $

Old Colorado City: 3043 W. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-9599,

Reviewed: Jan. 1, 2009

Owner and sole cook Dung My Tram runs this noodle and rice spot, making traditional dishes the way her mother taught her. We fell in love with her potato fritters starter — shredded yam and carrot battered in rice flour and Vietnamese beer — which you wrap in a lettuce leaf with fresh cilantro, mint and basil and dunk in a sweet dipping sauce. Tram makes sauces daily and marinates meats overnight, which explains the vibrant quality of her dishes. Her bun bowls are better than most and her spicy beef soup will humble you.

Walter's Bistro

Gourmet ~ $$$

Cheyenne Mountain: 146 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 630-0201,

Local gourmet options abound, making it hard to stand out. Unless, of course, you're offering dishes like grilled Hawaiian blue marlin in a ginger-coconut sauce aside cilantro rice, braised baby bok choy and macadamia nuts, then ending the night with pumpkin spice caramel cheesecake next to a raspberry truffle martini to wash it all down. That's Walter's.

The Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery

Gourmet ~ $$$

Downtown: 25 W. Cimarron St., 475-8880,

The warm industrial-chic interior is the perfect place to enjoy Chip Johnson's culinary creations, focusing on Colorado products. Start with the intriguing Bison Carpaccio, bison served with Holland rusks, asiago cheese, mustard aioli, garlic and sage pesto. Then get the barbecued orange chipotle wild boar marinated with citrus and cilantro, served with fried tomatoes, sugar snap peas and peppered polenta sticks.

Western Omelette

American ~ $

Downtown: 16 S. Walnut St., 636-2286,

In the constant battle to provide the best green chili around, Western Omelette consistently dishes out award-worthy stuff. Try it for breakfast over the breakfast chimichanga, or pace yourself and go with the club burger for lunch. Either way you can't lose, especially with the friendly service and pro-wallet prices.

Wild Ginger Thai Restaurant

Thai ~ $

Old Colorado City: 3020 W. Colorado Ave., 634-5025,

Best of 2009

Wild Ginger has earned reader nods for Best Thai for nine consecutive years, and it's largely thanks to charming owner Khon Onexayvieng, whose big smile owns the two-tier dining room. But beyond that charm, folks of course go for competent versions of Thai staples. Medium is about as hot as most folks will want to go here, as the Thai hot has lit us up something fierce. Make sure to ask for no MSG.

Wines of Colorado

American ~ $$

Cascade: 8045 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, 684-0900,

With more than 40 Colorado wineries represented, it's a mountain oenophile's paradise, and well worth a visit. So the fact that you can enjoy dishes like whole, smoked garlic served on flatbread in addition to a favorite smoked salmon Caesar salad make us wonder why you're not there already.

Wireworks Coffeehouse on the Riverwalk

Café/Coffeehouse ~ $

Pueblo: 103 S. Union Ave., #110, 543-3000

Reviewed: Aug. 20

Just above the Historic Riverwalk, Wireworks surpasses most coffee shops for ambience, drink execution and cuisine.

We love the open-faced pear sandwich: a thick bleu cheese spread over basic whole-wheat toast pieces lined with pear wedges. The outfit also dishes organic salads and lots of vegetarian and vegan items, like a yummy tempeh Reuben. Pastry items don't disappoint, and the Mocafe-blended fruit crèmes make a wonderful coffee alternative.

Wisdom Tea House

Tea/Café ~ $

Monument: 65 Second St., 481-8822,

Reviewed: Nov. 5

Wisdom Tea House is designed as a gathering space to build and welcome community, the dream of Tom and Diane Wisdom. It's also the place to find the best buffalo burger in the area; tender and juicy, with roasted Poblano peppers, red pepper aioli and spinach, the burger is a true highlight. On the tea side, enjoy the green Da Hong Pao oolong, or the jasmine white.

Wooglin's Deli & Café

Café ~ $

Downtown: 823 N. Tejon St., 578-9443,

Wooglin's offers almost everything: perfect coffee creations (including a velvety mocha), hot and cold "overstuffed" sandwiches, hummus, burgers, quesadillas, salads (like the Greek: feta, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, Kalamata olives and pepperoncinis) and even veggie chili. With even live music in the eclectic interior, it's no wonder that townies help CC kids keep it busy at all hours.

Yoo Mae

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

Downtown: 21 E. Kiowa St., 473-8105

Chef JJ Kim has a dream, a dream in which each state is represented by its own individual roll. Take the Alabama: crab mated with spicy tuna, perfect tempura and seaweed. Perfection. Though a little sauce-crazy at times, Kim has our constant culinary attention.


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