Best Of 2016

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2016 Best Of Colorado Springs: Food & Drink 

From breakfast to dessert and everything in between

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
Chef, Innovative Menu

Brother Luck, Brother Luck Street Eats

It's a question we can't ask any other chef in town: "So, what did it feel like to beat Bobby Flay?" "It was awesome," says Brother Luck. "I came up watching that guy on TV ... to get the opportunity was badass." Luck was recently victorious on that Food Network show, also appearing on Chopped: Impossible Restaurant Challenge. His fellow chef at Street Eats, Mark Henry, won the debut episode of Cooks vs. Cons, and both will appear on upcoming episodes of Chopped, says Luck. When they aren't showing what C. Springs can accomplish "as an up-and-coming city," they're on the line cranking out consistently impressive fare. Though they're known as pork fanatics, "we do so much more," says Luck, noting he's currently toying with the concept of "Four Corners cuisine," mixing cowboy, Native American and Southwestern influences "to embrace this area more." Luck also won a scholarship to spend two weeks in Japan from the New York-based Gohan Society, and another via the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (of which he's an alum) to spend 10 days in China. Head in to see how those experiences are unfolding on menus.

Bakery

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery

  • The family-owned business turns 18 this March
  • Named for owner-baker and Broadmoor vet Stephen Boonzaaijer
  • For the record, it's pronounced BONE-zy-yer — a question they get all the time
  • "Anything with our Bavarian creme ... is probably what we are most famous for," says Savannah Alcott, front end manager
  • Reinforces the saying, "If it ain't Dutch, it ain't much"
click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Vietnamese

Saigon Cafe

  • Owner Paul Truong's family recipes have been consistent for generations
  • Coveted beef broth is made from real bone marrow
  • No MSG, no preservatives, all fresh ingredients
  • Décor brings in elements of French design, referencing France's colonization of Vietnam
  • Won't break your pocketbook, with entrées running from $8.95 to $11
Dessert

Marigold Café and Bakery

  • Authentic French bistro opened in 1992
  • Pastry master Elaine Chavanon taught at the Culinary Institute of America; husband Dominique studied under CIA's "Chef of the Century" winner, Paul Bocuse
  • The couple's "Pear Delight" won Best of Show at the Springs' 30th Anniversary Chef's Gala
  • One Indy food writer once advised to leave grandma home so she doesn't "get depressed and stop cooking"
Frozen Treats

Josh & John's

  • Kiowa Street location first opened in 1986
  • Now has additional location in Mountain Shadows neighborhood, plus a mobile "scoop bus"
  • Ice cream still made via an old-fashioned slow-churning process
  • Menu features 16 flavors, half gluten-free, plus seasonal flavors like Oatmeal Pumpkin Pie
Smoothie/Juice Bar

Ola Juice Bar

  • A downtown treat coming up on its four-year anniversary
  • Offers a wide variety of menu items to accommodate customers with allergies
  • Everything on the menu is vegan, while almost everything is gluten-free and organic
  • Most popular smoothies are the Chocolate Peanut Butter Recovery and the sweet-spicy Jeanine's
  • Food menu features açai, rice and quinoa bowls; salads and wraps; fruit burritos; and more
    • click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
      • Casey Bradley Gent
      Restaurant for Tourists

      Fargo's Pizza

      • Victorian-style building harkens back to the Springs' days as "Little London"
      • Wide selection of pizzas, pastas and sandwiches, plus a large salad bar
      • Features sculptures by 19th-century artist Frederic Remington
      • Seats 500 people, perfect for large-group celebrations

      Italian

      Paravicini's

      • Chef/owner Franco Pisani says, "I love the Westside — I walk Colorado Avenue every day that I work"
      • 5,000 pounds of calamari sold annually in the signature appetizer with hot peppers, capers, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes
      • Spaghetti and meatballs, cooked in tomato sauce "like mom did it," have been the top-selling dish since Day 1. At two per plate, 30,000 are sold annually
      • Some customers are so regular, "they call us if they're not coming"

      Diner, Green Chile, Bang-for-Your-Buck Restaurant

      King's Chef Diner

      Lest you think an onslaught of champagne brunch locations and artisan pubs has killed the diners of old, King's Chef is here to celebrate the glories of affordable Sunday-morning comfort food. Both locations of the longtime downtown diner are unapologetically down-home, featuring meals laden with eggs and meat and melted cheese, smothered in award-winning spicy green chile or rich country gravy. Are you one of the voters who lauded the aforementioned chile? If you absolutely can't get enough of it, they sell it in jars. Just remember: At King's Chef, you're not going to pick up a simple "bite to eat." One breakfast favorite, The Grump, is so huge it should come with a free T-shirt just for finishing it.

      click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
      • Brienne Boortz
      Doughnuts

      Amy's Donuts

      • Rainbow of doughnuts ranging from traditional to experimental
      • New location in Columbus, Ohio, with another coming to Tucson, Arizona, in 2017
      • Co-owner Amy Kim left a job in microcontrollers to make doughnuts with husband/co-owner Chin Kim
      • It all started because the Kims couldn't find any local doughnut shops while on vacation here

      Wait Staff

      The Mona Lisa

      • Attentive, world-class servers make this hidden Manitou gem shine
      • Knowledgeable sommeliers provide expert wine recommendations for novices and aficionados alike
      • Great local ingredients help decadent fondues pop with fresh flavor combinations
      • Not just for date night, it's also a classy place to end a long workweek, or even just a Tuesday
      • A bit of history: The restaurant is housed in an old Gold Rush hotel from the 1880s

      click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
      • Brienne Boortz
      Indian

      Little Nepal

      • Garlic naan has been proven to fight the blues and increase happiness (at least, by us), as have rosewater lassis
      • Co-founder Raj Adhikari opened Shri Ganesh, with new-to-town Indian items, earlier this year off Voyager Parkway
      • One dish we love: the lamb korma, with stewed onions and tomatoes in heavy cream and coconut milk, laced with cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and curry flavors
      • Go during one of the buffets for maximum bang-for-the-buck (see website for hours)

      Pizza

      Borriello Brothers

      • Eighteen-inch, New York-style pizzas
      • Signature green chile pie features the goods from King's Chef
      • Seven locations deliver from Fountain to Palmer Lake
      • Been in operation for 17 years

      click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
      • Brienne Boortz
      German

      Edelweiss German Restaurant

      • Celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, with 30 years under current ownership
      • Manager/co-owner Dieter Schnakenberg says he sells upwards of 1,500 bratwursts (made by a small Denver company) monthly, and at least 500 German beer kegs annually
      • You can split a 70-ounce boot of that beer with friends for $24
      • Swiss pastry chef Alfred Hiltbrunner makes 80 to 90 10-inch round cakes weekly, enough for 1,000-plus slices; Black Forest and hazelnut are the bestsellers

      Chinese (tie)

      China Village

      • Decadently furnished, flamboyant atmosphere
      • Fun plate presentation with artistic garnish
      • Super-cheap lunch specials, with more than three dozen options under $7
      • Hearty portions ensure tasty leftovers for breakfast
      • Must-tries: Spicy sesame steak cubes or tender Mongolian beef

      Chinese (tie)

      Coal Mine Dragon — Uintah

      • All of the familiar Chinese staples, with a wide range of seafood options, crispy duck, and vegetarian options
      • Take advantage of the sub-$8 lunch menu; includes soup, rice and an appetizer. And 30-plus dinner combo plates starting at $7.75, with choice of soup and rice
      • Stylized family dinner options include Szechuan and Cantonese, for two or more diners
      • Free delivery; dine-in, take-out and catering available, too

      click to enlarge GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
      • Griffin Swartzell
      Seafood

      Bonny & Read

      • Focuses on high-end seafood, with deliveries arriving daily
      • Owner Joe Campana originally joked about naming it "The Infamous" on account of being across the street from The Famous
      • Sister outfit to both The Rabbit Hole and SuperNova, it's actually named for historic female pirates
      • Chef Josh Kelly came most recently from Whole Foods, bringing those sustainability standards to his buying for B&R
      • Though staff says it's only the second-most popular dinner item, we'd go first for the Caribbean-spiced swordfish

      click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
      • Brienne Boortz
      Barbecue

      Front Range Barbeque

      • Featured on Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
      • Hosts a variety of musical acts
      • Great revolving selection of craft beers both local and national
      • Will barbecue a whole pig for private events
      • Serves local Polidori sausage and Red Bird chicken

      • Power Lunch, Japanese/Sushi

        Fujiyama

        For those who work or play downtown, Fujiyama is a life-saver. Half-off sushi rolls on weekday afternoons make it a natural setting for an inexpensive lunch meeting, but the full kitchen also serves everything from ribeye to noodle bowls — meaning that no matter your tastes, you can always find a good bite to eat. "We wanted happy hours in the middle of a business place," says owner Minji Suh, "to let people know we had good food, good quality." In addition to lunchtime happy hours, Fujiyama offers different specials each day of the week, plus late-night deals. Oftentimes sushi-lovers need to lower their standards to fit their budget, but here you can have your California roll and eat it too. Local favorites include the deep-fried Oh My God (a California roll with cream cheese, masago, spicy mayo and eel sauce), which lives up to its name, and the Lion King (shrimp tempura, crab, avocado, masago, eel sauce and spicy mayo), a 10/10 on presentation. With the place having celebrated 18 years in business last month, we say congrats, Fujiyama, and thanks for lunch.


        Korean

        San Chang House

        • You need to eat their beef bulgogi; it's like heaven, but made of meat — tender, flavorful meat
        • Every dish comes with four to five little bowls of sauces and veggies, called banchan (with a helpful identifying glossary on the menu)
        • The menu declares that you can eat as much Korean food as you like and not gain weight
        • The staff is friendly and patient and always willing to explain the entrées

        click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
        • Brienne Boortz
        Thai

        NaRai Thai Restaurant

        • Owner Jasmine Andrew also operates NaRai Siam Cuisine in the Cheyenne Mountain area, which opened six years after the original Rockrimmon spot
        • For her Pad Thai, Andrew re-bakes dried Thai chilies to further release their essence, and wok-sautées long enough to caramelize all present sugars
        • Andrew recently added a seafood and lobster Pad Thai at the south location, with 6 to 7 ounces of lobster plus mussels, scallops and shrimp
        • You'll never go wrong with the red curry plate, featuring chicken and kabocha squash
        • Guests can now order and pre-pay online for to-go items from both locations

        Brunch, Breakfast

        Over Easy

        It's kind of amazing to see the progress Over Easy has made since opening downtown about five years ago. First the business expanded to University Village, then to Denver and Fort Collins, and now two new locations are in the works — one on Powers and one in the Denver Tech Center. So what's the secret? Part of it, according to owner Randy Price, is the food itself. For locally sourced and organic ingredients, Over Easy takes advantage of 32 area vendors, including Barista Espresso and Polidori Sausage. And with quality ingredients at their disposal, the chefs at each location get a lot of freedom to play around with specials. Whether it's those gourmet pancakes in strange new flavors or an interesting twist on a favorite dish, Price encourages each chef's creativity. To make the specials even better, Price's Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group (to which Over Easy belongs) has been donating a portion of proceeds from those dishes at Springs restaurants to the Trails and Open Space Coalition all year. "It's important to my wife and I," Price says, "to be entrenched in the local community."


        click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
        • Brienne Boortz
        Burger

        The Skirted Heifer

        • Burgers made from grass-fed and -finished beef from Music Meadows Ranch
        • Most ingredients come from less than 50 miles away
        • Featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
        • Family-owned and operated
        • Tables and seating made from reclaimed Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fire wood

        Wings

        Buffalo Wild Wings

        • The cool kids call it "B-Dubs" (and you should, too)
        • Going strong since 1982 — a testament to the power of wings, beer and sports
        • More than 100 TVs (over two locations) stream any sporting event you can think of
        • Philanthropic supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs of America sports programs, national culinary programs for high schoolers, and local causes via the very popular "Eat Wings, Raise Funds" initiative
        • Family-friendly menus, specials and promotions regularly

        click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
        • Matthew Schniper
        Tacos

        T-Byrd's Tacos & Tequila

        • Owners Michael Thompson and Crystal Byrd also co-own Manitou Springs' Emerald Fields recreational marijuana dispensary
        • Inspired by popular street-style taco spots in Texas, their home state
        • Get the Colorado trout tacos and a Mexican Mule, served in a copper cup and made with Principal's Office's ginger beer, lime and Sauza
        • Newly added Fire Belly pork belly tacos are green chile-braised and finished with a habanero-peach salsa
        • Tacos are $1 off during weekday happy hours (call for all hours); select beers and margaritas are $3 and $5, respectively

        • Sandwiches

          Jersey Mike's

          • East Coast-style sammies: cold, hot, wrapped, combo-ed and even catered; with gluten-free bread and vegetarian options
          • Meats and cheeses sliced to order since 1956 (order something with roast beef — it's cooked in-house)
          • Make it "Mike's Way," with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, oregano, spices and "the juice" (vinegar and oil), and try the cherry pepper relish for a sweet and spicy bite
          • 1,000-plus locations nationwide, five serving Colorado Springs

          click to enlarge GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
          • Griffin Swartzell
          Barista

          Tyler Hill & Seth Fuller at Loyal Coffee

          • Hill (right) trained under Eric Nicol at the Principal's Office
          • Fuller has poured at Coffee Exchange, Rico's, Urban Steam, the Principal's Office and, most recently, Fifty Fifty
          • Loyal Coffee debuted at pop-up events at Fifty Fifty and the Machine Shop before the store opened in September
          • "Seth and I both love this city really well, and we like taking care of people," says Hill on why he thinks locals voted for them

          • Caterer

            Picnic Basket Family of Companies

            • Owners Kathy Dreiling and Michelle Talarico started the company with $300 each in their pockets
            • Largest catered event: Penrose Hospital — 4,000 people
            • Strangest catered event: an 18th birthday party for a turtle named Bubbles
            • Recently fed 900 guests gratis for Urban Peak's Breakfast Under the Bridge
            • Served Bill Clinton, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, among other famous names

            click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
            • Brienne Boortz
            Gluten-Free Friendly

            Coquette's

            • Moving in February 2017 to 616 S. Tejon St., a significantly expanded space
            • One new gluten-free item joining the menu post-move: pizza
            • Most popular cupcake flavor, by far: salted caramel
            • Proprietary GF flour blend is "temperamental" but "versatile" — sensitive to altitude and weather, but an easy substitute to standard flour across recipes
            • Counts "hundreds" of regulars who are celiac or gluten-sensitive

            Mediterranean/Middle Eastern

            Heart of Jerusalem

            • Family-owned eatery opened its third location at Fillmore and Centennial in September
            • Menu features traditional Middle Eastern eats like shawarma, kebabs and baklava
            • Sip on a hot or iced sage tea, or go all-in with intense Turkish coffee
            • Adorable heart-shaped falafel is perfect for a date

            click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
            • Casey Bradley Gent
            Local Coffee Shop

            Humble Coffee

            • Recently bought by new co-owners Shelly Mirenda, a former grade-school teacher, and Mike Hedrick, a current tattoo artist at Pens & Needles
            • Aloha: the newest signature (and current bestselling) drink — a latte with lavender and coconut syrups
            • Currently scouting for a second location
            • Recently procured Distillery 291 whiskey barrels to age beans in for upcoming drink specials
            • All drinks made with either a white espresso (blond roast) or organic Mexican/Ugandan blend, locally roasted

            Take-out, Mexican

            El Taco Rey

            After 40 years in the business, it's no wonder that El Taco Rey still satisfies the downtown appetite for authentic Mexican cuisine. Owners Eddie and Rosemary Aguilar may disagree about whose family the family recipes come from, but the matter stands that each dish on the El Taco Rey menu (unchanged since 1976) is made from scratch, the same way it's been made for years. Highlights include the ever-popular avocado pork burrito (served hand-held or smothered) and award-winning tamales, though the owners' daughter, Jana Mitchell, says her favorite dish is the bean burrito. Food aside, the customer service keeps regulars coming back, some since the very beginning. "We make you feel at home," Mitchell says. "It's good comfort food. It's family. We go over and beyond."


            Cajun/Southern

            Springs Orleans

            • Creole classics as prepared by executive chef Jason Miller
            • Menu ranges from high-end steaks, lobster and oysters to gumbo and po'boys
            • Offers local beers, plus craft brews from Covington, Louisiana-based Abita Brewery
            • Patio gives dining a dose of cosmopolitan cool

            click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
            • Brienne Boortz
            Food Truck

            Pig Latin Food Truck

            • Operator Andres Velez was a military cook between 2005 and 2011, before graduating from Pikes Peak Community College's culinary program
            • Featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2015; post-show, weekly pork sales went from 40 pounds to 160 pounds
            • Parks regularly at 112 E. Boulder St. during lunch hours, and at Nano 108 on Friday nights
            • The $8 Island Tacos feature pineapple-braised pork shoulder with cilantro-habanero cream sauce
            • The big tease: Velez has his eye on a brick-and-mortar spot. Details to come ...

            Patio

            Amanda's Fonda

            • Westside restaurant hosts a huge, heated patio with a gorgeous view of Fountain Creek
            • Offers a variety of margaritas ranging from sweet to smoky
            • Popular fajitas are delivered sizzling in the skillet
            • Original Amanda's Fonda was opened by Amanda Lopez Burr and husband Mark in 1997
            • Now offers Sunday brunch at both locations

            click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
            • Brienne Boortz
            Caribbean

            Spice Island Grill

            • Comfort-food veggie dishes, and plenty of them, alongside Caribbean favorites
            • Popular menu items include jerk chicken and mac and cheese
            • Cranks up the heat in winter to keep that "island vacation" vibe
            • Live reggae music for Bob Marley's birthday
            • An honest-to-God, from-scratch kitchen

            Fine Dining, Steak

            The Famous

            You'd be hard-pressed to find a more locally loved steak house than The Famous, and that's because its prestige isn't limited to its name. It is certainly a great place for steak, made from USDA High Plains beef, or a rack of lamb, sourced in Colorado, but its menu remains diverse and classy enough to serve all sorts. And boy, do they serve. "If there's one thing I'd highlight," says general manager Johnathan Shankland, "it's our staff. Our kitchen staff, front-of-house staff — they're the reason we've sustained this level of performance." After a switch in ownership six months ago, folks worried some of that might change, but Shankland assures us that it's the same menu, same staff, same great place to eat. If you've waited to walk through the Famous' doors for fear of breaking your bank, here's some hope: With rotating weekend specials, Friday lunch specials and Sunday steak specials, The Famous makes its food accessible. Ditto for drinks. A happy hour here (4-6 p.m.) gets you $1 off beer, $2 off cocktails, $3 off martinis and $4 wines. Of course, these include plentiful local options — about 30 Colorado spirits, 11 Colorado beers and a dozen Colorado Wines.


            Late-Night Dining

            The Rabbit Hole

            • Cool underground dining space with curious artwork
            • Wide selection of wines and fun cocktails
            • Late hours make it a great place to linger
            • Offbeat but approachable menu hosts small plates and fine entrées

            click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
            • Brienne Boortz
            French

            La Baguette French Bistro

            • Owned by Patrick and Krystyna Garnier since 2007
            • One of three La Baguettes in the city — but the Chestnut location is the only one with a full menu
            • Serves the obscenely good Croque Madame, the Madame de Pompadour of sandwiches
            • Offers a wide selection of wines and imported beers, as well as cocktails

            Local/Regional Chain

            La Casita Mexican Grill

            • Thick, chewy flour tortillas have earned local loyalty
            • Affordable Tex-Mex bites pair well with margaritas and beer
            • Tamales, tortillas, green chile and salsa available in bulk
            • Three locations in unmistakable pink buildings across the city

            click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
            • Brienne Boortz
            Coffee Roaster

            SwitchBack Coffee Roasters p. 29

            • Roaster Evan Schubarth just finished certification to become a Q Grader (coffee-quality rater)
            • SwitchBack-roasted coffees are carried locally by the likes of TILL, Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Wild Goose Meeting House and Blank Canvas Café
            • Operates neighboring Fifty Fifty Coffee House, but owner Brandon DelGrosso says SwitchBack will soon absorb that as part of a rebranding, to include new logo and bag design
            • Runs a small training facility to teach other baristas and restaurant employees around town
            • Has been a featured guest roaster in shops as far away as Phoenix and Seattle

            click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
            • Matthew Schniper
            Overall Restaurant, New Restaurant

            TILL

            Gerry Castro is on a serious winning streak in the Springs. After placing first at a Griffith Centers fundraiser/competition and defeating Brother Luck at a recent Knife Fight, the Napa-trained chef has helped launch TILL to victory in the category of Best Overall Restaurant. And that's after being open for only around four months. To say TILL has made an impression is clearly an understatement. When told that it was a finalist in this category, GM Thomas Wilson suggested our readers were responding to TILL's ethical sourcing from local purveyors like Corner Post Meats, SwitchBack Coffee Roasters and Lee Spirits. Beyond the great food and presentation, we love the feel of the bright, breezy space and its 80-foot-long open kitchen, too. After riding into town and sweeping us off our feet as in a culinary fairy tale, Wilson says TILL's next gift will be fast-casual breakfast service, dubbed The Roost at TILL, which will serve grab-and-go and quick-to-order meals.

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