Best of 2011: Bar Crowd
Walk into SouthSide Johnny's just once, and you probably wouldn't understand why the place would win this new category. That's because just one visit doesn't begin to tell the story. You have to go back, at different times, to get the full idea. SouthSide Johnny's has its regulars, but it also has its lunch crowd, its happy-hour crowd, its music-loving late-night crowd, its Saturday-Sunday brunch crowd and its "weekend warrior" motorcycle crowd, and they aren't the same people — though they do get along with each other quite well. You might see downtown attorneys, young and not-so-young professionals, or fans of Colorado College hockey (even CC head coach Scott Owens, along with former Tigers still living here). Put it all together, and that's how your bar crowd beats the rest. — Ralph Routon
Best of 2012: Cultural Attraction/Museum
Best of 2012: Art Exhibition
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's 75th anniversary has come and gone, but nothing is settling down at the institution. This year, the FAC gave Springs audiences the work of world-famous contemporary artist James Turrell, as well as sure-to-be-world-famous locals Scott Johnson and Floyd Tunson (see p. 64). On the theatrical side, it's debuted a second-stage season and offered more tickets at a lower price. The Bemis School of Art also continues to dish out satisfaction, says FAC president and CEO Sam Gappmayer. "Bemis is like this juggernaut: It does the same thing every year, but it does it exceptionally well," he says, adding, "It's a class of 18 where someone has a profound experience with their own creativity." Whether you view or create there, the FAC provides a holistic approach to art (for all ages, no less) that makes it a well-deserved community flagship. — Edie Adelstein
Source: Barista Espresso and Specialty Roasting
Get the: White Zombie (white espresso, Ghirardelli white chocolate)
Under new ownership with a slightly revamped menu and later hours, the Coffee Exchange serves breakfast sandwiches and drinks like Irish coffees (thanks to its liquor license). Barista coffee products and four beers are available on tap.
Best Of 2012: Local Coffee HouseWhile you were voting for your favorite local bean empire this year, change was under way behind the scenes at said empire. Don and Kay Heaberlin, owners of Pikes Perk's downtown branch, split from roaster Rick Roehrman, purchased nearby Purple Mountain Coffee Co., and commenced with their own roasting operation. Hence the two names you see above. Moving forward, the north Perk should offer more of what you've come to expect and reward, including live music on Friday and Saturday nights, while the downtown business has announced changes around environmental consciousness, meaning more fair-trade and organic goodies. Truly, it's a whole new flavor. So be clear next year in your voting, and until then, chug some caffeine in both Perks' honors. — Matthew Schniper
Recently expanded, years ahead of schedule, Trinity has deservedly blown up thanks to top-notch, experimental saison production on top of great flagship beers like the seasonally changing Farmhouse. To mitigate the buzz (from the alcohol, not the community), grab lamb sliders, seitan wings or the Mak' N Bacon.
Happy hour: Monday and Thursday, 2-6 p.m.
The goods: $3 house brews, $1 off all snacks
Much of Trinity's interior was constructed from repurposed materials, including the psychedelic bar top, made from shards of beer bottle glass layered in resin. But its business model is anything but recycled: Trinity implements Slow Food (local, organic) principles in the kitchen and rewards human-powered arrival (biking, walking) with discounted beer. As for the beer, Trinity keeps it flowing from 30-plus taps, both imported craft brews and refreshing creations from head brewer and owner Jason Yester.
Head to Trinity for tapas-style dining paired with outstanding house-made craft beers and a rare assembly of obscure, low-production beers. The artful, wood-adorned outfit dishes everything from sweet potato fries and a bacon basket to yummy beer-cheese soup, decadent salads and sandwiches and stuffers. Get an ice cream stout float for dessert.