Best Of 2013: • Indy Pick: Chicken pot pie
I didn't pick this just because of the heart-shaped cracker that comes on top of each pie. It helps, but this heaping dish hardly needs much décor — the crispy, flaky top covering creamy vegetables and healthy chunks of chicken are more than enough. According to the general manager, this house specialty is by far one of the restaurant's most popular items, and starts out as nothing more than a chicken dumpling soup blanketed with a puff pastry crust. And since it's a mere $8.95, you have cash left over to indulge in the joint's more adult namesake offerings. — Edie Adelstein
Bites 2013: Carrot Cake
Though it comes in the shape of a slice, this huge monolith of dessert has more layers than Shrek, feeds up to four people, and fits just fine in a completely empty, jumbo-sized freezer (because you're not eating this whole thing at once). It's a symphony of creamy frosting, soft layers of cake and all the caloric guilt you can muster. ($9.95)
Best Of 2013: Appetizers/Tapas
Are you a foodie with less adventurous friends? Do you find yourself eating at places where you sacrifice your taste buds for the sake of good company? TAPAteria offers a solution, one small plate at a time. With nothing but tapas on the menu (all gluten-free, many vegetarian and vegan), it's the perfect place for the gastronomically squeamish to try a bite or two without having to fork over the price for a full meal. And the foodies among us can satisfy our needs with offerings like bison carpaccio, Basque escargot, and chorizo and figs. — Laura Eurich
Bites 2013: Chorizo & Figs at TAPAteria
No, those are not Vienna sausages, they're cured Cantimpalo-style Spanish sausages. Think piquant and smoky chorizo. And they're paired with tart California Conadria figs, which are stewed in sherry and balsalmic vinegar with spices that include cloves, which your nose will immediately sniff out. It's all a meaty, sweet-and-sour affair true to authentic Spanish flavors. As tapas go, luscious and addictive. ($6)
A renowned Sunday brunch and unbeatable city skyline view. No lunch service, but a special three-course Sunset Dinner menu available from 4:30 to 6 ($17.95 to $19.95). The prime rib and filet mignon are best-sellers, but nobody will steer you away from the Australian lobster tail.
Happy hour: Monday-Friday, 4-8 p.m.
The goods: $2 off wells and house margaritas, $2.50 domestics, $3.50 imports, $3.95 house wine
Happy hour: Daily, 3-6 p.m.
The goods: $3 wells, $2 Coors Light drafts, $4 house wines, $1 off any call drink, and half price appetizers
Bites 2013: The Inferno Burger
Lily-livered eaters with low heat tolerances need not apply. (Welcome to the jungle, baby!) The beer-batter-fried jalapeños will hit hardest, amplifying the spicy pepper jack's modest burn, followed up with a little chipotle character to the mayo. Yes on the lettuce and tomato, maybe on the bacon addition. The better-than brioche bun will handle it all, including the half-pound beef patty. Burn, baby, burn. ($9.99)
Best Of 2013: Neighborhood Restaurant: Central
Best Of 2013: Bar for a Creative Cocktail
You want cocktail cred? How's this: Shuga's has its own brand of bourbon, Bad Guy Bourbon, from nearby Distillery 291. Bad Guy stars in the Maggie's Hot Toddie, made with homemade lemonade and ginger tea, and served hot or cold. If it's late enough, you can also get it in their own specialty "Shrub" cocktail; just ask the bartender. But Shuga's also wins as a restaurant, so we'd urge you to try the Brazilian-style coconut shrimp or the brand-new Holy Shitake Ramen. And whether you're eating or drinking or both, make sure you're also ogling: Local art is all over the walls, and if you're hoping to show, there's a sign-up sheet in the back.— Joshua Michael Torres
Bites 2013: Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp
As prawn baths go, this one's epic. It's got peanut buttery, starchy sweetness, coconut milk smoothness, a mild ginger bite, medium jalapeño burn and a touch of cilantro influence. It's almost like a Thai dish doing a sexy samba dance. But it's more like the best damn thing in the world at that moment you're mopping it up with fat bread wedges, eyes rolled back, groaning like a mad fool. ($4 cup/$7 bowl)
Source: Purple Mountain Coffee
Get the: Spicy sipping chocolate
Rico's features a rotating selection of 20 wines by the glass. Look for an assortment of varietals including organic, vegan and sustainably harvested wines.
Rico's serves Purple Mountain Coffee products brewed in fancy Chemex carafes. You can also order sipping chocolates, alcohol and eats from Poor Richard's next door.
Best Of 2013: Upscale Bar
There are a lot of adjectives one could use to describe food and drink, but "gorgeous" is without a doubt the most romantic I've heard. That's how Rabbit Hole bartender Ryan Anthony explains what he calls the business' best drink, The Duchess, a pale yellow, sparkling-wine, grapefruit cosmopolitan, garnished with an orchid. Get your smartphones out, people — you're going to want to Instagram this one. In addition, the Rabbit Hole offers a dozen different Colorado bourbon whiskeys and frequently features wild game on the menu.— Gracie Ramsdell
Racking up a respectable number of Best Of awards in its first year, including Best New Restaurant, Rabbit Hole is the go-to for: great cocktails; a big Colorado craft beer list; full menu service until 1:30 a.m.; half-off-app happy hours; and playfully dressed, creative mains.
Best Of 2011: New Restaurant (since July 1, 2010)
With the Rabbit Hole, longtime area restaurateur Joseph Campana has made quite a comeback after "losing nearly everything." His chic, redesigned subterranean lair has been the talk of the town for some months now, thanks in part to his amiable staff and wicked happy-hour deals. But it's the full menu of luscious eats, like the rich, braised pork belly with red-eye gravy served until 1:30 a.m. nightly, that may have attracted the votes to edge fellow downtown newbie Springs Orleans. — Monika Mitchell Randall
Best Of 2013: Place to Shoot Pool
Best Of 2013: Bar Patio
Best Of 2013: Banquet Facility
Best Of 2013: Restaurant for Tourists
Four categories? How does any establishment take four categories? Well, here's the skinny: six standard beers on tap, five+ rotating seasonal and specialty beers, 13 pool tables, a second-floor patio that seats 95, a banquet hall used three to five times a week, warm décor, all in the heart of downtown. "We have something for everyone," says Erica Russell, restaurant manager. Free Pool Mondays, College Night on Wednesdays, or happy hour all day long on Sundays (in honor of the holy pigskin), are a few of the major draws. And we haven't even mentioned specific beers, or food for that matter. "Our lemon Tabasco fried chicken has always been very popular, as well as the Railyard Ale," Russell says. Two gas fire-pit tables on the new patio keep guests warm as they feast. — Joshua Hutton
Bites 2013: Blonde Ale & Smoked Gouda Soup
Like the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones or one of those geek-ass elven blades from The Lord of the Rings, this soup is legend. It's not so much that wars have been fought over it (aside from the personal mental battle of resisting eating it all the time) as the fact that it's pretty much the greatest beer-cheese soup in the known realm. With its Queen's Blonde Ale base and thick cheese, it's so rich it's royal. ($3.25 cup/$5 bowl)Click here for Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.'s Pork Green Chili
Best Of 2012: Beer Selection on Tap
Best Of 2012: Sports Bar
Best Of 2013: Cutting Edge Restaurant
Nosh has won this category since 2008, back when it was called "Innovative Menu." Which is kind of amusing, since the menu hasn't actually changed a whole lot since mid-2010, when then-chef Shane Lyons (who recently opened Distilled NY in Tribeca, to positive reviews) created many of what have become known as the "staples," in manager Tyler Schiedel's words. But that's how good they've been — to carry on at the forefront of the collective culinary consciousness, as if exciting introductions were still being made. Well, the good news, according to Schiedel, is that tinkering is about to begin again under consulting chef Andrew Sherrill from the Blue Star; expect new dishes in the next few months. Nosh's bar program, too, deserves a nod, highlighting quality craft beers and creative cocktails. "We couldn't do it without the entire staff," says Schiedel.— Matthew Schniper
Bites 2013: Spicy Bison Sandwich
If ever a better way to eat bison tongue has existed, we know it not. Nosh's chefs braise the meat stupid-tender with tomato paste and red wine over the course of 24-plus hours at 200 degrees. They then cook it with caramelized onions, jalapeños and Anaheims, receiving more kick from cayenne mayo and pepper jack cheese, melted onto Old School Bakery bread. Dunk that in a sweet jus constructed of the braising liquid refortified with extra carrots to draw out natural sugars. Tatonka! ($9.50 includes a side, lunch only)
Bites 2013: Lamb Stew
t's snowing outside, quiet little flakes, so you stop at the pub for some bites and a beer. You do a bowl of lamb stew, a mahogany concoction flecked with red chunks of tomato and scallions. You're enveloped in hot steam, you taste rosemary, Guinness and soft potatoes, and you sop with crumbly bites of soda bread. ($7.95 lunch/$12.95 dinner)
Best Of 2010: Weekly Bar Event
Geeks Who Drink Pub Quiz
With more than 20 primo Irish whiskeys in addition to a large, international beer list, McCabe's could be considered a drink destination first, especially during European soccer matches, pub quiz nights and Colorado College hockey games. But there's plenty of authentic Irish eats as well, in addition to a rockin' Sunday brunch. Grab the divine Rosemary Guinness Lamb Stew at lunch or a shepherd's pie or bangers & mash for dinner. Stay in Ireland with a rich Guinness chocolate cake with Irish cream sauce for dessert.
Bites 2013: Smoked Salmon Cakes
Precious few items remain fixed on Margarita's ever-changing menu, but this is one that's earned its spot by popular demand. The salmon's rubbed with brown sugar, salt and pepper and hickory smoked on the stove-top. Insert a bed of spinach salad, caper cream cheese and either a horseradish crema or lemon-dill tarter sauce. And son, you're in happytown. ($10 on the lounge menu/$13 at brunch)
Best Of 2013: Power Lunch
Weekly "Fresh Sheet" choices, and a staff with a great memory for names and faces, make this underground downtown hideaway a primo place to talk turkey or get the lowdown on what's going on in the city. On your way in, you might catch a glimpse of Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, former Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, state Rep. Mark Waller, developers Doug Quimby or John Cassiani, or Regional Business Alliance bigwig Joe Raso. But sit down and you'll find that the dim and quiet atmosphere allows for confidential strategy sessions. And if your lunch runs long, know that happy hour begins at 4, with $3 well drinks, drafts and house wines. — Pam Zubeck
Subterranean swank, courtesy Concept Restaurants. Dark wood, deep martinis, burly steaks and a weekly fresh sheet that proves longtime Springs chef Pete Moreno hasn't fallen asleep on the job. For us: Ahi salad at lunch, and Colorado rack of lamb at dinner, please.
Happy hour: Monday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.
The goods: $3 wells, wines and drafts, $5 select martinis and half-price ($5) on three select appetizers