ReLeaf Fall 2012
Top Strain: Papa's OG
Top Edible: Mountain High Suckers
We Grow Colorado offers edibles, glassware, vaporizers, lotions and rubs, and focuses on military veterans.
Best Of 2012: Neighborhood Restaurant: West
Best Of 2012: Barbecue
If you're like me, this will sum up your relationship with Front Range Barbeque: Came across it one day looking for good, cheap eats; had an amazing meal on a cozy patio listening to bluegrass; fell in love; now consider it the restaurant for entertaining visiting friends and family. It's homey, without the kitsch, and everyone seems happy to be there, even the staff. Brian Fortinberry opened up shop 13 years ago in the home of a former sushi joint. He and his brother are from Alabama, which armed them not only with a love for Southern cuisine, but also priceless family recipes. "That's what we know, that's what we are used to," he says. "We wanted to have a local place, a place where friends can hang out." Add to it their laid-back ethos, and you have all the ingredients for success. — Chet Hardin
Bites 2013: Riblet Plate
Think of Front Range's riblet offering simply as a big-ass plate of Southern goodness. Tender, slow-cooked St. Louis rack ends sport a light char but copious hickory and mesquite flavor. They're served naked (got your attention) so you can choose your own house sauce tableside: Mustard Wine, Sweet n' Spicy or our favorite, the Original Tangy. ($16 includes choice of two sides)
Best of 2012: Open Mic Night
Let's face it: There are open mics, and then there are open mics.
Andrea Stone's Monday night showcase at Zodiac falls into the more elite category, regularly attracting musicians who are already active performers in the Springs club scene — or soon will be — along with local poets and stand-up comics. Better-known musicians who've taken part include Charlie Milo, the Hopeful Heroines, Grant Sabin and Chauncy Crandall, all of whom won or placed in this year's Indy Music Awards competition.
"I met both of the bands I'm in at our open mic," says Stone, who performs with Kopesetik Soul and the Mostly Don'ts, also both IMA honorees. "Two groups," she adds, "that couldn't be more different from each other."
It was five or six years ago that Stone went to her first open mic, which was being hosted by Jerry Roskin at McCabe's. "I'd just begun writing songs and I was extremely nervous to play," she recalls. "But Jerry was so nice and encouraging that he made it easy for me to get up there and share my music. I became addicted."
So when Andrea's sister-in-law Christina Stone got together with her best friend Gentle Fritz to open Zodiac on the site of the former Rocket Room, Andrea jumped at the chance to host an open mic of her own. Nearly two years later, musicians continue to arrive early for the chance to play a big stage with high-end sound and lighting systems. Along with it comes a sense of camaraderie, real-time feedback and a free drink for each performer.
And for Stone, it's also an opportunity to bring things full circle. "Ultimately why I host," she says, "is to give back to my community what Jerry gave me years ago, and in spades." — Bill Forman
Best of 2012 • IndyPick: Place to Lose Your Karaoke Virginity: Karaoke with Hazel Humdinger
Never mind why I never karaoked before. The important thing is that I have now, and it's all thanks to this weekly event, set under the warm, sparkly lights of Zodiac. I began with a duet with my boyfriend — "Country Roads" by John Denver — then graduated to my first solo, "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. Yes, I'd say I feel pretty cool these days. Because Hazel herself is cool (the burlesque star absolutely nails the Cranberries' "Dreams") and so is bartender extraordinaire Dave Baumgartner, you feel like you're hanging out with friends, lame though it sounds. So it's easy to take the plunge on stage, for the first time and many times thereafter; it's always a big, boozy funfest. — Edie Adelstein
For five years, Song Brinck has steadily built clientele at her beautiful, modern space. She recently added Teppanyaki service to the Japanese entrées and sushi. Happy hours are a good time to visit, for buy-one-get-one drinks and $1 to $1.50 off popular items like the Research Roll.
Bites 2013: Potato Fritters
It's like Hanukkah's golden latkes went to Vietnam for a makeover. Rough-grated carrots and yams are battered in Vietnamese beer and gluten-free rice flour, then deep-fried crisp. Great, right? But it's what comes next that pushes it off the charts: fresh mint, basil and cilantro served with crisp lettuce leaves for wrapping, then dunking into a sweet house sauce. Epic. ($7.45)
Happy hour: Daily, 3-7 p.m.
The goods: 50 cents off domestic drafts, bottles and wells
Favorite pour: "Fuck Me Hard. It's got nine different alcohols and it's fun to make."
Best Of 2010: Fitness Center
For a little diner, it offers a lot of charm. A wide menu of skillets, omelets and Mexican items at breakfast, and Ranch Foods Direct burgers among lunch offerings (BOGO for a nickel, weekends after 2 p.m.). Homemade soups, green chile, and a new gluten-free menu as well.
The North End Diner is a hodgepodge of good ideas: free Wi-Fi, meat from Ranch Foods Direct, a buy-one-burger-get-one-for-five-cents deal on Wednesdays, and more. Around since 1958, the diner also proudly offers jobs to help ex-convicts successfully re-adjust to society (though it won't accept anyone who has served time for a violent crime). Consider a burger with benefits.
Bites 2013: Tortas de Pierna
The mouth-gasm commences as a chewy, grilled, hoagie-like telera roll relents quickly, revealing salsa fresca and tender shredded pork shoulder marinated to a divine heat in chipotle peppers, tomato sauce and garlic. There's smoke and a pleasant back-of-the-throat burn, moderated only by a little shredded lettuce and the cooling dairy elements of crema espesa (Mexican sour cream) and Monterey jack cheese. ($8.49)
Best Of 2012: Middle Eastern
Best Of 2012: Hummus
Hummus is like Goldilocks' porridge: One has too much garlic, one's too chunky, another tastes bland. Hussein Abukhdeir's is just right. Savory, smooth and perfectly seasoned, with a little olive oil floating on top, this hummus demands to be eaten. It's not a happy accident. Abukhdeir, who owns the area's two Heart of Jerusalem restaurants, boils his own garbanzo beans, instead of buying cans (whose beans, he says, aren't fully cooked). He peels the beans and processes them in a special blender he bought just for that task. In addition to the beans, he uses cumin, olive oil and "strong" tahini that he ships in from California. "It's my mom's recipe," Abukhdeir says — one that perfectly complements not only pita, but, say, the lamb, beef and chicken in a Heart of Jerusalem sandwich. Abukhdeir adds that he plans to open a new restaurant, but won't say where — fearing that, as in the past, competitors will encroach. — J. Adrian Stanley
The 2011 winner for Best Middle Eastern and Hummus, Heart of Jerusalem is affordable and delicious. Fun blends like the "chikofel" and "beefofel" buck the norm, but it's hard to argue against the $8, shawarma-loaded hummus bowl plate. Baklava mandatory.
ReLeaf Spring/Summer 2013
Top strain: OG Kush
Top edible: Mountain Medicinals' gummies
Green Earth folks say they specialize in higher-end medicines and edibles, but beyond that you'll find a full line of rubs and tinctures in a space with an art-gallery feel.