Best Of 2013: Neighborhood Restaurant: West
Best Of 2013: Barbecue
No surprise here. This is the 10th year in a row that Front Range has placed first in barbecue. It's also had a lock on best west-side neighborhood restaurant since the category's debut back in 2011. Front Range's rabidly loyal clientele is drawn to an alluring combination of down-home cooking and live performances by local and national touring acts. Owner Brian Fortinberry is enthusiastic about offering a "great little music venue" to the town, along with a new rotisserie smoker and an ever-expanding schedule of "Meet the Brewer" and other craft beer events. In the aftermath of disasters that have ultimately drawn people together, Fortinberry says he's proud to be part of this community and looks forward to a "return to normality and growth" in the years ahead. — Bill Forman
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 2013: Place to Meet Men (tie)
With 10 years under its belt, it's easy to see why Club Q bills itself as "Colorado Springs' best gay bar." It also makes sense that patrons would choose it as Colorado Springs' best place to meet men, a distinction it shares this year with Zodiac. The downtown venue may have the corner on live music, but Club Q boasts the inexhaustibly talented drag deejay Kyree Myst, who can lay claim to hosting, performing at or producing some 200 events a year. And while the two clubs were neck-and-neck in this category, we're confident they'll rise above any rivalry. After all, there are plenty of men to go around. — Bill Forman
Best Of 2013: Place to Meet Women
Adam Shotwell started Sinful Living in January in an effort to "make Colorado Springs more fun for people who don't like to go to church." Even if you do go to church, you might still find a place for yourself with these folks, as their only objective is to create enjoyable events in a judgment-free environment. A party with Adam and Co. might feature fire spinners, body painters and naughty games. One group you might not expect to find in attendance? A significant swinger population from within the military. But lo and behold, with Sinful Living, expect the unexpected.— Gracie Ramsdell
Best Of 2013: Open Mic Night
Best Of 2013: Karaoke Bar
This is the second year in a row that Zodiac has won for its Monday night open mics, and the first for its Thursday night karaoke. Not at all bad for a venue that has yet to reach its third anniversary, and won't until this coming February. "I think we've solidified our identity as Zodiac," says Gentle Fritz, "as opposed to being the bar that used to be ..." The venue co-owner can be forgiven for trailing off before reminding folks of the location's former tenant. (Spoiler: It was the Rocket Room.) Also complementing ongoing live performances by local and touring musicians, Zodiac has added Kids Karaoke on the first Saturday of each month. — Bill Forman
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 2013: Middle Eastern
Falafel. Kufta kabobs. Shawermah. Dolmas. Tabouleh. Babaganooj. Turkish coffee. It doesn't really matter what you order off of Heart of Jerusalem Café's loaded five-page menu of Middle Eastern delicacies, because, frankly, it's all good. Nor does it matter which of the two locations you visit, because when you walk in the door you'll be welcomed like family at both. Top off a visit with the walnut-almond-pistachio-honey baklava, and you'll go home smiling.. — Kirsten Akens
Best Of 2013: Hummus (tie)
In the hummus smack-down, we've got two strong contenders. On one side of the ring, brothers Jake and Telly Topakas and their family recipe brought to the States from the Aegean isle of Chios. On the other side, Hussein Abukhdeir and his authentic Jerusalem chickpea concoction, available at two locations. You may prefer to dip your warm pita slices in one version over the other, but in this year's Best Of bout, it's a well-deserved international tie. — Kirsten Akens
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 Winter 2014
Top strain: Golden Goat
Top edible: Keef Cola's Bhang Bar
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.
Best Of 2011: Caterer
Breaking Picnic Basket's stranglehold on this category, your favorite local 3G service provider (get it?) continues to expand its programming far beyond catering. Monthly community dinners give back to nonprofits; cooking classes spice up your routine; a "Dinner with our Chef in the Kitchen" series brings you into the fold; a remote tasting room for Two Rivers Winery and a market stock your shelves; and a deli offers delicious dine-in options. But the big news that co-owner Sandy Vanderstoep is excited to share: the opening of The Carter Payne, a historic events center located in an old church at 320 N. Weber St. It's available for booking as of late October, catering to parties up to 300. — Matthew Schniper
Insider Guide 2010
One block off the main Old Colorado City drag, Garden of the Gods Gourmet's market is stocked with house-blended seasonings, Colorado-made packaged foods, fresh-baked breads and desserts, and take-and-bake meals.