Best of 2012 • IndyPick: Neighborhood Hangout that's Off the Beaten Path
It's easy to think of the usual suspects when planning your day, but if you want to treat yourself — and not have to fight or pay for parking — start your morning east of downtown at Raven's Nest Coffee. The drinks are fair-trade and organic, the chairs are comfy, and the baristas are friendly. If it's late enough, you can hit Sabi next door to peruse the shop's funky collection of well-priced vintage and steampunk wear and other oddities. Or just wait for a First Friday, when Sabi's hoppin' with art exhibits, music, food and drink. — Kirsten Akens
Writer's Pick: Best Bargain Boon, the expansion of West Side Bargain Mart
"Almost every week," says Jim Krug, "I get a customer asking, 'How do I open up a store like this?' And I say, 'You can't — there's just not enough inventory out there.'" Luckily for local bargain-hunters, Krug got in while the getting was good. And using the connections he's made in his four years running West Side Bargain Mart, he expanded not once, but twice, in the past year. Krug now fills 12,000 square feet with not only dry goods and groceries — many of which are natural and/or organic — but also electronics, cosmetics, car-care products and much more. Through October, all clothes — which often include Calvin Klein and Columbia items — are on sale, at about 25 percent of market price. — Kirk Woundy
Best Of 2011: Antique Store
'Treasures' abound in this picker's paradise. Manager Shirley Hernandez remembers a man who came in last year and bought "a picture." He later came back to share some news with the store's employees: His "picture" had turned out to be an unsigned Picasso worth a bundle. (Hey, that's his story ...) With 145 vendor booths and prices ranging from $500 on the high end (for an antique trunk) to 25 cents (for a toy), the store aims to have something for everyone. There's a café area with free tea and coffee, and a customer request book for shoppers who are looking for something specific. Among the collectibles, clothing and kitsch, look for "mantiques": Here you'll find a booth for fellas only, stuffed with swords, tools and beer paraphernalia. — Lynn Jacobs
Best Of 2012: Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Over-the-Top Gift
Best Of 2012: Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Inexpensive Gift
Best Of 2012: Store for Accessories
Best Of 2012: Local Store for Women's Fasions
Terra Verde can dominate these categories because it offers something for everyone, literally. Walking through the various rooms, you'll find your eyes drawn to some items that cost $10, and others that run 10 times that. For accessibility's sake, here are some top picks in the "thoughtful, inexpensive" realm: serving ware from India Handicrafts, imported French soap from Pré de Provence, or a Votivo candle (my favorite: the Bright Leaf Tobacco). Because, after all, a great gift is "something chosen with love, regardless of the price," says Karen Rivera, marketing rep for the store. — Celine Wright
Insider Guide 2010
For 45 years, locals have found their way to Mill Outlet and its yards and yards of fabric. Hidden in the warehouse district off Fillmore Street, Mill Outlet's frills are to be found inside the building, from basic cottons to bridal silks, upholstery tweed to ticking and tassels. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful — whether you're working on a quilt, a suit or a burlesque costume.
The "discount" building materials here, checked for quality upon intake, are really worth a closer look for those into do-it-yourself home repairs and updates.
Best Green Business
It's almost inevitable that Envi would win the Best Green Business title, and not just because of our color-emotion assignments. Envi, in fact, now specializes in recycled, reinvented and repurposed clothes and décor. "It's funny, because I don't think we started out trying to be green," says co-owner Marci Featherstone, "but it just kind of evolved that way." Today, Marci and her husband Garry work with nearly 40 craftspeople who create unique jewelry, affordable artwork and creative clothing, including skirts made from men's shirts. "We have three kids, so we definitely want to save our environment for them," Featherstone says. She adds: "Everybody, not only store owners, but everybody, needs to think how they can reuse something other than just throwing it in the garbage. It's amazing what you can make out of junk, really." — Edie Adelstein
Best Of 2012: Ethnic Market
A winner in this category five years in a row, Asian Pacific Market is a multicultural wonderland. The aisles are packed with Asian and Indo-European food and household goods, and even some items made in America. Among the offerings: frozen banana leaves, quail eggs and an aloe vera dessert. The produce section features exotic fruits and vegetables along with the usual finds, and entire sections are devoted to noodles, sauces and tea. As manager Jason Zhou says, "We are also wholesalers, and have a store in Denver so we can keep the prices low." Note: if you're a little tired after traveling around the world in 25,000 square feet, you can pick up a can of Red Bull at the checkout. — Kendall Kullman
Best of 2012: Local Brewery
A series of award-winning beers, and the much-anticipated Spring 2013 opening of a new 16,000-square-foot brewing location: These things hint at how Mike Bristol stays on top, both as a local brewery operator and community leader. His company is legendary for producing tasty beers that truly give back to Colorado Springs, from a Smokebrush Porter whose proceeds help keep the Uncle Wilber fountain entertaining kids all summer, to a Pinon Nut Brown that supports Cheyenne Cañon. And don't forget the sold-out-before-it-hits-the-shelves Venetucci Farm Pumpkin Ale. When the Ivywild School renovation is complete, the brewery will finally have a building that almost matches the size of its heart. — Steve Hitchcock
Best of 2012: Local Microbrew to Drink in Summer: Beehive Honey Wheat
Again we see a Bristol beer ranking top-slot with Indy readers. We'd think the crowd was biased, but in all fairness, Beehive is a great representation of the wheat style, cloudy and with a honey sweetness. It's easy to see why you'd want to kick back with a few on a hot summer day. Funny thing about this beer is that it was meant to be Bristol's first summer seasonal, says owner Mike Bristol, but after such an amazing response from fans, Beehive was deemed worthy of year-round production. — Steve Hitchcock
Best of 2012: Local Microbrew to Drink in Winter: Winter Warlock Oatmeal StoutWho would have thought that a character from a childhood movie would become part of such a great beer? Company owner Mike Bristol admits he got the idea for the Winter Warlock label image from the 1970 movie Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. And much like the warlock of the big screen, Bristol's oatmeal stout delivers cheer to all who experience it. The rich creaminess of this malt-and-oat-heavy winter warmer is just what the doctor ordered to fight the long, cold Colorado nights; at the brewery, it often flows out of the tap using nitrogen to add a bit of extra buttery smoothness. By the way, no reason to wait for Santa: This season's first batch releases in late October. — Steve Hitchcock
Best Of 2012: Diner
Best Of 2012: Green Chili
Best Of 2012: Late-Night Dining
My husband's cell rang at top volume at 3 a.m., waking us from fitful sleep. It was a close friend letting us know it was time to evacuate. From our Manitou Springs balcony, we could see the flames of the Waldo Canyon Fire licking the hillside above our home. We finished packing and drove to my office; it was late, and we didn't want to wake anyone. But my dark office offered little solace on that terrifying night. So we got in the car and drove down the street to King's Chef. Whether at Costilla Street's famous purple castle, or its roomier new location on Bijou Street, King's Chef offers a delightful mix of stylishness and nostalgia. It's populated by hipsters, but the food doesn't tiptoe anywhere near wilted arugula salads. This is where you go for a cheeseburger the size of your head, or a pile of eggs and hash browns smothered in green chili so hot it will make your eyes water. Comfort food? Given the chili, that might be a stretch. But I can attest that at times, King Chef's offerings can certainly be comforting. — J. Adrian Stanley
Pretty much everything you've ever wanted a diner to be, at all hours, with consistency. A perennial Indy Best Of dominator for a green chili featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel and sold in Whole Foods Market. Get The Thing or The Grump in the a.m., a Reuben at lunch.
Best Of 2010: Bartender
It takes me several days to track Dave Baumgartner. When I finally give up on reaching him by phone, I try another trick: stopping by the Rocket Room unannounced. I am greeted by the lovely and somehow motherly bartender Daniella Conner, who is wearing a red satin bustier and talks about Dave in glowing terms, her wide eyes all a-glisten.
"He's so humble," she tells me. "He listens to everyone, he has an awful lot of patience."
A guy leaned over the bar with a Miller High Life posed in front of him occasionally chips in. "He's a kick," the anonymous guy says, his voice slightly drowsy.
I, however, am not convinced that a warm personality is all it takes to be voted best bartender. There must be more to the story. I prod Conner until she gives in. "The ladies," she says, finally, "love Dave B."
In a few minutes, with Conner's help, I have Dave on the phone. I warm him up with the usual, "Why are you so popular?" "How do you connect with your customers?"
Dave plays the humble card, answering with unassuming retorts like, "That's a good question, I'm kind of mystified by that myself," and "I try to remember [people's] names, and if you can remember what they drink that's pretty impressive."
Dave is good. Real good. He acts as though he has no idea that it's his babehood that's elevated him to the top. Instead, Dave talks about the future of the bar. The Rocket Room is shutting down at the end of October unless someone buys the business.
"I kind of want to stay at the Rocket Room," he says. "This is just kind of where my heart is."
The good news is, Dave, along with all his hunkiness, is planning to stay in town and keep bartending, even if the Rocket disappears. —J. Adrian Stanley
So do you feel thirsty, punk? Well, do ya? Then head to the Rocket Room, where you can slake your thirst for both cheap booze and great music in true punk-rock style. Colorado Springs' best live ThrashabillyAmericanaGarageRock venue books tons of underground touring bands you can tell your grandkids about someday. There's also a Stooges-stocked jukebox well worth your care and feeding.
Happy hour: Wednesday-Saturday, 3-7 p.m.
The goods: $5 pitchers; $3.50 pints of Pinstripe and Arrogant Bastard; $3.50 Jameson; $3 wells
Come here if you are: "Not lame and into supporting your local businesses."
Best of 2012: Local Venue for Live Music
Whether it's the yearly two-night run by Tech N9ne or shows by big-name artists like Foxy Shazam and Cannibal Corpse, the Black Sheep has earned its keep as Colorado Springs' perennial live music mecca. A non-stop winner in this category since 2006, the vaguely dungeon-like Platte Avenue mainstay is owned by Soda Jerk Presents, the Boulder-based company that also books Denver's Marquis Theater and Summit Music Hall. All of which makes this all-ages venue an attractive draw for national touring acts. "We regularly bring in bands that no one would ever expect to play here," says general manager Chris Huffine. "At least once a week, someone at a show will say to me, 'Wow, how did you get this band to come to Colorado Springs?'" — Bill Forman