I thought Bryce had checked. He thought I'd checked. Our friend thought we were both idiots.
We'd driven to Pine Gables Stray Dog Saloon for lunch, only to learn that during winter, it doesn't serve food before 5. But the staff confirmed that we could order from their next-door neighbor, the Mucky Duck, and that its staff would bring food over through a connecting hallway.
True, not a picture of the Stray Dog's offerings, per se, but still food you can get there. Review saved!
We were visiting the Stray Dog because in October, we'd learned that Manitou Springs resident Scott Hunt had purchased the Green Mountain Falls bar. Hunt, a first-time restaurateur, enlisted the help of his 21-year-old son Christopher, who'd previously cooked at the Briarhurst Manor Estate and Primitivo, to revamp the menu.
According to our friendly bartender/waitress, regular patrons have appreciated the change. But before we'd do so on a return visit, we enjoyed Mucky Duck's eats.
Like the eggs Benedict breakfasts for which the outfit is locally famous (see "'Daised and enthused," Appetite, May 10, 2007), the gourmet sandwiches (all $8.95) were delectable. A turkey Reuben on marble rye, the GMF (turkey, cream cheese and cranberry sauce) on six-grain, and the Bordeaux (brie, ham and pear) on crunchy baguette all sported fine breads and overall great flavor fusion. Potato salad and fruit sides were small, but pleasant.
Hunt made us comfortable by handing us the remote for the big-screen near our high-top table. By day at this time of year, the place is sleepy, and you can appreciate the weathered woods that, along with dusty antlers and two fireplaces, give it a mountain cabin's charm. Stapled-up, doodled-on dollar bills and sports posters complete the bar effect.
At night, the jukebox glows and blares, regulars give newbies curious looks, and a tiny service window near the arcade games peeks into the kitchen, which doubles as a take-out and delivery storefront. We started with the best jalapeño poppers we'd ever had: five eggroll-paper-wrapped, cheddar-jack-stuffed, slightly hot peppers for only $6. Next came a likable, gravy-bodied and again just mildly hot bowl of green chile with tortilla chips ($4), followed by an average Caesar salad topped with dry, mismatched chicken pieces ($7). Cut 'em smaller and more uniformly, and they'd likely pick up more dressing and be good to go.
Then came the wing challenge: We special-ordered five pieces each of buffalo and barbecue wings (normally 10 pieces of either for $7, or 24 for $14) that came with lovely, crisp celery sticks and solid bleu cheese and ranch dips. Bryce, a self-proclaimed wing expert, heartily approved of the housemade sauces, expert fry job and overall quality of the sizable pieces. I didn't disagree.
Lastly, we tackled a 14-inch Italian Neck Tie pizza ($15): red onions, meatball and Italian sausage pieces, and red bell peppers on a thin crust. Though the meats' spices were a little muted and the undisclosed five-cheese blend was piled a bit excessively, it still ranked among the better pies around. And that's saying a lot, considering we were weighing bar food against restaurant eats.
Our conclusion: The simple, fairly priced menu is one stray dog that's clearly found its way home.