Setting the Stagecoach
Following a sale to PJ's Bistro owner Paul Jakubczyk, the Stagecoach Inn (702 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9400) recently reopened.
Jakubczyk says a hasty but extensive cosmetic renovation included sanding down to the original floors, painting bright colors and adding local art (for sale) to the dining room walls, plus installing different kitchen equipment. He says the new Stagecoach "has the same theme as the old one, but with our stamp on it — better products, better execution."
Chef Sean Gibbons left Walter's Bistro (with a few of his crew) to head the kitchen, also bringing prior experience from AspenPointe and Whole Foods. He defines the new menu as Colorado cuisine and semi-fine dining, with a focus on local food where possible, including area produce and grass-fed, hormone-free beef and game meats (though he declined to share any names of his vendors, whom he called "smaller guys").
He notes the rebirth of some former Manitou-location PJ's items, like the Reuben and pierogi that are instead called "cowboy pot stickers" and made non-traditionally with bison and a spicy tomato coulis. From the former Stagecoach menu, he's formulated new recipes for some popular items, like fried chicken, ribs and burgers — all of which are still advertised on the classic sign out front.
Manager Bobby Vimny, who operated his own catering company in Aspen as well as spent time at the town's swank Hotel Jerome, says he also won a national bartenders contest in New York City in 1981. I mention that because he's designed the cocktail list, which includes his winning margarita, plus drinks like Stranahan's with vanilla ice cream, that same whiskey with triple sec and cranberry, and a fresh basil and blueberry drink with vodka. He's selected several Oskar Blues beers for the house taps along with other Colorado micros.
London in Little London
We know that the nickname "Little London" for Colorado Springs came from prominent English visitors during General Palmer's days. London Rogers, owner of London's Soul Food (4747 Flintridge Drive, 593-7329), says her aunt and cousin still fight to this day over who actually gifted her the moniker, "and my mom doesn't remember because she was on meds."
No matter the real origin, Rogers hails from Memphis, Tennessee, and in April she moved her two-year-old eatery from Airport Road north to Flintridge Drive. She cooks fully from scratch and with sea salt instead of table salt, also using her own blends of spices, rubs and sauces.
"When people hear 'Southern food,' they think spicy," she says. "We aren't spicy, it's just seasoned."
Items include catfish, fried or smothered pork chops, chicken and waffles, pig feet, frog legs, gizzards, oxtail, neck bones, and desserts like sweet potato pie. Specials include Memphis-style ribs, and combo plates are only $9.75.