Best Of 2008

Favorite

Best of 2008: Haute Cuisine 


click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Innovative Menu

Appetizers

Nosh

121 S. Tejon St., 634-NOSH (6674)

nosh121.com

The pairing of artful food and art that provides food for thought was a natural, and more than a year later, Nosh still delivers. This restaurant with clean, modern lines in the Plaza of the Rockies replaced a jazz bar connected to the FAC Modern. Since its opening, Nosh has continued to offer intriguing entres and appetizers gorgeous food paired with affordably priced wines. Today, the menu still features small plates and a variety of slightly larger ones, with inventive appetizer offerings ranging from latkes with melted brie and white truffle apple salad to tomato sliders with fresh mozzarella and basil aioli. DA



click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

New Restaurant
(since July 1, 2007)

La'au's Taco Shop

830 N. Tejon St., #110, 578-5228

He netted this same award last year with the opening of Nosh, in Plaza of the Rockies. Now, savvy restaurateur Joseph Coleman (with a little help from co-creator Matt Shea) has executed an unlikely back-to-back win with Hawaiian-inspired La'au's Taco Shop, in an even unlikelier location. La'au's lacks street visibility in Colorado College's Spencer Center, but that's testament to just how good the la carte tacos indeed are. Whether it's mango salsa over mahi mahi, or steak dressed in cilantro, onion, pico de gallo and more, these affordable treats don't just pull CC staff and students into the chic, colorful space, but smart Springs connoisseurs as well. MS



Fine Dining

The Famous

31 N. Tejon St., 227-7333

restauranteur.com/famous

Most people think meat when they think of the Famous, and when you're craving prime, it's got you covered. Still, you can rest assured that if your flexitarian date won't share a 16-ounce New York strip with you, there's still something to keep her (or him) happy. Nightly fresh fish specials, lobster tails and a popular Ahi tuna steak round out the menu. And if you're celebrating a birthday or anniversary, don't forget to tell your friendly server a tower of complimentary chocolate cake will sweeten your night. AW



Restaurant for Carnivores

Steakhouse

Texas Roadhouse

3120 N. Powers Blvd., 638-8050

595 S. Eighth St., 473-9711

texasroadhouse.com

On an average weekend, one Texas Roadhouse store serves up around 2,000 steaks. Each one is cut and prepared in-house, then seared to lock in flavor before it's roasted on an open flame, says kitchen manager Jeff Hill. Almost everything is made from scratch, including that yummy cinnamon butter served with those delicious rolls. (They make more than 14,000 rolls in a weekend.) For those rare times you're not in the mood for beef, you can choose from loads of chicken dishes, mouth-watering ribs and even some seafood. For kicks, Texas Roadhouse throws in friendly service, $2.50 margarita Wednesdays and a floor you can cover in peanut shells. ALL



Restaurant for a Wedding Reception

Briarhurst Manor Estate

404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864

briarhurst.com

My little sister had her wedding reception at Briarhurst Manor Estate, so I've got some firsthand knowledge about why it keeps winning this category. The building, for one thing, feels like something out of a storybook, with umpteen different rooms on multiple floors. The food is scrumptious, the service crisp and the setting, right beneath Pikes Peak, is second to none. Despite a poorly timed snowstorm, my sister's event went off without a hitch. Well, one guest backed into a post in the parking lot on the way out it was snowing, OK? but I'm sure they've had plenty of time to fix it. AL



Patio Dining

Happy Hour

Jos Muldoon's

222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311

josemuldoons.com

Close your eyes and picture this: You're sitting on a sun-drenched patio, sipping your favorite margarita (Sauza Commemorativo, Grand Marnier and Cointreau). The sun warms you; the icy marg chills you. It's the perfect combination, and you can find it on the patio at Jos Muldoon's (where your favorite margarita is called the Alamo). Jos's is a downtown institution, having served Mexican food and its famous margaritas for more than 30 years. "The patio is one of our standout items and sets us apart," says employee Cindy Biondo. "It has a great lively and festive atmosphere." And it's a popular downtown gathering place, especially during happy hour. From 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, you can get $2.50 house wines and margaritas, draft beers, sangrias and well drinks. AA



Restaurant for Kids that isn`t Fast Food

American

Red Robin

Multiple locations

redrobin.com

Red Robin's Web site is chock full of human-like robots, or robot-like humans, reciting lines from training videos. For instance: "We are in the people business serving burgers, not the other way around." In human terms, what does that mean? The chipper waiters won't roll their eyes when your 2-year-old spills her lemonade. Or they'll give your kid a balloon so you can eat semi-peacefully. (They can't completely remove your child.) You can assume their demeanor, training-video-inspired or not, helped turn a tavern selling cellophane-wrapped sandwiches in the 1940s into a multimillion-dollar corporation. FG



Barbecue

Front Range Barbeque

2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596

4935 Templeton Gap Road, 598-8895

frontrangebarbeque.com

When Springs residents have a hankerin' for Southern comfort at its sticky, smoky, saucy best, they head to Front Range Barbeque. Owner Brian Fortinberry makes sure his meat is smoked on-site over real wood, for real flavor. Naked or sauced, the ribs are fall-off-the-bone good, and you can't go wrong with succulent pulled pork, beef brisket or chicken, either. A note for next year: Cornmeal-fried okra and homemade mac 'n cheese taste especially good on the Colorado Avenue patio, where bluegrass bands play on warm Wednesday nights. MMR



French

La Petite Maison

1015 W. Colorado Ave., 632-4887

lapetitemaisoncs.com

In 1978, a little Victorian home on Colorado Avenue became La Petite Maison. Thirty years later, even with new ownership, it remains a local favorite for contemporary French cuisine. (Paris-born Henri Chaperont cites being the chef-owner as a great way to oversee quality control.) A balance of fish, poultry, seafood and Colorado red meat (lamb and buffalo) allow for variety. Chaperont also touts his weekly $30 prix-fixe menu, a perfect option for those leisure or business dinners. MMR



German

Edelweiss Restaurant

34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220

edelweissrest.com

Seeing the number of times Edelweiss Restaurant has won this category (11), you'd think there was no other game in town. Well, it's not true. Turns out, locals just seem to know where their brotchen is buttered. Edelweiss has earned that kind of respect after over 40 years serving the community. "Customers know what they are going to get: good food and good service," says owner Helga Schnakenberg. She considers her customers a part of a family that continues to grow. "Word of mouth is the best advertising," she says. MMR



Greek

Jake and Telly's

2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406

jakeandtellys.com

For the third year in a row, Jake and Telly's takes top honors for its big fat fabulous Greek dishes. Manager Chris Reusch attributes the success streak to a "fun, light-hearted atmosphere and home-cooked food." Classic Greek and Mediterranean dishes and new favorites mix up a menu that changes twice a year. Rice-and-beef-stuffed grape leaves and the more common gyros rock, but Reusch says you can't go wrong with any lamb dish. Guess we can consider them "lamb masters." MMR



Indian

Mirch Masala

5047 N. Academy Blvd., 599-0003

mirchmasalacuisine.com

Bring any healthy, Eastern, vegetarian cuisine across the ocean, and it picks up rich sauce, tender meats and butter along the way. When it comes to Indian cuisine, I wouldn't have it any other way: One taste of butter chicken, and you'll agree, there's nothing like American Indian food. But, to be fair, Mirch Masala offers a variety of traditional, curried vegetable dishes as well as American crossover favorites. You can get either at the $7.95 lunch buffet, which qualifies as an insanely good deal. Just don't fill up on the warm naan servers bring to your table. FG



Italian

Paravicini's Italian Bistro

2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200

75 S. Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 481-2222

coloradoeats.com/paravicinis

Eating at Paravicini's is "like eating at home, but you're not at home," says general manager Matt Smith. No matter what day of the week you stop by, you'll find the same great Italian food served by hard-working, dedicated staff. So turn off the oven and head to one of Paravicini's two locations for a glass of Chianti, a Calamari or Artichoke Fritti appetizer, and a plate of Penne ala Vodka or the original Chicken Carsoni. And relish in having no dishes to clean when you're done. Score. KA



Best Sushi Roll with a Kick

Sakura's Firecracker Roll

3117 W. Colorado Ave., 632-7866

Our family likes almost anything on Sakura's sushi menu, but the Firecracker Roll is something special. Available at either lunch or dinner and priced very reasonably (about $7), it's a mix of crab and cream cheese with jalapeo and avocado, rolled in sushi rice and nori, then drizzled with spicy garlic mayonnaise. Warning: It's also highly addictive. But who cares? RR



Mexican

Amanda's Fonda

3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975

A creekside mountain cabin on the outside and a Mexican fiesta on the inside, the atmosphere is a great part of the experience at Amanda's Fonda. The locally owned restaurant is a favorite among residents and highly recommended to tourists. According to restaurant manager Amanda Gonzales, the food is more traditional and less Tex-Mex style, which helps make it stand out. The fantastic staff, oodles of cheese and tasty mole make you feel like you are in Mexico, but then the mountain views remind you that you're actually still in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. AA



Noodle Bowl

Noodles & Company

1812 Southgate Road, 385-0800

5844 Barnes Road, 597-4950

7234 N. Academy Blvd., 264-0022

noodles.com

What's in a name? Everything if you're Noodles, where you can fill your bowl with oodles of them in a jiffy. Choose from three international categories: Asian, Mediterranean or American. Add a protein (chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu) or fresh veggies, a salad or soup, and a piece of flatbread for a complete meal. And if your sweet tooth is driving you crazy, grab a Rice Krispy Treat or Snoodledoodle cookie on your way out. It's fast food, to borrow a phrase from king chef Emeril, "kicked up a notch." KA



Tacqueria

Monica's Taco Shop

30 E. Fillmore St., 473-1996

5829 Palmer Park Blvd., 597-7022

Among its many fine items that have built up a loyal clientele, Monica's breakfast burritos reign supreme. Loaded with potatoes, egg, cheese and, of course, a little swine, they send hangovers packing in style. (Well, if you get the hot salsa.) The Springs suffers no shortage of great tacquerias, so it truly says a lot that Monica's has won this category each year since its inception in 2006. The sparse English spoken by staff members speaks to a refreshing authenticity, but it's no hindrance to landing a yummy assortment of tacos and the like, quickly and relatively cheaply for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner. Viva la tacqueria! MS



Thai

Wild Ginger

3020 W. Colorado Ave., 634-5025

We dare you to say the words "pad Thai" out loud without drooling. That popular Thai entre with rice noodles drenched in a thick, sweet-spicy sauce has a starring role here, but it has plenty of company on a menu that features more than 100 dishes. Wild Ginger owns this category of Asian food, which features sweet basil and coconut, strong flavors of eggplant and bell peppers, and rich chilis and curries; it hasn't surrendered its title in this decade. We'll raise a glass of sweet tea to that. DA



Diner

Green Chili

King's Chef Diner

110 E. Costilla St., 634-9135

131 E. Bijou St., 636-5010

kingschefdiner.com

It's been quite the year for King's Chef owner Gary Geiser, his small crew and diehard-loyal clientele. Not only did the purple castle open a satellite location in early August, in the former Big City Burrito space on Bijou Street, but it started bottling its locally famous green chili for sale in regional (and eventually national) Whole Foods stores. Geiser and Co. have earned highest honors in the Green Chili category since we debuted said category in 2005, and now has topped the Diner category three times in eight years. If the charm of the 13-seat original location still suits your breakfast and lunch desires, it's open weekdays, while the much more spacious, renovated new space will get you sweatin' with a smile seven days a week. Hail to the new and old King. MS



Take-Out

La Casita Patio Caf

360 S. Eighth St., 633-9616

4295 N. Nevada Ave., 599-7829

3725 E. Woodmen Road, 536-0375

lacasitapatiocafe.com

You can't miss a La Casita Patio Caf, with its bright pink paint and multi-colored awnings. Each locally owned place prides itself on "all fresh always!" Mexican dishes. Michael Brennan, general manager of the Woodmen location, says La Casita has the "best Mexican food with the best value." The flour tortillas are made by hand, and on weekdays, they're part of an all-you-can-eat lunch for select items. You also can't knock the egg and chorizo breakfast burrito. As for the take-out, La Casita won't keep you idling long: they're quick and get you back on the road with a fragrant bag that tortures you all the way to your destination. MMR



Late-Night Dining

Denny's

Multiple locations

dennys.com

Alas, there was no actual "Denny" to consult for this particular accolade. (The chain was changed from Danny's Coffee Shops some 50 years ago after a conflict with "Coffee Dan's.") Fortunately, Denny's has a wealth of zealous fans to make up for the lack of a physical manifestation akin to "Wendy" or "Jack." Among them are the proprietors of "Project: Denny's" (dennys.p7a77.net), whose goal is to visit every single Denny's, five of which are Colorado Springs franchises. The reviews of four of them may be dated, but the details including those of the waitress who was so excited about the skillets that "she made smacking noises" as she described them are timeless. BF



National Restaurant Chain

Chili's Grill and Bar

Multiple locations

chilis.com

Once again, Chili's blew away its hundreds of competitors. What's not to like? It's one of the few restaurants where parents feel comfortable bringing children, and it's probably the only chain on the planet serving tasty veggie burgers (as opposed to the hockey pucks featured elsewhere). You can count on Chili's bar to have great game-day fare, lovely 'ritas and Bloody Marys such that hangovers covet. Chili's chicken Caesar salad is a favorite of office workers everywhere. Yes, it's a chain, but Chili's does more right than it does wrong, providing a little flavor across strip-mall nation. DS



National Pizza Chain

Papa Murphy's Take 'n' Bake Pizza

Multiple locations

papamurphys.com

Eighty. That's right 80 slices of pepperoni. On one pie. That's one of the reasons Indy readers love their Papa Murphy's pizza. Another reason: delectable ingredients not found at other chains, like artichokes, green onions, zucchini, spinach and Canadian bacon. And Papa has blown up the take-out pizza paradigm with his you-bake-it concept. The result: pizza baked the way you like it (lightly browned cheese, chewy crust). And did we mention the chain sells chocolate chip cookie dough? We dare you to try to actually bake cookies instead of just digging in with a spoon. DA



click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Restaurant for Tourists

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800

phantomcanyon.com

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. has been in business since 1994, and manager Tom Lamb says it's one of the "cornerstones in the downtown area." Add to Phantom's longevity fresh ales made with pure Colorado water, flat iron steaks and fish and chips, and you've got the makings of a great place to take anyone visiting the area. I can't get out of the restaurant without ordering the Smoked Gouda soup, made with Phantom's very own Queen's Blonde Ale. Be careful: If you treat your guests to a bowl of this creamy concoction, they may never leave the Springs. KA



click to enlarge L'AURA MONTGOMERY
  • L'Aura Montgomery

Restaurant for Herbivores

Adam's Mountain Caf

934 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430

adamsmountain.com

Senegalese vegetables with snow peas, carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower, potatoes, currants, scallions, toasted almonds and brown rice, all with a fresh, cilantro-ginger-infused peanut sauce. Harvest crepes with roasted butternut squash, mixed grains, caramelized onions, white cheddar, roasted corn, red chili, pepitas, fresh tomato and lime. Sure, there's no meat listed here, but with those mouthwatering ingredients, who would notice? Adam's has been open 24 years, and has won in this category every year since its inception in 1994. The restaurant isn't just for vegetarians equally appealing menu items feature salmon, shrimp and chicken but it really works miracles with fruits, vegetables and grains. This place is the real deal: None of the food is microwaved, and organic and/or local products are featured. DA



click to enlarge JEREMY EYMAN
  • Jeremy Eyman

Wait Staff

Bistro de Pinto

26 E. Kiowa St., 473-3538

bistrodepinto.com

When Toni found out my wife was pregnant, her hands flapped a little and her eyes got misty. "OhmyGod! Are you so excited? We can make whatever you want ..." It made me wish we were friends with Toni, and not just her first-time customers at Bistro de Pinto. Co-owner Tammy Pinto says Toni is one of four regular servers who helped her restaurant win this award. Tammy herself is another one, and her 15 years of industry work have helped set the standard. But neither she nor Toni qualifies as the most popular server on staff. That'd be Pinto's 11-year-old daughter, Shianne. "People call and make reservations and ask, 'Is Shianne going to be there? We want Shianne to be there. Can she please be there?'" In a part of downtown short on intimate fine-dining options, let's hope all of them are there for quite some time. KW



click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Chinese

Silver Pond Chinese Gourmet

5670 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343

bestsilverpondchinese.com

With exotic items like Strawberry Chicken, Volcano Shrimp and Velvet Seafood Delight on the menu, it's clear at first glance that Silver Pond stands out. Owner/manager Jennie Hu says the fact that her husband and co-owner Jack Hu is the master chef makes all the difference. "We have some unique things that other Chinese restaurants don't," she says. "He creates his own menu and his own recipes." Their menu is full of Jack's creations plus all the traditional favorites, and special surprises like a full-page dessert menu with Chinese red bean ice cream, fried cheesecake, tiramisu and Italian crme cake. "We love dessert, and Jack likes to make them," says Jennie. Highly attentive, snappily dressed waitstaff, a chic red-and-black dcor and soothing piped-in piano music complete the Silver Pond dining experience. JT



click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Seafood

Red Lobster

275 S. Academy Blvd., 591-0771

4925 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9494

redlobster.com

We all know why we go to Red Lobster: Butter, butter, cheese biscuit. There's nothing quite like a place where you can look around and know no one's been craving the salad. They want lobster, crab, shrimp, fish whatever they could fly in from the oceans of wherever so long as it comes drenched in oil or deep-fried. And the cheese biscuits. Plus, threatening the live lobsters in the tank while you wait to be seated is endless entertainment. As in: "Go ahead, act tough, big guy ... I'm gonna eat you, I'm gonna eat you." JAS



click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Japanese

Sushi

Jun Japanese Restaurant

1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368

3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690

junjapanese.com

Yummy. We know. It's not a very sophisticated way to describe sushi. But it is the name of Jun's most popular specialty roll. The Yummy Roll is tempura shrimp rolled with avocado and salmon. Can we say it again? Yummy. Jun keeps its customers satisfied with its extensive Japanese and sushi offerings, made with fresh fish purchased from around the world. (It's flown into Denver International Airport and then trucked to Jun.) Roy McCartney, manager and head chef at the Dublin location, says customers also appreciate the portion size and creativity displayed by the chefs. DA



click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Ethnic Market

Asian Pacific Market

615 Wooten Road, 573-7500

I walked in to pick up a small bottle of sesame oil, and walked out with a 56-ounce can. (I mean, $12.99? Seriously?) Such is the way it goes at Asian Pacific Market, where the breadth of food selection is matched only by the value therein. This warehouse space absolutely qualifies as a supermarket, with long aisles full of sauces, oils, crackers, noodles and meats to say nothing of the live fish for sale. Oh, and you can also get paper, plastic and permanent kitchen items, as well as packaged dessert treats from around the world. KW



Pancakes

IHOP

Multiple locations

ihop.com

After 50 years, the International House of Pancakes remains the hot breakfast spot for those who like maple syrup and eggs. More than 1,300 restaurants cover the U.S., Canada and Mexico something pancake pioneers Al and Jerry Lapin may have only dreamed of in 1958 when they opened the first one in Toluca Lake, Calif. Locally, IHOP actually maintains a neighborhood-type feel; consider the 512 N. Chelton Road location, where Margaret Richardson just retired after 45 total years of serving customers. That says as much as a bottomless cup of coffee ever could. EA



Bagels

Einstein Bros. Bagels

6988 N. Academy Blvd., 265-8610

2848 N. Powers Blvd., 573-7606

4325 Centennial Blvd., 548-8408

einsteinbros.com

Einstein Bros. stands above its competitors again for upping the quality of the humble bagel and for giving us appealing pile-on options. The plain-Jane version of bread and protein with a hole comes golden, sinfully slathered (the company calls the half-inch-thick spreads "shmears") with cream cheese (nine whipped flavors), hummus, peanut butter or butter. Those who like their bagels with texture can choose from atypical grainy wonders like chocolate chip, cranberry, egg, potato and "good grains," then pile on their favorite deli meats, cheeses and veggies for a compact yet filling meal, easy to schlep from car to office. DS



Deli

Wooglin's Deli & Caf

823 N. Tejon St., 578-9443

wooglinsdeli.com

You can tell there's something for everyone at Wooglin's Deli & Caf, because everyone is there, from vegetarians in flip-flops to carnivorous guys in ties. Don't believe me? Go in at 7 a.m. and check out the dreadlocked college student ordering French toast and locally roasted coffee. Hit the deli at lunch and witness the suits munching salads and sandwiches. Amble in after work and join the neighborhood crowd ordering chili and quesadillas with a cold beer or a glass of wine for dinner. Whatever their stripes, those in the know get their piece of carrot cake before it runs out. And feel free to ride your bike to Wooglin's there's plenty of room in the rack. AW



Reason to Abandon Breakfast in Bed

Flavors on Tejon

321 N. Tejon St., 471-8400

flavorsontejon.com

I've always been a breakfast homebody. After I almond-butter up my whole wheat toast and pour a glass of pulp-free orange juice, I like to head back to bed and read or watch TV. Ever since Flavors on Tejon opened, though, that has changed. I just can't get enough of Joe and Sally Ierisi's morning delights. Sweet potato pancakes with orange butter and pecan maple syrup? Divine! Spinach, mushroom, sundried tomato and goat cheese omelettes? Can you hear my tummy rumbling? And if you have a chance to choose a side of potato cakes, do not, I repeat, do not pass it up. KA



Buffalo Wings

Wild Wings 'n Things

Multiple locations

wildwingsnthings.com

The Wild Wings 'n Things franchise has seen its share of drama this year. In January, the Woodland Park store made national headlines when local owner Lisa Branden fought for her right to have the store's mascot, "Chicken Man," stand along U.S. Highway 24. CEO Mike Morris says the publicity has been great for business. Well, that and the quality of ingredients used at all franchises. Fresh, never frozen, chicken and unique sauces like Sonic Boom and Golden Spice keep customers returning over and over again. Plus, who doesn't love a chicken fight? ALL



Egg Roll

Tsing Tao House

3604 Hartsel Drive, Suite C, 528-8884

For some, comfort food equals meat and potatoes. For me, it's anything that can be dipped in sweet and sour sauce. Tsing Tao, my Chinese haven on the north side, offers several options. My favorite choice is the lip-smackingly good egg roll, which maintains the perfect pairing of crispy veggie center and crunchy-yet-slightly-greasy deep-fried exterior. Also worth mentioning are the cheese-stuffed crab rangoons, which pair perfectly with wonton or egg drop soup. ALL



click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Gyros

Mediterranean Caf

118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115

medcafe-co.com

"No way," says Mike Bergman, with just a hint of gracious sarcasm, when I tell him he's a finalist in this year's Best Of. His Med Caf, downtown's first falafel spot, has won for best gyro all six years we've had the category hence the mock surprise. With fellow owner-chef Pat Kennelly, Bergman has kept his Mediterranean eats consistent, using daily-prepared sauces and fresh ingredients that combine for outstanding flavors. Besting four competitors within blocks, Med Caf keeps "crazy" busy during daily lunch rushes; clientele from all over the city brave parking for the gyro's seasoned beef and lamb dressed in feta, onion, tomato and yogurty-yummy tzatziki. "We try to do the best we can," says Bergman. "We haven't compromised quality, we've kept prices real, and we believe in what we're doing." MS



Local or Regional Restaurant Chain

Il Vicino

11 S. Tejon St., 475-9224

ilvicino.com

Instead of throwing kids crayons, the smiling staff at Il Vicino tosses them hunks of pizza dough that can be tugged, twisted and braided into any shape they desire. During dinner, the creative creations take a trip though the restaurant's wood-burning pizza oven, transforming into a tasty dessert served with a side of honey. This homey touch is just one of many served up with style at this trendy downtown pizza joint. "We want to develop friendships and relationships with our customers," says general manager Roy Newcomb. Although Il Vicino delivers a divine selection of soups, salads, paninis, calzones, pastas and desserts, the main draw is the specialty wood-fired pizza menu. Microbrews, wines and fresh-brewed root beer add to the family-friendly dining experience. CF



Ice Cream

Josh & John's

111 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0299

5152 N. Academy Blvd., 593-1220

joshandjohns.com

Go ahead. Just try to defeat Josh & John's in this category. Voters around here seem to agree that if you think you can name a better place to blow a few bucks on nothin' but frozen cream, sugar and all-natural flavors, well, them's fightin' words. Springs residents will fight sweet tooth and nail for their Colorado Cookies and Cream, Rocky Mountain Road, Pikes Perk Coffee and pistachio (now back by popular demand). AW



Place for Cajun Food

Culpepper's Louisiana Kitchen

8810 N. Union Blvd., 282-8479

culpeppers.net

"Colorado Springs isn't much of a food town," says Louisiana transplant Martin Anderson, who owns Culpepper's Louisiana Kitchen with his wife Kathy. Since April 2007, the Andersons and their sons have been introducing tasty gator bites and barbecue shrimp (just imagine the taste of hot beer-butter sauce) into spice-shy Colorado mouths. The owner's recommendation: chicken and smoked sausage gumbo. According to Anderson, he sees lots of Louisianans and other Southerners, but also Californians who are apparently "a little more adventurous with food choices." Come on, Coloradans. MM



Bread

Panera Bread

Multiple locations

panerabread.com

There is so much more to Panera Bread than the free wireless that makes it a perfect telecommuting or hiding spot. Store manager Mac Mansavage at New Center Point insists that it is indubitably the food, including the famous sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls. "It always feels good to hand something over the counter and have them just smile at you, not just because they're hungry, but because they really crave and lust after that product," says Mansavage. At this bakery-caf hybrid, there are many ways to have your daily bread: to go, dipped in soup, in sandwich form, hot or cold. And if you're there for the food, you might as well get a little work done in one of their meeting rooms. MM



Grocery Store

King Soopers

Multiple locations

kingsoopers.com

Walking into the Briargate Parkway King Soopers, where the deli and bakery are set atop gorgeous hardwood floors, you might feel transported to a giant cozy kitchen. The space has clearly been designed for people to enjoy their stroll through the veggies and the breads, on to a section full of deliciously baked somethings. And on the way, it becomes clear that King Soopers not only meets weekly shopping needs it stands out with exceptional products, too. With a comfortable environment, friendly service and reasonable prices at all locations, King Soopers keeps building on the strong Colorado ties it first established in 1947. EA



Grocery-Getter's Fantasy

A larger Mountain Mama Natural Foods

1625 W. Uintah St., 633-4139

mountainmamanaturalfoods.com

My husband and I had never tasted fully ripened broccoli until we shopped at Mountain Mama, which is important because vegetables offer more vitamins and minerals when they're fully ripe. Mountain Mama receives produce deliveries three to four times a week, and most of it is organic and grown in Colorado. But more exciting than what the store has been doing is what it plans to do: move two blocks west to a bigger store. Co-owner Julie Sasinka says the 19th Street space will open in the spring, and she confirms rumors that it will offer a peanut grinder, an espresso bar and itemized receipts, among other treats. FG



National Chain Coffee House

Place for a Blind Date

Starbucks Coffee Company

Multiple locations

starbucks.com

You know you live in the Springs when Starbucks is the top place for a blind date. Area Starbucks outlets still refuse to allow the Indy inside on their newspaper racks because we're not kidding a "Christian" complained. The Gazette gets a place, though. Because nothing goes better with fresh coffee than two-day-old news. RT



Thick Sauce in Thin Air

Donut Mill's biscuits 'n gravy

310 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 719/687-9793

I don't ski and rarely go to Cripple Creek, so using those destinations as an excuse to pop in on the Donut Mill is not an option for me. I make the 52-minute, one-way drive from my house for the biscuits 'n gravy alone. For years, I have woken up, looked at my husband and whispered, "Wanna take a drive?" Taking me through two pregnancies, this thick, mildly spicy gravy poured over the most perfectly baked biscuit is heaven enough to leave the delightful donuts and bear claws to my children. Thankfully, only once have I ventured up the pass to hear the two most horrible words imaginable when ordering: "We're out." MMR



Middle Eastern

Heart of Jerusalem Caf

15 E. Bijou St., 477-1777

heartofjerusalemcafe.com

Hussein Abukhdeir was nearing retirement age when he lost his security clearance and with it, his government job for being a guy from a Palestinian village in a post-9/11 world. So, Abukhdeir, his wife and five kids opened a restaurant. With from-scratch cooking, Manitou's Heart of Jerusalem Caf was a hit. But that restaurant closed earlier this year, when a loft-owner in the building complained of the smell and sued. "Things happen," Abukhdeir says. Now he and his fam are concentrating on running the downtown location, while looking for a place to open again in Manitou and possibly another spot, in the northern part of the city. With those deliciously flaky falafel balls, zesty fries and creamy hummus, it's hard to imagine they'll struggle to find customers. JAS



click to enlarge JEREMY EYMAN
  • Jeremy Eyman

Bakery

Restaurant for Dessert

Marigold Caf and Bakery

4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776

coloradoeats.com/marigold

Gawk away at Sebastien Mullebrouck's gorgeous French and sourdough breads. Drool over cases of Heather Heart's divine pastries and desserts (but not on the glass, please). You know you won't leave without ordering a towering Frasier, with its strata of yellow cake, huge strawberries and whipped cream. But don't forget that Marigold's menu offers some of the freshest lunch and dinner options around as well. Chef Dominique Chavanon brings a bit of Paris to Colorado Springs with outstanding French onion soup, daily fresh seafood creations and truly special specials like roasted duck. So save some room, and have a little dinner with your dessert. AW



click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Caf

Place to Chill

Shuga's

702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412

shugas.com

Alexius Weston's "place where anyone can come and hang out" in SoDo has filled several Best Of slots over seven years, most recently those involving cocktails and, well, sugar. The drinks and food rock (think Summer Sprinklers and Chocolate Double Diablo cake), but many of you love Shuga's most for its Billie Holiday vibe, patio tables where friends can hold (audible) conversations, the live music, New Year's Eve parties, wine tastings, origami birds, the pilfered florist's sign, arts patronage and tolerance for impromptu back-patio bands singing Sublime and Leonard Cohen songs at the tops of their mojito-laced voices. Long live the Vespa-riding Weston, and long live Shuga's. DS



click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

Cheeseburger

Conway's Red Top

Multiple locations

conwaysredtop.com

The people of Colorado Springs have spoken. And for the 14th year in a row, they've had this to say: "When it comes to a cheeseburger, bigger is better." Family-owned Conway's Red Top has been flipping their patties (with a very large spatula, we'd guess) since 1944. The burgers are about the circumference of a small child's face, and judging by the bloated feeling that comes after eating a whole burger, slightly larger than the average stomach. However, those wishing to take it to the limit should also enjoy the fresh-made, skin-on french fries and thick shakes. JAS



click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Caterer

Picnic Basket

1701 S. Eighth St., 635-0200

pbcatering.com

Picnic Basket defends its title yet again. "We've remained humble," says co-owner Michelle Talarico, "and that's why we've stayed in business for 19 years. We've always tried to improve, to be on the cutting edge, but we haven't gotten cocky about our success." The Picnic Basket, parent company of three catering businesses Talarico owns with Kathy Dreiling, serves a mostly corporate clientele, while their company Cravings handles elegant affairs, like weddings, that require specialized services. Their youngest company, Buffalo Gals Grilling, takes care of outdoor parties. Whatever your craving for catering, Dreiling and Talarico will assuage your hunger. DS



Reclamation of a Good View

Caf 36 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

30 W. Dale St., 477-4377

csfineartscenter.org/cafe36.asp

When Caf 36 first opened last year, I couldn't help but cheer. An exceptional building and pristine views waited for the perfect food match. Alas, it wasn't to be. Dull menu items and bland dishes left a bad taste in my mouth and eventually closed the caf for a short stint. But thanks to new overseer Garden of the Gods Gourmet, the sky is a little bluer, trees a little greener and the food a whole lot more exciting. Rising to the level of art, lunch is now worth talking about and definitely worth eating. MMR



Local Coffee Roaster

Serranos Coffee Company

7335 N. Academy Blvd., 266-0843

582 Hwy. 105, Monument, 481-9445

Coffee is a little like toast: They both burn easily. "You lose the character of French bread if you leave it in the toaster too long," says Alaine Nolt, Serranos' owner. "With coffee, the lighter roasts retain the characteristics of the bean." Nolt says her husband, Carl, learned a lighter, European roasting style from a "chairman roast master." (That's someone who specializes in roasting beans, not in poking fun at people.) Even if you haven't ever been to either of the two Springs locations, you've probably tasted Serranos' coffee, which is roasted at the Monument location and served at approximately 75 restaurants and coffee joints from here to south Denver. FG



Local Barista

Michael Ometer

Starbucks Coffee Company Southgate Store

2130 Southgate Road, 475-0466

starbucks.com

So what makes Michael Ometer, the assistant manager at Starbucks' Southgate store, this year's best barista? "Keeping it simple," says Ometer. "People just want to come in and get their coffee and go ... and they like friendly service." So how does he keep it friendly? For one, knowing many of his regulars by name. "And people I don't know by name, I know by drink," he says. Which means he can often have their coffee ready before they reach the front of the line. So what makes him so speedy? He says with a laugh, "I get free coffee all day long." JT



Accomplice for Faking a Dinner Party

Whole Foods Market Deli

7635 N. Academy Blvd., 531-9999

3180 New Center Point, 622-1099

wholefoods.com

I have lived in my home for seven years and have yet to have a true sit-down dinner party. The phrase "dinner party" is like a clamp around my chest that leaves me breathless. But I have found a friend in the Whole Foods deli that's got me scheming. How do you think autumn couscous with fall veggies and grilled salmon would go over? Or roast beef, herbed roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus? Or better yet, garlicky green beans? I'm betting I can pass Whole Foods' delicious, colorful and freshly prepared dishes off as my own. They'd surely look great in my good china, and I can dirty up some pots and pans as a cover ... MMR



Breakfast

Omelette Parlor

900 E. Fillmore St., 633-7770

co-spgs-omeletteparlor.com

Quick: What's huge, warm and fluffy? If you said "My grandmother," you get partial credit. We were looking for "An Omelette Parlor omelette," but there's a good link between the two answers. "When you walk in here," says Omelette Parlor manager Steve Abeyta, "it's like you're walking into your grandma's house." The place has 34 tables 50, counting the ones outside and lines snaking out the door, but its old-timey furniture, pictures and service make it feel much cozier. And thanks to omelettes your grandmother probably never tried The Godfather, anyone? this place has owned Best Breakfast honors all by itself every year since 1996. KW



Sunday Brunch

The Broadmoor

1 Lake Ave., 577-5733

broadmoor.com/lake-terrace.php

We believe you're saying that you love to dine (especially on special occasions) in the Lake Terrace Dining Room, the hotel's original dating back to 1918. For 50-odd years, the hotel has been serving a bang-up, high-end Sunday and holiday brunch (9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) that knows no local rival. Manager Susan Krokidis, who strongly suggests reservations, says the $38 ($16 for children; free under 4) buffet offers 100-plus items, including all the usual breakfast suspects plus several made-to-order items, meat-carving stations, crepes and gourmet cheeses, and an international dish station. Krokidis says Chef Siegfried (Sigi) Eisenberger's fine cuisine regularly brings guests from Denver, beyond locals celebrating everything from anniversaries to Iraq homecomings. MS



Meal Under $8

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Multiple locations

chipotle.com

"Food with integrity" sings this chain, which got its start in Denver more than a decade ago. What does it mean? Chipotle uses products that are organic, naturally raised, family-farmed and hormone-free. We love that and oh, yeah, we also love that we can stuff our faces with a huge burrito for under $8. Each is large enough to feed two people, and there are lighter tacos and taco salads for carb-conscious eaters. Chipotle's unique seasonings and flavors make it stand out from typical fast food, and the you-pick-it ordering process is fast and easy, even by phone and fax. AA



Salads

Souper Salad

3636 Citadel Drive, 597-6124

1434 Kelly Johnson Blvd., 533-0614

808 Garden of the Gods Road, 277-0687

soupersalad.com

You should always go to Souper Salad hungry. Not just because you can eat all you want, but because you'll want to try everything, and there's a lot to try. Megan Bolsinger, manager of the Chapel Hills location, merrily rattles off an average day's buffet selection: one base salad with 30 toppings and 12 dressings, two feature salads, six pasta salads, one fruit salad, four soups, many breads, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, pizza, a south-of-the-border dish, pasta and desserts (including soft-serve ice cream). And this isn't just Plain Jane cafeteria fare. Depending on the day's menu, you might feast on Asian chicken salad, pumpkin bisque or melon couscous salad. JAS



click to enlarge L'AURA MONTGOMERY
  • L'Aura Montgomery

Local Coffee House

Local Coffee House for Gourmet Drinks

Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea Café

Multiple locations

pikesperkcafe.com

Every direction you turn, there's a new Starbucks in town. (Or, if not a new one, at least one that corporate isn't closing.) But Pikes Perk is battling the chain and winning, if you ask us. With five coffee houses around Colorado Springs, it's a formidable favorite. The things that set Pikes Perk apart from other coffee houses? Everything about the business is local, and the establishments feature a wide selection of organic and fair-trade coffees. "It's just a warm, comfortable environment that is great to hang out at," employee Jennifer Graham says. AA



Korean

San Chang House

3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707

The menu at San Chang House includes references to vitamin A, iron, fiber and enzymes. In fact, it is so bold as to proclaim, "You can eat as much Korean food as you like without gaining weight." Now that is something I can get behind. From the spicy kimchi to the sweet bul go ki (barbecue-marinated sliced beef), the dishes burst with flavor. Enjoy a "box" lunch with marinated radish and small sushi, or sit for a while at a spot under a hood. The table converts to a grill, on which you can try your hand at cooking up a delightful and healthy meal. MMR



Farmers Market

Old Colorado City

24th Street and West Colorado Avenue, 574-1283

A farmers market is a pretty simple concept, and maybe that's why readers have been so fond of the market Frank Schmidt runs in Old Colorado City he sticks to the basics. Schmidt, 74, sells his honey, and more than two dozen other vendors bring out the goods to suit most tastes. There are veggies, of course, but you also can find fresh loaves of bread or steaks to throw on the grill. The focus here is on edible stuff, and you get to revel in the undeniable charm of Old Colorado City. The market closes at the end of this month, but starts up again in June. AL



click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

Local Pizza

Borriello Brothers

215 E. Platte Ave., 578-9312

4750 Barnes Road, 574-5050

5180 Fontaine Blvd., Fountain, 393-0071

borriellobrothers.com

When you're born and raised just outside Chicago, pizza is its own food group. I ate a lot of it growing up, and it's still one of the foods I crave the most. And even though Borriello Brothers pizza is New York style, not deep-dish Chicago style, it still fills my need ever so nicely. Borriello's offers tons of traditional toppings (sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms), along with specialties like artichokes and roasted red peppers. You can choose your crust: hand-tossed, Sicilian or thin, my personal favorite at the downtown location. Order your pie extra-large for leftovers the next morning, and have them toss in some garlic knots. Your stomach won't regret it. KA



click to enlarge L'AURA MONTGOMERY
  • L'Aura Montgomery

Chips'n Salsa

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill

802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244

9420 Briar Village Point, 955-6650

salsabravaonline.com

The best chips and salsa are free with your meal, and at Salsa Brava, they're not only free, assistant manager Deborah Agustin says they're made fresh every day. And remember, it's A-OK to stuff yourself with those crunchy chips and spicy salsa, a margarita (or two) and then one of Salsa Brava's hand-made entrees, because working it all off is easy. Just join Salsa Brava's new Tuesday night "Nacho Ordinary" running club. Those calories will slip away. KA



click to enlarge JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley

Vietnamese

Saigon Caf

20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888

For six years running now, the downtown lunch and dinner crowd has rated the comfortable, casual Saigon Caf as the best of its kind. Lunch prices guarantee tasty favorites at stellar value. Customers rave over consistently fresh and tasty dishes. Favorites include bun (a house noodle specialty), traditional rice dishes, lo mein, chow mein and creative stir fry combinations. The menu remains as consistent as the staff service and food freshness, which is why this authentic Vietnamese spot remains at the top of its class. CF



click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

Natural Foods Store

Whole Foods Market

7635 N. Academy Blvd., 531-9999

3180 New Center Point, 622-1099

wholefoodsmarket.com

Whole Foods dazzles with a stunning array of items known in the food industry as "things you can eat, like cheese." Speaking of which, you can buy cheese at Whole Foods that is made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. Oh, and buffalo. (Employment opportunity: Whole Foods is always looking for new buffalo milkers.) RT


click to enlarge JEREMY EYMAN
  • Jeremy Eyman

click to enlarge c51d_bestof3-16_16-15-33.jpg

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