Best Of 2014

Favorite

Best of 2014: Food & Drink 

Best chef

Brother Luck

Brother Luck Street Eats, 1005 W. Colorado Ave., 434-2741, chefbrotherluck.com

At their restaurant (see below), which relocated from downtown to the edge of the west side earlier this year, Brother Luck and his wife Tina promote "urban cuisine one bite at a time." And what is urban cuisine? "I grew up in the inner cities of the Bay Area in California," says Luck, "and my parents are Cajun and Creole. So for me, it has Southern roots with French, Spanish and African influences." Luck's menu changes every couple weeks because he wants to use fresh ingredients from local sources as much as possible, including what's harvested from his own herb garden. He's also a big believer in keeping it seasonal: "What's growing, walking around or flying overhead," he says, "that's what you should be serving." — KK

Overall Restaurant
Fine Dining
Restaurant for Carnivores

The Famous

31 N. Tejon St., 227-7333, thefamoussteakhouse.net

A hat trick that includes the ultimate label: Best Overall Restaurant in town. "Consistency is one of our hallmarks," says the Famous' general manager Johnathan Shankland. And, he adds, "We're responsive to what people ask for." Lately that's meant more local meat, including Colorado lamb and all-natural sirloin and chuck from Hotchkiss' 7X Beef. Trim from primal cuts, ground daily, composes 60 percent of The Famous' lauded burgers. And chef Brian Sack's menu also sports a more affordable and approachable side, including Famous Fridays, where said burger (or a Red Bird chicken salad) plus a beer or half glass of wine is only $12 at lunch, and comes with live music by the Colorado Springs Conservatory. Also don't miss a superb craft cocktail program by beverage manager Luis Rodriguez. — MS

New Restaurant (tie)

503W

503 W. Colorado Ave., 471-3370, 503w.co

Skirted Heifer

204 N. Tejon St., 635-3276

Ooooh, a tie! On the one hand, you've got 503W, which pulled off a stunning transformation of the former Dutch Mill Tavern, modernizing the space and becoming a wonderful waypoint for fresh Asian fusion (with gorgeous, colorful presentations) and a quite-respectable craft beer selection. On the other, you've got Skirted Heifer, which facilitated its own smart overhaul of the long-time La Creperie site, inserting a sustainability-minded, beautifully designed, gourmet burger joint that introduced the city's first Boylan natural soda fountain and sent lines regularly out its door. Cheers to both bright newbies. — MS

Breakfast
Wait Staff
Biscuits and Gravy

Over Easy

28A S. Tejon St., 471-2311; 5262 N. Nevada Ave., #100, 598-2969; overeasycolorado.com

Amid the chatter of fellow hung-over Friday-nighters, my friend tries to persuade me to join him in concocting a build-your-own "Ultimate Bloody Mary" with organic tomato vodka. Meanwhile, the "super happy and friendly" wait staff, as termed by downtown managing partner Matthew Sharb, wanders by with plates of homemade biscuits and sage sausage gravy. Despite the temptations, I settle for the lighter side of Over Easy's menu with the organic breakfast quinoa, where heavenly bliss comes in the form of a protein-packed grain soaked in coconut-milk goodness and fresh fruit, drizzled with Colorado honey. Especially considering the local, organic ingredients and gluten-free and vegetarian options, this 2-year-old eatery clearly has all its bases covered. — AP

Cutting-Edge Restaurant

Brother Luck Street Eats

1005 W. Colorado Ave., 434-2741, chefbrotherluck.com

Breakfast at Street Eats starts with pig ears done in a pressure cooker, which are then sliced, deep-fried and layered with Tater Tots, onions pickled in red wine, guajillo oil and a fried egg. It's a bold bricolage you won't find anywhere else in Colorado Springs — much like the smoked mozzarella salad, or the chicharrón nachos or even the butter beer, which is vanilla-bean vodka with thyme, cream soda and butterscotch schnapps. All this has led to a devoted following, springing chef Brother Luck from a shared downtown location to his own spot on West Colorado Avenue. Combined with the restaurant's Knife Fights — where two local chefs battle weekly, with unique ingredients — Luck's cutting edge is razor-sharp. Zing! — BC

Mexican
Patio Dining

Amanda's Fonda

3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975; 8050 N. Academy Blvd., 266-6680; amandasfonda.com

Whether you choose the North Academy location or the original west side restaurant, the food at Amanda's Fonda is delicious. The mole sauce on the chicken mole enchiladas is rich and complex. The fish tacos are some of the best in town. And never mind the meat or shrimp — show me another fajitas plate with onions that tasty. But all else being equal, it's worth favoring the West Colorado Avenue location because it's got your favorite porch dining in town. Though a few sandbags might remind an idle eye of the wild nature of the creek, it's hard to stay worried while drinking a giant margarita, staring at the greenery, and listening to the burbling water. — GS

Cajun/Southern

Springs Orleans

123 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-0123, springsorleans.com

Slap-ya-momma good food, in the best of Cajun tradition, continues to be served at Springs Orleans. But that's not all this downtown spot offers. "We have started a Sunday $19.99 brunch that features carved turkey and prime rib," says owner Perry R. Sanders. "Our customers have really grown to love the value." In addition, he says, the restaurant has just gotten a building permit to expand into the space adjacent to La Baguette. "It will have a walk-up, New York-style point-of-sale counter with salads, pastries, smoothies and a gift shop to buy various items from the restaurant and the Mining Exchange Hotel." — BW

Place to Eat Local/Sustainable

Seeds Community Cafe'

109 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 473-8206, seedscommunitycafe.org

Eating at Seeds is something of a chaotic experience, in the best possible way. The cozy dining room is usually full, and the clamor of the kitchen sometimes competes with impromptu musical performances. The pay-what-you-can model and health-focused, locally derived, gluten-free menu is a niche market for sure, but one Seeds is crushing in execution. I recommend the Seeds Incredible ABC Burger if you're feeling saucy, or the vegan veggies on quinoa if it's a clean-eatin' kind of day. The menu changes daily — check it out on Seeds' Facebook page — but the mission of easing hunger and funneling money back into the community does not, and that satisfies no matter what. — EA

Soup
French

La Baguette French Bakery-Cafe', La Baguette French Bistro

2417 W. Colorado Ave., 577-4818, labaguette-co.com; 117 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 636-5020, labaguettedowntown.com; 4440 N. Chestnut St., 599-068, labaguettefrenchbistro.com

As always when you vote for La Baguette, we have to point out that there are three separately owned locations in town, and that each marches to the beat of its own wooden spoon against a stock pot. Next point: Though you can find seasonal soups like gazpacho and Vichyssoise at these places, we know you actually voted for the French onion soup, with gooey melted cheese and spongy croutons capping beef broth loaded with opaque onions. And finally: As good as that is, remember that French food encompasses much more than what can fit in a single bowl, and at La Baguette you'll find buttery pastries, intricately constructed sandwiches and more that are award-worthy. — MS

Chinese

Coal Mine Dragon

1720 W. Uintah St., 578-5430, uintahcoalminedragon.com; 1779 S. Eighth St., 471-7007, coalminedragon.net

For those who believe that Chinese food is best when paired with a relaxed atmosphere, either of the Coal Mine Dragon restaurants stand ready to serve. The two separately owned locations may play to different audiences, but both come complete with solid service; delicious, mainstream menu options; and the promise of a full, happy belly following your visit. Try both — at the Eighth Street location, maybe the lunch buffet — and see which one ends up being your favorite Chinese restaurant in the Springs. — JC

Restaurant for Kids That Isn't Fast Food
Salads

Poor Richard's Restaurant

324½ N. Tejon St., 632-7721, poorrichardsdowntown.com

If you're looking for a place that has it all, Poor Richard's is it. And if you're looking for a place that has a salad that has it all, Poor Richard's is that, too. Its house version comes with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, black olives, green bell pepper, garbanzo beans, organic green beans and feta cheese, plus a dressing. And you can go custom, too, with your choice of toppings that include toasted almonds and walnuts and any of the restaurant's pizza toppings. Speaking of pizza, that's often where the kids come in, chomping a cheese slice after working up an appetite in the play area in the back or in the adjacent toy store. — JC

Power Lunch

MacKenzie's Chop House

128 S. Tejon St., 635-3536, mackenzieschophouse.com

It's not that you have to order multiple martinis and cancel your afternoon appointments if you're descending into the warm dimness of MacKenzie's. Assistant general manager Linda Tolfa explains that part of what makes the place so popular for a business lunch is that people can get "in and out": "The service is fast," she says. "Food comes out in less than 10 minutes." But you certainly can stay a while, and since Tolfa says the food is "way better" than it used to be when she started 16 years ago (thanks to executive chef Pete Moreno), you may want to take your time and savor. Asked about the biggest business deal she knows to have gone down there in her time, she chuckles. "We have a lot of them," she says, adding, "Those lawyers who come in here, they don't tell us what they're doing. They really don't." If those walls could talk ... — KW

Writer's Pick
Use of Pork Belly

Manitou Brewing Company

725 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 282-7709, manitou-brewing.com

The pork belly tacos at Manitou's beautiful little brewery see a salt-and-sugar cure, a marinade, a braise, and a sear all before being gifted toppings like pickled red onions, crème fraiche and bacon jam, people — bacon jam. With all that in three soft corn tortillas, it's no wonder the food makes as big a case for consumption as the beer. Moist and juicy, clean and succulent, they're probably going to be just the best effing part of your day. — BC

Burger

Drifter's Hamburgers

4455 Mark Dabling Blvd., 548-8163; 1485 Jamboree Drive, 264-1512; driftershamburgers.com

The California-style burgers at Drifter's have been so successful that the small restaurant opened a second location near the Chapel Hills Mall earlier this year, and in June signed an agreement with a franchise development group to expand even further. But the important stuff is the same: beef sourced from Ranch Foods Direct, shakes, shoestring fries and a cow-abunga surfer vibe. (Sorry. I had to.) Order your burgers "wild style" if you like to have fun; order the four-patty Big Island Combo if you like to have diabetes and fun. — BC

Writer's Pick
Agitation of Heifer

Vietnamese Garden

7607 W. Union Blvd., 520-9299, vietnamesegarden.net

I have a food friend who travels quite a bit, often hitting Vietnamese establishments around the world — hey, everybody's gotta have some obsession — and often ordering a personal favorite, Bo Luc Lac, translated as "shaken beef." It's not seen on many local menus, and it's not a super-flashy dish, but more like a deeply satisfying stir-fry that allows simple ingredients to shine. At least that's how Dung My Tram's version at Vietnamese Garden hits the mouth. Unsalted butter plays a key role, as do rice wine, vinegar and gluten-free soy in a sauce that's otherwise spiked with lots of minced garlic and the bite of white peppercorns playing off slivers of sliced and pan-flipped beef. Simply put, this is not your average wok fodder — it's much better. — MS

Neighborhood Restaurant: East

The Wobbly Olive

3317 Cinema Point, 247-9504, wobblyolive.com

The Wobbly Olive's significance can't be understated: dazzlingly presented, creative and noticeably affordable gourmet on Powers Boulevard. "You can't go five miles in any direction without running into a corporate restaurant that's not allowed to bend the rules," says owner Sean Fitzgerald. "This is where we live and where our kids go to school. Really, we built this for ourselves, and we're just glad people are enjoying it." Indeed we are. The menu's alluring and eclectic and backed by a badass bar program. Fitzgerald's only disappointment: that he didn't win an Indy Best Of award for "Sexiest Bartender." Maybe next year, hunky pants. — MS

Late-Night Dining
Green Chile
Diner

King's Chef Diner

131 E. Bijou St., 636-5010; 110 E. Costilla St., 634-9135; kingschefdiner.com

When one place wins in all three of these categories for six years, you're almost helpless not to do the obvious and sensible thing: stop by late at night — they're open for breakfast and lunch seven days, late nights Friday and Saturday — for a Breakfast Burrito with Green Chile, or a Green Chile Cheeseburger. After all, claiming the Green Chile crown in this town is no small feat. "I think what sets it apart is we make it by hand," with Pueblo-grown chilis, says manager Rob Anzaldua. "It's a natural, non-GMO product ... We pay attention to it, we taste it, we see what it needs." Note: King's Chef is a cash-only business. — RM

Local Pizza Joint

Borriello Brothers

Multiple locations, 884-2020, borriellobrothers.com

It is always a good sign if you're asking yourself what that delicious smell is before you even get into the restaurant. It's an even better sign when you forget what state you're in when you enter. Borriello Brothers will take you to the East Coast with a single bite of its New York-style pizza. Order online, or on the phone, or by stopping into one of the eight local locations, and you'll be reminded why this 15-year-old juggernaut with the sweet sauce has held the winner's spot every year since 2008. — JC

Local/Regional Restaurant Chain
Neighborhood Restaurant: North
Chips and Salsa

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill

802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244; 9420 Briar Village Point, 955-6650; salsabravacolorado.com

You guys love Salsa Brava so much that it's won pretty much every category we have except Best Restaurant That Isn't Salsa Brava. (Disclaimer: That's, uh, not a real category.) You love fresh, spicy salsa, and refillable salsa, and pineapple habañero salsa. You love how many Salsa Bravas there are, and where they're located. You love the Brava and the brio and the lunch-size beef burrito. You even love to exercise, you sickos: The Nacho Ordinary Run Club rocks a 5K every Tuesday from Briargate and Wednesday from Rockrimmon. It's just ... it's very impressive. — BC

Restaurant for Tourists
Bar Patio
Place to Shoot Pool

Phantom Canyon Brewing Company

2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800, phantomcanyon.com

According to online billiards trivia gathered by "Dr. Dave" Alciatore, the largest pool hall ever built — a place called "The Recreation," in 1920s Detroit — held 103 tables, plus 88 bowling lanes, 20 barber chairs and 14 cigar stands. Yeah, but ... did it have a sweet patio looking down on the streets below, its own slate of brews and lemon Tabasco fried chicken? Then let's give some credit to Phantom Canyon, which does have all of the above, as well as a downtown location and responsive wait staff that help make it your favorite place to bring out-of-town guests. Plus, I'll gladly settle for "just" 13 tables when I also get a lively happy hour (3 to 6, seven days a week) and no rogue hairs from a barber's chair floating in my beer. — KW

Appetizers/Tapas

TAPAteria

2607 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8272, tapateria.com

I've read that in Spain, having little snacks all day is such an important tradition that it even has its own verb: tapear means to eat tapas. And what a great way to spend the afternoon, evening or both. "We don't take reservations because people have been known to spend four to six hours enjoying tapas, drinks and conversation," says co-owner Jay Gust. The menu offers gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options as well as a variety of seafood, meat, eggs, salads and a great selection of cocktails, wine and beer, including Colorado beer. "If it's not Spanish, it's from Colorado," Gust says. "And we like to support local farmers, too, as much as possible." — KK

Neighborhood Restaurant: Central

Shuga's

702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412, shugas.com

How is it that Shuga's has won this award for four years running? For one thing, when you walk in, chances are you will see someone you know (or know of). Drew LiVigni, a server/bartender who has been there for more than seven years total, says it's a six-degrees-of-separation place. Which brings us to another reason, that being staff who stick around. Also, Shuga's has the food: The Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup is perfect for blustery days, but so good you'll want it even when it's nearing 90. The real extra touch here, though, is the To/From Board. Want to buy a drink for someone who's not there? You can do it — and their name is added to the board with the specific drink. The next time they're in, they can collect on it. — LE

Writer's Pick
Meatball Sub

Bella's Bakery & Bistro

3 E. Bijou St., 434-8957, bellasbakeryandbistro.com

Surrounded by pita palaces in a space that once housed a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich shop, Bella's was recently described by Indy critic Bryce Crawford as "grandma's house masquerading as a downtown storefront." And while a few grandmothers out there might bristle at the idea of a meatball sub with chipotle-cranberry sauce — excellent though it is — even the orneriest traditionalist will fall for the family-recipe meatballs and homemade marinara. The upstart enterprise also offers Whole Foods coffee and one of the most tempting pastry cases in town, so save room if you can. — BF

Neighborhood Restaurant: Monument

La Casa Fiesta

230 Front St., 481-1234, lacasafiesta.net

Having won this award four years running, it's clear that La Casa Fiesta continues serving good Santa Fe-style Mexican food at competitive prices. It's a place where you can dine by yourself or with a large party, and get friendly service either way. Behind the ongoing success are owners Shawn and Mary Morris, who can be found sampling the food, greeting the customers and training staff almost daily. They are hands-on owners, and the service and food shine because of it. Add a packed sports-bar atmosphere whenever there's a big game on TV, and it's no secret why this place is a favorite among the locals. — BW

Italian

Paravicini's Italian Bistro

2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200, paravicinis.com

Franco Pisani, who's seared, sautéed and sauced Paravicini's to this top spot yearly since 2005, says his restaurant deals in "East Coast Italian with more Southern Italian influences." But he's quick to note that you can trace all dishes back to Italian tradition, broadly — even dishes like Paravicini's unique Veal Giuseppe, where veal gets paired with spicy Italian sausage, hot cherry peppers, Kalamata olives, capers and garlic. And he stresses that it's not ALL about the food, after all; he says he tells his staff, "You can get spaghetti and meatballs in this town in a dozen places and most of them are pretty good. It's just about creating an experience when guests come in, you know?" — KW

Middle Eastern

Heart of Jerusalem Cafe'

4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554; 718 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1325; heartofjerusalemcafe.com

It's been eight years since Hussein Abukhdeir opened his first Pikes Peak area Middle Eastern restaurant. Now he's got two locations and a five-page menu, featuring everything from beef, lamb and chicken shawarmah and falafel, to hummus and Greek salad. All of which you can get on the Ultimate Plate, which shift manager Audi Lockwood says is probably the restaurant's best-selling item "because you get to try a little bit of everything." Make sure to add a cup of Turkish coffee to your order; Lockwood says they house-brew the concoction with cardamom, orange zest and a thick espresso. KA

Thai

NaRai Thai Restaurant, NaRai Siam Cuisine

805 Village Center Drive, 531-5175; 120 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 434-1975; narai-thai.com

NaRai opened a southern location around the turn of 2014, if expansion is any indication of success. (It is.) In her new, larger kitchen, owner Jasmine Andrew has introduced playful items such as a Thai twist on Korean short ribs, and a soon-to-arrive Thai quesadilla, using a four-cheese Mexican blend melted over shrimp seasoned with a roasted Thai chili sauce. Still, it's likely that some of her Thai staples really earned her this win. "I'm not saying I'm the most authentic," she says. "But I grew up in Thailand, and all the flavors here are based on my favorite flavors." She modifies to American palates — for example, using chicken breast instead of traditionally used whole chickens, which make for oilier plates — and recommends a medium heat for the best balance between saltiness and sweetness, though she's all too happy to burn you out if you order Thai hot. Go for it. — MS

Japanese/Sushi

Jun Japanese Restaurant

1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368; 3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690; jun-japanese.com

Jun has won gold in this category almost perennially since 1995, partly because owner Jun Aizu focuses on the freshest fish he can get. He serves Colorado fish when he can, and flies the rest in daily. Aizu opened his first location on Dublin 23 years ago; nine years ago he opened the Centennial location. The menus, concept and specialties of the two restaurants do differ: For example, while both serve sushi, the Dublin location offers ramen noodles made from scratch, and the Centennial location features cooking tables. "My favorite quality in Japanese cuisine is that it's simple, it's natural, and it's fresh without heavy sauces," says Aizu. Any plans for a third location? "Not yet," he says, smiling. — KK

Korean

Tong Tong

2036 S. Academy Blvd., 591-8585, tongtong.webs.com

And this, kimchi-loving ladies and gentlemen, is the third year running that Tong Tong has taken top Korean honors. Affordable lunch specials in the $7 range, such as galbi and bulgogi plates, plus molten soups, make the first case for greatness. At dinner, prices increase but so do portions, from whole, salted Atka mackerel to blood sausage, snails and everyone's favorite word to say, bibimbap. Don't miss the kimchi pancakes as a starter, and as always, relish all the complementary banchan. Tong Tong stays true to Korean taste traditions. — MS

Mediterranean
Hummus

Mediterranean Cafe'

118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115, medcafe-co.com

Hummus is described by Wikipedia as "a Levantine food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic." But when it's good, it can be much more than the sum of its parts — and Mediterranean Café's hummus is damn good. So the downtown staple now has a Best Hummus award to add to its trophy case, which already houses Indy Best Of awards in the Pita, Salad Bar, Gyro, Best Dining on a Budget, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean categories. Even the warring factions of Indy and Gazette readers can come together and sing "Kumbaya" over a nice lamb gyro, with both packs having honored this place in readers' polls for years. — JK

Neighborhood Restaurant: South
Restaurant Wine List
Upscale Bar

The Blue Star

1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086, thebluestar.net

Offering a "contemporary fusion menu" in the Ivywild neighborhood, with offerings like fried shishito peppers and butternut squash gnocchi, The Blue Star has found the recipe for success. Perhaps even more notable: It's unbeaten in our Wine List category since 2005. These days that's due in part to the impressive Sophie Oppelt, the restaurant's young sommelier, whom you can find on the dining room floor Thursdays through Sundays, answering questions and making recommendations from among nearly 800 wines. When not on the floor, Oppelt's often training staff or trying new bottles, looking for options that might be "geekier" or "fun," she says. "It's not about the alcohol," she adds. "It's about the art that's in the bottle, and wine represents that well. People put their blood, sweat and tears into grape juice, and that's beautiful to me." It gets even more beautiful for some customers on Sundays, when most of Blue Star's wine list is half-off — and if you have a bottle opened and don't finish it, you can take it home re-corked. — RM

Indian/Curry

Little Nepal

1747 S. Eighth St., 477-6997; 4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428; lnepal.com

Co-owner Raj Adhikari always has a warm hello and a big smile for his customers, whether he's working at the Eighth Street restaurant or up north — which makes it not only a tasty trip to visit Little Nepal, but a welcoming one. Start your meal with an assortment of samosas and pakoras. Add an entreé of tandoori, kabobs or curry. Say yes when asked if you'd like some garlic naan and a mango lassi. Wrap it all up with some kheer, and Adhikari will smile at you as you roll yourself back out of his restaurant. Maybe a trip through the buffet next time? — KA

Writer's Pick
Local Take-and-Bake

Leon Gessi New York Pizza

1806 Palmer Park Blvd., 635-1542, leongessipizza.com

Leon Gessi's is named after a French writer who waxed poetic about pizza. He described it as "a blooming flower, noble and full of fragrant odors" and wrote, "the cheese sizzles and bubbles, it is shining with oil, streaked with red tomatoes and golden brown." He could have been describing the pie that Leon Gessi's prepares for your own humble oven. The Saturday-night special could be parlayed into an inexpensive date night: two 14-inch take-n-bake cheese pizzas for $11. Toppings are extra, but you can always pile on your own random assortment of veggies before cooking. — DM

Dessert Destination

Marigold Cafe' and Bakery

4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776, marigoldcoloradosprings.com

The first time I dined at Marigold, the meal was so delicious and filling I couldn't imagine eating dessert. But my friend insisted I order a dessert and take it home. Even a day later, that German Chocolate Mousse Cake easily qualified as the best I'd ever eaten. And it's just one of a long list of choices such as citrus, raspberry or brownie cheesecake; hazelnut torte; carrot cake; and crème brûlée. Since 2008, this classy spot on Centennial Boulevard has captured this category hands-down, and it should. Co-owner Elaine Chavanon is the real deal, having studied in France and worked with the legendary Gaston Lenôtre. "We don't skimp," Chavanon says. "We use all natural ingredients and the best ingredients. We make Bavarian cream ourselves with milk, cream and eggs." Among customer favorites, she says, are the double chocolate mousse cake and fruit tarts. So give yourself a break from that régime alimentaire, and enjoy. — PZ

Sunday Brunch

Lake Terrace Dining Room at the Broadmoor

1 Lake Ave., 577-5771, broadmoor.com

For the seventh year in a row, the Lake Terrace Dining Room at the Broadmoor takes this category. And who's to argue with the "Grand Dame of the Rockies"? At Sunday brunch, she serves up 150 offerings — entrées, carving-station meats, salads, savory and dessert crepes — and staffs action stations with chefs who make food to order. The menu changes weekly, but you can count on culinary excellence, plus some ice sculptures and live piano music. All things considered, the $52 price per person is well worth it, says manager Susan Krokidis. Located on the mezzanine level of Broadmoor Main, the buffet runs from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended. — AP

Restaurant for a Wedding Reception

Briarhurst Manor Estate

404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864, briarhurstdining.com

According to sales marketing director Janice Montoya, Briarhurst Manor Estate has been hosting wedding receptions since 1895, when the daughter of Manitou Springs' founder, Dr. William Bell, celebrated her nuptials with invited guests on the Victorian manor's front lawn. Over a century later, the well-manicured grounds, landscaped in the style of an English country house garden, and pink sandstone building make for a picturesque setting for brides and grooms. Montoya says the Briarhurst has unique areas for ceremonies and receptions of all sizes. The teahouse gazebo, for instance, can hold between 10 to 20 people, while the ballroom is well-suited for around 120. She adds that the Briarhurst "has character and charm and great food." All of which explains why the historic destination remains a local favorite for couples tying the knot. — DM

Food Truck

Potato Potato

362-0750, potatopotatocos.tumblr.com

Kevin Johnson's Potato Potato does for the spud what the Awesome Blossom did for the onion (except without all the things that are gross about the Awesome Blossom). Québécois may quibble with the squeak in the Colorado cheese curds, but this poutine pumped full of balsamic-laced gravy will still rock your night and remember to call you the next morning. The Vermont Pig Candy is sublime. — BC

German

Edelweiss German Restaurant

34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220, edelweissrest.com

After college, I lived in Germany for a year, and whenever I was homesick, I would visit McDonald's. German expats experiencing some "heimweh" here would find more tasty solace at Edelweiss. Everything about the place, from the life-sized nutcrackers to the open-air biergarten and German-speaking staff, reminds me of Europe. The menu includes favorites such as wiener schnitzel and a flavorful sauerbraten that is marinated for three days. A Swiss pastry chef crafts desserts from scratch, and nearly everything's made in-house. — DM

Bang-for-Your-Buck Restaurant

La Casita Mexican Grill

306 S. Eighth St., 633-9616; 4295 N. Nevada Ave., 599-7829; 3725 E. Woodmen Road, 536-0375; lacasitamexigrill.com

La Casita is where you go when you don't know where you want to go, and you do this because it's cheap and satisfying. You can get three crispy beef tacos with a drink for $5. Tuesdays bring buy-one-get-one-half-off deals on tacos and burritos. You don't even have to pay to feed your starving progeny if you bring them on Wednesdays. And a happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m., where green-chili nachos, quesadillas or MexiWings can all be had for $3.99? Now that's just loco en la cabeza. You crazy, Pinko Comida — crazy like a fox. — BC

Barbecue

Front Range Barbeque

2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596, frbbq.com

Front Range has won gold for Best Barbecue since 2004. Looking for a measure of its authenticity? Manager Michelle Evans has a note about FRBBQ's growing catering business: "We have a new smoker-trailer to take on-site that can roast a whole pig." — KK

Neighborhood Restaurant: West (tie)

Front Range Barbeque

2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596, frbbq.com

Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna

2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406, jakeandtellys.com

Even with all the good eats on the west side, Front Range has won or shared gold for Best Neighborhood Restaurant every year since this category started four years ago. Clearly, the guys and gals there are doing lots of things right, not least of which are the live music and beer-tasting events. (It's also worth noting that non-carnivores actually can eat there, thanks to good veggie burgers and salads.) As for Jake & Telly's, look no further than the classic "Opa!" toast screamed on all manner of occasions, including just for fun on any old night of the week when Ouzo is flowing liberally and friends are gathered around a bountiful mixed mezze plate. Next comes a rack of lamb or moussaka ... and it's always over too soon. — KK

Caterer

Garden of the Gods Gourmet

410 S. 26th St., 471-2799, godsgourmet.com

As it explains on its "Ordering FAQ" page, Garden of the Gods Gourmet Catering will use your family recipes if you ask: "We try our best to duplicate your treasured memories." Which is nice. But if your memories don't include many servings of House Citrus Smoked Salmon or Grilled Pork Loin with Apples and Caraway, you may just want to let the pros do their thing. While you're at it, you can let them handle your whole function, whatever it is, from equipment rental to liquor delivery to cake-cutting (at no charge) to breakdown. — KW

Neighborhood Restaurant: Manitou
Restaurant for Herbivores

Adam's Mountain Cafe'

26 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430, adamsmountain.com

How does that old slogan go? "New look, same great taste"? That seems to be the tenet that Adam's Mountain Café has followed since relocating from its flood-prone location in downtown Manitou to a drier, safer one in May. Farley McDonough and Co. have completely overhauled the old Manitou Pancake and Steak House, but kept intact Adam's list of great dishes — from Orange Almond French Toast in the morning to Spicy Malibari Curry at night. Seventy percent of those dishes are vegetarian, and in all, says hostess Valentina Kai, 95 percent of the menu can be made vegetarian-friendly with a little tweaking. Also worth noting: Though it's not quite walking distance from other downtown attractions anymore, the new Adam's offers ample parking. That's a neighborhood-pleaser. — MB

Smoothie/Juice Bar

Ola Juice Bar

27 E. Kiowa St., 633-3111, olajuicebar.com

Ola slings more than just juice, though you can get a flavorful fix in that department with ease, via a menu that's fully vegan and 90 percent organic, raw and gluten-free. Owner Nissa Wecks has built her selections with both athletic recovery and general healthy eating in mind. Ingredients such as ginger, turmeric and pea-based protein powder fight inflammation and aid muscle recovery, while other fruits and veggies help alkalize the body. Healthy fats appear, too, like avocados, olive oil and nut butters inside of delicious smoothies. Liquids aside, salads pack in dark leafy greens like kale and chard, protein-packed quinoa and probiotic-rich fermented items like pickled carrots and daikon. Like I said ... more than just a juice bar. — MS

Vietnamese

Saigon Cafe'

20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888, coloradosaigoncafe.com

While I'd like to say I'm an adventurous diner who is always trying new and different menu items, I've only actually ordered one dish at Saigon Café, many times over. The vegetable noodle bowl topped with grated cucumbers and carrots, along with generous handfuls of bean sprouts, lettuce and fresh cilantro, is perfect. I've had no reason to request anything else. And in one respect, I'm not alone in my blatant refusal to venture into unfamiliar territory. Indy readers have voted the downtown restaurant into the No. 1 Vietnamese spot every year since this category was introduced in 2003. — DM

Gluten-Free-Friendly

Coquette's Bistro and Bakery

321 N. Tejon St., 685-2420, coquettesbistro.com

Coquette's Bistro and Bakery is one of the swankiest spots in the Springs, with dim lighting and an all-gluten-free menu that covers a full bar, delicious entrées and guilt-free desserts. Coquette's has dominated this category since 2010, when it was back in Manitou Springs, and after one taste of a salted caramel cupcake here, you'll know there's no way they're slowing down. Any of the staff will tell you that the best thing about Coquette's is that "you don't even know how healthy you're eating." The restaurant's "boldly luscious" slogan is right on target, and you can even pick up some of their goodies at Whole Foods. — JC

Bakery

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery

610 E. Fillmore St., 264-0177, dutchpastry.com

A little over a year ago, Stephen Boonzaaijer moved his bakery from Centennial Boulevard to its larger, more central location on Fillmore Street. "The new space increased what we had before by about 50 percent, and we were able to design it specifically for our use," he says. Boonzaaijer learned to bake in the Netherlands; asked what makes Dutch pastry so good, he replies, "It has rustic simplicity, very good ingredients and French influences. Everything's made from scratch, including the pastry, the fillings and the Bavarian cream. You have to use the best ingredients, including real butter and cream, to stay true to traditional quality." — KK

Spot for a Spot of Tea

Montague's

1019 S. Tejon St., 520-0672

Montague's, the quaint and cozy café, tea room and coffee shop on South Tejon, is known for its vintage, eclectic décor. Stuffed wingback chairs intermingle with inviting, shabby chic couches and wooden tables and chairs. A Victorian lampshade or two mellows the lighting. In addition to hot beverages, Montague's offers desserts, soups, quiches and sandwiches on flaky croissants. (The pumpkin tomato soup, based on an old Amish recipe, has a loyal following.) An assortment of drool-worthy, three-layer cakes and other confections sits sweetly on display under glass, but the innocent-looking coconut creme cake is rumored to be addictive. — DM

Buffet

Ultimate Buffet

3727 Bloomington St., 591-0768, ultimatebuffet.com

There are 41 different sushi rolls, 25 kinds of desserts, 11 items made with chicken, nine soups, eight salads and five entrées spelled with the letter "z." (Gyoza, pizza, glazed yams, stir-fry zucchini and izumidai nigiri.) Ultimate Buffet is a beast of choice, which throws down its love of country every Monday, when a military ID gets you 10 percent off. You could choose it for catering instead, but then you'd miss out on the rows upon rows proffering guilt, shame and that sweaty sheen that builds up from an uncomfortably joyous afternoon. — BC

Frozen Yogurt

YoYogurt

Multiple locations, yoyogurtusa.com

It's all about choices, and in that regard this local, family-owned business (now with five locations) has a great concept going. Best in this category since it opened the first location in 2011, YoYogurt offers up to 16 different flavors of fro-yo, and you can make even more if you pull a "swirl" handle. (Sometimes there's even a gelato or a Greek yogurt available.) Then with all the toppings and sauces that you add yourself, your choices seem infinite. Wondering if it was all too good to be true, I asked co-owner Liz Johnson if the non-fat selection is really non-fat. "Yes," she replied with a laugh. "We can't say it's non-fat if it's not." KK

Food Event

Fiddles, Vittles and Vino

fiddlesvittlesandvino.com

Though it's the first winner in this new category, Fiddles, Vittles and Vino isn't at all new — the event celebrated its 10th anniversary in July. It's a unique collision of bluegrass music and food-and-drink tastings that started out as a bit of kismet: A food festival and a bluegrass event both had designs on Rock Ledge Ranch for a host site. "Our thought was originally that we would piggyback on this bluegrass festival and bring some foodies in," says James Africano, one of the founding chefs, "but the synergy of two events that became one has become a really cool thing." And if you're not a wine guy or gal, don't let the event's name scare you off: "We have beer and cider and other libations, if you will." — JK

Local Coffee Roaster

SwitchBack Coffee Roasters

330 N. Institute St., 581-9478, switchbackroasters.com

SwitchBack started out in a small house on the west side, but moved a little less than a year ago to its new Institute Street location. It's also moved from second place in this category last year to first this year. Nate Bland, co-owner with Brandon DelGrosso, says, "We roast around eight pounds at a time in an air roaster, because in small batches you have more control." SwitchBack also offers classes covering different brewing methods and home roasting. "We sell the raw beans, too, and you can try roasting it at home with a popcorn popper," he says. "We're not closed off; our goal is to be friendly and open. We love to develop relationships and collaborate, and I'm always happy to talk about coffee." — KK

Local Coffee House

The Perk Downtown

14 S. Tejon St., 635-1600, theperkdowntown.com

It may not be the fictional Double R Diner, but The Perk is your favorite place in town to get, you'll pardon my language, a damned fine cup of coffee. The 6-year-old downtown location hosts two floors: a cozy cafe downstairs, which shows little to no sign of the fire that shut down the business earlier this year, and a more open space upstairs that routinely plays host to everything from music to Bible study groups to business meetings. General manager Ashlynn Moore also credits her awesome baristas with the Perk's success. Add in awesome food and prime Tejon real estate, and it's a spunky local joint for everyone. But none of this would matter without good coffee, which it has in spades. — GS

Writer's Pick
Loose-Leaf Tea Shop

Organica Herb & Tea Co.

2215 W. Colorado Ave., 344-3213, travelingleaf.com

Just inside the door to Old Colorado City's Organica Herb & Tea Co. sit tall shelves with more than 60 glass jars of black, oolong and pu-erh teas. But that's just the beginning of owner Clara Paulson's offerings. Farther back in the shop, more jars, filled with greens, reds, florals, herbs, leaves, roots and barks, line the length of the space. And don't overlook the 50-some house blends, with fun names like Sleepy Flowers, Turmeric Zinger and Brainiac — all three of which she says are among her best-sellers. "With black tea, Earl Grey is the most-sold tea in the world," she says, "but I don't sell the most Earl Grey because I have so many kinds." — KA

Ice Cream/Gelato

Josh & John's Naturally Homemade Ice Creams

111 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0299; 6896 Centennial Blvd., 532-0299; joshandjohns.com

The key to the dense, rich flavor of Josh & John's ice cream is a slow method of churning, but what the makers put into the mix is also essential. Co-owner Lindsay Keller says they use natural and local ingredients, when available, such as Colorado-grown berries and peaches. Then each handmade batch is churned for between 30 and 45 minutes by machines that are similar to old, wooden hand-cranked ice-cream makers. Keller says the devices they use have "been built and patched together a lot like Frankenstein over the years. You are not going to find ice cream machines anything like them, anywhere." The resulting frozen concoction is almost chewy in texture, with very little embedded air or water. It turns out the misunderstood monster can crank out a freakishly good dessert. — DM

Taqueria

Monica's Taco Shop

30 E. Fillmore St., 473-1996; 5829 Palmer Park Blvd., 597-7022

Two different salsas, two different locations, two different owners, one incredible experience. Whether you're craving a giant stuffed burrito or a simple taco, Monica's Taco Shop continues to answer the call — it's won this category every year since 2006. Start your day with a breakfast burrito, and you'll be smiling till lunchtime. — JC

Writer's Pick
Pretzel-Based Orb

Wimberger's Old World Bakery & Delicatessen

2321 Bott Ave., 634-6313, wimbergers.com

It's amazing how difficult it is to overstate the delicious power of Wimberger's pretzel rolls. After you tear into the softness spiked with chunks of salt, from which the smell of sweet pastry wafts up to your nose and gloriously electrocutes your brain, you may find that 50 cents is not a large enough cost to keep you from filling your trunk with rolls. Combine them with whole-grain mustard and slices of ham, or tart cranberries and turkey, or nothing and nothing, and find yourself, regardless, in Elysian bliss. — BC

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