BJ's Velvet Freez
1511 N. Union Blvd., 633-6365, bjsvelvetfreez.com
I recall a night a couple summers ago, driving by BJ's and seeing a line of cars at the drive-thru, plus a queue of some 25 walk-up folks. I snapped a photo for our Slice of Life page, and noticed an unusually high number of Facebook shares later. Fans professed fealty that dates back a few generations; the shop now counts 61 years in business, under three separate owners. It's wholesome Americana through and through — culturally essential.
Which is also to say it's as basic as it gets for soft-serve treats, burgers, and all things unhealthy but totally hearty and joy-inducing. On a recent night we opted for a root beer float ($3.02) made with Pepsi's Mug Root Beer, and a Peanut Delight ($3.95), a sundae with layers of vanilla soft serve and hot chocolate sauce, topped unsurprisingly in peanuts then whipped cream. There's not much I can say here that you don't already know about how these taste, other than BJ's atmosphere makes the legitimizing difference. — MS
Double Header Bar & Grill
411 Lakewood Circle, #C107, 551-2988, doubleheaderbarandgrill.com
There's something romantic about the Satellite Hotel, that bleached icon of bygone class standing tall amidst salt stains and cracked blacktop. Though many of its rooms are now owned by businesses and retirees, it still aspires to be a hotel. But the hip photos on the polished website for its new restaurant, opened in late January, are stock photos. The place is less for young Mad Men aficionados and more for the actual 1960s ad execs.
The menu bears nothing that would have been out of place at Al's Drive In from Happy Days. Tomato basil soup ($3.49/cup) bears heavy oregano and big tomato chunks in a smooth base. The black and blue burger ($8.99) has little blackening spice and nothing blue to speak of, but plentiful, oozing Swiss cheese does its best on a well-done-by-default patty. Accompanying steak fries manage to be dry in the middle. And service needs improvement. With six patrons at lunch, nobody should wait 25 minutes for a burger. — GS
Pikes Peak Brewing
1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument, pikespeakbrewing.com
Not everyone's flagship beers hold up as strong as PPB's, so it's easy to see why the brewery will grow by 333-percent in capacity around fall and its fifth birthday. The huge expansion, to meet distribution demand, owes thanks to beers like the Summit House Stout ($5/pint), a big, 7.5-percent ABV oatmeal stout with a serious coffee roast profile and a thick chocolatey body.
We get thorough service at the busy front bar but a sign in the rear taproom directs us back up for refill needs. Indeed we get only one check-in, and our server can only tell us about half of what's on our meat and cheese platter ($12.50), which commendably highlights some items from Larkspur's Fruition Farms. Four salami cuts — one smoky, one spicy, one musky and one mild — wrap nicely around pretzel baguette hunks with a potent house beer mustard dip. Chunky Schnitzel Fritz cheese spreads beat common Brie and Dubliner wedges. — MS