Coffee on the Go ...
225 N. Gate Blvd., 646-1063, coffeeonthego.biz
Pull up to the cute, red, caboose-lookin' kiosk just inside the Western Museum of Mining & Industry's driveway, and don't fret the "for sale" sign. Coffee on the Go ... owner Marlene Brown says it's business as usual until she finds a buyer for her business, so just as much care's going into your drink as it has over the last three years.
That translates into the usage of Black Forest's R&R Coffee Café-roasted beans, specifically its excellent Red Stallion Espresso and Forest Mist blends. The former adds deep, dark notes to both the Engineer's Special (a latte; $3.85/12-ounce) and Halfway Home (a breve; $4.25/16-ounce). Both are great, but the breve's best with two shots included and mild sweetness via steamed half-and-half subbing in for milk — which, as you probably know, defines the drink. — Matthew Schniper
Crystal Park Cantina
178 Crystal Park Road, 685-5999, crystalparkcantina.com
Because a nice weekend hike should be followed by a nice meal, drink included, I end up at Manitou Springs' most tucked-away margarita spot, scoring the Fighting Sue for $5 instead of $7, because that's how the 2-to-5 daily happy hours roll, amigo. It would be a perfectly fine marg with just the Sauza Silver, house mix and fresh lime juice, but the added Pacífico beer component makes it shine, adding a Pilsner-like crispness and light CO2 effervescence that complements the citrus nicely. Boy, those go down easy ...
The drink unsurprisingly pairs beautifully with the Baja shrimp tacos ($13), playing off the pineapple-mango salsa garnish in particular. I mix-'n-match two tempura-battered tacos and one pan-seared, liking them equally and appreciating the cabbage crunch plus the rice's saffron infusion, which brings a Mediterranean essence to Mexico. — Matthew Schniper
Duca's Neapolitan Pizza
12229 Voyager Pkwy., 487-3200, ducaspizza.com
Not that I know anything about the internal situation here, but dating back to my lukewarm 2012 review it's seemed like Duca's could be more than it is. The classy, laid-back restaurant combines a fast-casual ordering approach with a world-class wood oven. And with quality dough and sauce recipes in place, it seems ripe for an experienced culinarian to replace the handful of teenagers behind the counter and really start playing.
But all that said, and though the menu's basically unchanged, the $8 sandwich-and-salad deal still has to be one of the best values around. We got the hefty Megalena — heat-blistered crusty bread with salami, moist ham, pepperoni, Provolone, tomato, lettuce and refreshing balsamic — with an mildly bitter arugula salad of Gorgonzola, pine nuts and more balsamic. And our Gorgonzola and caramelized onion pizza ($9.45) kept a great outer edge. — Bryce Crawford
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