Coyote's Coffee Den
675 State Hwy. 115, Penrose, 719/372-3012, coyotescoffeeden.com
For me, Coyote's has always been an unavoidable vortex on the roadside in Penrose. My steering wheel turns before I'm conscious of it, and I suddenly wonder what new sticker (from the sip hole on Coyote's drink lids) I'll be adding to my dashboard collection.
Past Adirondack chairs and straw bales on the Chiminea-warmed patio, I enter the quaint dining area, which fronts an alluring pastry display and service counter. Spanish Peaks roasts for the cafe, and its espresso shots blend pretty seamlessly into a Mexican Mocha ($3.85/16-ounce) that's nuanced with faint vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon infusions. A green-chile-smothered sausage breakfast burrito ($4.99) bests the majority of coffee-shop renditions with a generous cheese melt, rich and deep chile, and fluffy scrambled eggs. I always want to linger longer, but the road calls. At least the to-go cup provides a brief tether, and I know I'll return again. — Matthew Schniper
Shae's Eats & Spirits
2521 W. Colorado Ave., 440-9565, on.fb.me/1F1BPlI
The new west side spot, Shae's, is in one of those long storefronts, now home to a bar and scattered tables. It's the kind of place, whatever kind of place this is, that has damn respectable beer on tap, like two options from Deschutes Brewery, while still pimping $2.50 Coors Lights and $3 Peach Bombs on Facebook.
It's actually interesting all over, and not in a good way. The West Sliders ($7), which I'm assured contain lemon-pepper chicken actually cooked by a person, tasted like frozen, pre-made nastiness in a cheap bun filled with unmelted Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing, and came on a paper plate. Fat Paulie's Meatloaf Burger ($8) was as burned as its limp bacon was see-through. The electric-green jalapeño jelly in the Green Monster ($8) actually wasn't bad at all, but the patty was supremely unwell. An employee says the biggest seller is the from-scratch pizza. Maybe try that. — Bryce Crawford
Kura Japanese Restaurant
3479 Research Pkwy., 282-8238, kurajapaneserestaurant.com
The service at Kura can be pretty bad. The Briargate restaurant is lovely, which is nice because it gave us something to look at after we were seated in exile at the sushi bar, where it took 10 minutes before anyone realized we lacked even menus. It was equally hard to pay somebody. (To be fair, the restaurant was slammed. To be fairer, most of the reviews on Yelp say the same.)
This had no effect on our enjoyment of the tight, beautifully plated rolls, which were prefaced by a bolder-than-usual miso soup, supporting scallions and nutty tofu squares. As for the rolls, the salmon skin ($5.95), Cadet ($7.50) and Research ($12.95) all got artful touches like a wasabi jalapeño and a butterfly of vegetable shavings. The skin is savory-central, while the Cadet combines soft on soft with cream cheese, spicy tuna and avocado. Bean sprouts seem to grow from the Research, with creamy hamachi laid over the top, but the bulky soft-shell crab steals the show. — Bryce Crawford