101 Central Plaza, Pueblo, 719/225-8363, bingoburger.com
I make an effort to get a different burger each time I visit Bingo Burger, which is each time I pass through Pueblo. This trip, my eye fell upon The Boilermaker ($8.25), which is a Bingo Burger (with chopped Pueblo chilies incorporated into the grass-fed Colorado beef patty) with add-ons of cheddar, bacon and an egg fried to your preference (mine being over easy).
To further mix up my habitude, I subbed out the bread bun for a paleo- and gluten-free-friendly lettuce wrap, which does have its own habit of getting messy, unless you avoid placing it down between bites. (And who would, considering a good craft beer pairing?) But even if you have to finish the stellar, yolk-stained beast with a fork, the less-filling lettuce adds nice crispness and leaves gut-room for a house milkshake to-go for the drive home, a wise sugar-swapping. — Matthew Schniper
Smiling Toad Brewery
3668 E. Bijou St., 418-2936
The 900 square-foot nanobrewery formerly known as Kevin Baity Kraft Beers still boasts a sudsy shoebox's charm, more barrel house than business. Brewer, barkeep and co-owner Biff Morehead, who took over in late May, is also admirably forthcoming about the challenges of growing from homebrewing into a new three-barrel system.
He admits his latest Scotch ale is a little too peaty and astringent, and he's also not content with what he coaxed out of Zythos hops used for the Toad Lick IPA, which lands a little too bitter and one-note, lacking "the grapefruit punch I want." But the inherited, light Bella Lavender remains lovely, and a basil honey beer also achieves a nice herbal vibe. The current apricot sour bests the batch with subtle juice hints, full Belgian yeastiness and only mild pucker. (Pints or a full tasting paddle are $4.) — Matthew Schniper
4645 Fountain Ave., Cascade, 684-7855, mildredscafe.com
I'd been in the small mountain diner for about five minutes — watching wispy rain clouds drift by the tall pines while Ralph Flanagan's "Harbor Lights" lazily left the jukebox — before I decided Mildred's was possibly my favorite restaurant ever. Maybe we just caught it on the right day, but that small dining room is damn cozy.
The Juicy Lucy Burger ($8.59) packs Callicrate beef, but it was cooked to black on the flat-top, leaving even the cheesy core empty of juices. A Taylor Pork Roll Sandwich ($6.99) came off as SPAM-esque delight, with onions, melted cheese and an overcooked "fried" egg; like the burger, it would've been perfect with a gentler touch. No problem with the cherry pie ($4.25), though: Plump, ruddy halves as sweet as they were sour floated underneath a crust made of buttered air. — Bryce Crawford
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