Coquette's Bistro & Bakery
915 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2420, coquettesbistroandbakery.com
From the start, Coquette has acted as a fun bastion of cool on the main strip of Manitou Springs. Its recently expanded menu is equally enticing, with bits that originate in-house — sauces, dips and even smoked meats — popping up all over.
Almost hidden among the new items, which include seared duck breast and chicken piccata, is Coquette's humble burger ($10). And it's a near masterpiece of beef and bread. The meat comes from Ranch Foods Direct, and though ours was cooked a little too hard — considering the gluten-free bun is more like a thin, dense biscuit — it sang with smoky flavor. The garlic-basil aioli is a sweet refrain, while the slices of Brie balance with ineffable creamy off-notes. Dessert should bring the stylish Lavender Love ($9) crêpe — its thick chocolate mousse is irresistible. — Bryce Crawford
The Maté Factor
966 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3235
The café's connection to the Twelve Tribes religious community is certainly in evidence, considering the bathroom's wallpaper of old newsletters and tracts, not to mention other reading material available throughout. But it doesn't drive the Maté Factor's vibe. Simplified, the Factor is like a food-serving minuscule village — lots of wood, leather and flute music, with booths turned into secluded pseudo-huts.
But let's talk about the Deli Rose ($7.50), a great sandwich (not to mention a pretty good miniature pizza). Stacked with smoked turkey, pepper jack cheese, good tomato sauce (advertised as spicy, though not really), more tomatoes, and onions on a soft Vienna roll, it's a steaming mess of sweet and savory. Avoid to-go, for two reasons: It's too wet to stand up to more than a few minutes of sitting, and nothing this fun to eat should have to wait for consumption. — Bryce Crawford
702 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9400, stagecoachinn.com
On the gorgeous, creek-side covered patio I had no idea Stagecoach had, underneath a striped awning lined with white lights, family dinner came to me in the form of the stuffed steak ($19.98). Recommended by our server as the restaurant's signature dish, the sirloin is butterflied and filled with grilled mushrooms, Swiss cheese, a moist sage-bread stuffing and some house garlic-herb sauce, then topped with more mushrooms and plump, lightly grilled red onions. (Included were an OK baked potato and standard steamed veggies, but this thing's prodigious enough to make any side superfluous.)
Basically, it's comfort food in a nice, little rustic spot adorned with wagon wheels, horseshoe coat hangers, a stone fireplace, wooden pitchforks and an iron stove. All told, the only disappointment is that the meat's sourced from Sysco. — Bryce Crawford
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