1485 Jamboree Drive, 264-1512, driftershamburgers.com
Just a couple years ago, Drifter's claimed the Indy's coveted and contentious Best Of award for Best Burger, and its following has remained loyal amidst the sea of chain shops and fine independent competitors. Ranch Foods Direct owner Mike Callicrate views the eatery (with two Springs locations) as a model, critical to moving his ground beef supply (which in turn allows for more primal-cut sales). Locals like seeing RFD attached. More importantly, Drifter's proves how a fast-food model can source non-commercial beef yet keep prices low.
We wouldn't keep talking about them if they didn't rock. A cheeseburger with grilled onions ($3.19) arrives on a bun nicely toasted to a mild crunch, its American cheese turned glorious goo. Make it a double cheeseburger ($4.49) and go "natural style" with a lettuce wrap in place of bread and the experience keeps its charm. The amount of stellar shoestring fries that shows up for $1.80 also earns our fealty. — MS
Adam's Mountain Café
26 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430, adamsmountain.com
Adam's new "cocktail hours" run from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. The draw: Bar apps drop from $6 or $7.50 to $5, alongside an $8 featured cocktail. We weren't intrigued by a rum, Triple Sec, citrus mix, so we opted for seasonal drinks. Both strawberry-lavender ($10.25) and Treeline ($10.75) martinis arrive balanced, neither overly sweet. The former highlights CapRock Gin from the North Fork Valley, with muddled fruit body and both lavender simple syrup and bitters. Three Pins Herbal Liqueur leads the latter, muddled with strawberries in a Buffalo Trace and faint lemon-ginger-bitters blend.
For bites, stellar vegetarian samosas exude Indian charm with robust chutneys, and a $2 upcharge for generous goat cheese is mandatory for the great, grill-marked rosemary-caper-almond bruschetta. From the main menu, Moroccan tilapia fish tacos ($15.50) benefit from lively Chermoula and Harissa sauces. Side saffron cannellini beans are a beauty. — MS
2593 Airport Road, 985-8332, horseshoedonuts.com
It's hard finding a doughnut that's really special. But Gloucester, Massachusetts-born twins Liz Schulze and Erin Glenn pull it off, bringing in ingredients from the East Coast to make some seriously standout doughnuts.
They're priced individually ($1.29 to $2.99), but buying a dozen nets a 10 percent discount. The raised doughnuts are soft and fluffy, though cherry and chocolate frostings read pure sugar. Go for a standout old-fashioned doughnut, buttery under its glaze. Cake doughnuts chew pleasantly, and blueberry beats regular, though both come moist under a crisp exterior. Stand-out specialties include a churro doughnut (cake in cinnamon sugar), a "horse tail" maple bar filled to order with good Bavarian cream or excellent cherry filling. A huge apple fritter balances cinnamon and apple. Dark coffee fans will enjoy a competently brewed cup of Firedance coffee ($1.75/medium), made with Tanzanian peaberry beans. — GS