Favorite

Eats 

RESTAURANTS

It's of course impossible to list every restaurant in and around the Pikes Peak region, but we've compiled here a list of reader favorites and staple outfits for each cuisine. Some places could easily fit into several genres, but we've done our best to categorize them most logically.

Afghani, Indian & South Asian

The Curry Leaf Restaurant ~ $

26 S. Wahsatch Ave., 447-0608 | curryleafrestaurant.com

Best of 2009

The Curry Leaf is the Springs' only Sri Lankan restaurant, and it rocks. The entirely unique cuisine draws from Indian, Malaysian, Dutch, Chinese and Portuguese influences, producing outstanding curry profiles punctuated by flavors like cinnamon, cardamom and spices you've likely never heard of. Get a Sri Lankan iced coffee, naan-style roti flatbread, the chicken curry and the coconut caramel custard.

Everest Nepal ~ $

28 E. Bijou St., 473-3890

It's rare to find a place where the lunch buffet stands against anything dinner has to offer. Everest Nepal is such a place. Start with a fresh salad, grab the standout tandoori chicken, and finish with the killer rice pudding. In between, thank your lucky stars for Nepal and Tibet's proximity to each other, and your proximity to the cuisine of both.

India Palace ~ $

5644 N. Academy Blvd., 535-9196 | indiapalacerestaurantcos.com

The all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffet is as American as chana masala — which, when we need that Eastern fix, is all we could ask for. India Palace shines with its delicious vegetable curry, lamb vindaloo and addicting butter naan. With additional catering options and a solid wine and beer list, it's a must-try.

Little Nepal ~ $

1747 S. Eighth St., 477-6997 | lnepal.com

With a diverse menu, Little Nepal is the perfect escape to a different kind of mountain cuisine. At the $9.66 lunch buffet, feast on a wide variety of vegetarian and meat soups, salads, curries, masalas, saags, vindaloos and makhanis. At dinner, order à la carte and mop your favorite Himalayan dish up with a cheese-, potato- or lamb-stuffed naan.

Mirch Masala ~ $

5047 N. Academy Blvd., 599-0003 | mirchmasalacuisine.com

At the daily $7.95 lunch buffet, you'll find traditional, curried vegetable dishes alongside kababs and lovely tandoori plates. Take a generous pull of naan to engulf the chicken curry or masala, and don't forget some saag paneer and dahl.

Rumi's Kabab ~ $

36 E. Bijou St., 635-7749

Afghan cuisine is kind of like a fusion of the essences of Indian and Middle Eastern food, minus the curry and hummus. Think yogurt sauces, lentils, lamb and beef kababs, floral teas, sweet rice pudding and baklava, all spiked with intoxicating spices and infusions like rosewater, cardamom and mint. Visit the $8.99 lunch buffet to sample widely.

Taste of India ~ $

4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428 | tasteofindiasprings.com

Best of 2009

Here you'll find the tastiest butter chicken in the city, and a family-dominated staff that will take care of you — just two reasons why Taste of India earned our readers' Best Indian nod in 2009. Lunch buffets here are legendary, and will help you quickly understand why the outfit has such a fine reputation within the local Indian community.


Restaurant Reviews

The Indy's revamped Web site allows you to comment on our restaurant reviews (and all our stories), and also to write your own. Simply click the food and drink tab above and search reviews or restaurants by name. Scroll down, look for the comment and review buttons, and let 'er rip.

A reader recently wrote in asking what we look for when we review a restaurant. We're happy to share a brief overview of our philosophy, and humbly suggest that you might consider similar things when you dine out.

Though we have no formal checklist, we tend to look first at the basics: décor, service, presentation, timeliness and food quality. From your approach to the door, to your greeting and seating, does anything seem awry? Is your waiter obsequious? Your wait lengthy? Silverware unpolished, or something unkempt? Is the door drafty, or is music blaring? Are you comfortable?

Among other queries: Are the food temperatures spot-on? Do all the plates arrive at the same time? Is the dish pretty, and did the kitchen have the sense to wipe the plate rims clean? Did the menu description match what you received? How does it compare to renditions of the same item elsewhere? Would you recommend your dish to a friend? Is there a dominant or out-of-balance flavor? Do the ingredient combinations make sense? Ultimately, is it worth the price to you?

With very few exceptions, we pay two visits to each place we review, so we can test consistency and the potential for different service points or examples of food quality. We attempt to bring an open mind and neutral position, and to take into account the perceived concept of a restaurant; in other words, we don't judge a gut-bomb, hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint with the same standards as we evaluate a dining facility at The Broadmoor.

In the end, we try to write fairly and honestly, because cheerleading does a disservice to everyone: readers who spend time and money on disappointing experiences, and restaurateurs who can't be prodded to improve what's lacking.

Barbecue

Bayou BarBQ ~ $

481 Hwy. 105, Suite G, Monument, 488-2799 | bayoubarbq.com

For locals with northern exposure, Bayou BarBQ serves excellent ribs and brisket. Simplicity reigns here: Unless it's Catfish Wednesday, smoked salmon and crawfish etouffee are the only main courses that come sans meat. Solid sides for $1.50 each include potato salad and cole slaw.

Bird Dog BBQ ~ $

5984 Stetson Hills Blvd., #200, 596-4900; 1645 Briargate Pkwy., #243, 599-4655 | birddogbbq.com

Add your dog's mug shot to Bird Dog's tabletop collection while diving into some of the juiciest barbecue in the city. Go for the DogHouse, a plate of brisket or pulled pork with hot links and Polish sausage, or the prime rib plate, served with okra and the "Shotgun Spud," a brisket-stuffed baked potato.

Firehouse Southern Style BBQ ~ $

817 W. Colorado Ave., 447-8829 | thefirehousebbq.com

Decked out in '50s style and employing a Southern touch, Firehouse treats its meats with aplomb. The same care goes into the incredible homemade pies.

Front Range Barbeque ~ $

2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596; 4935 Templeton Gap Road, 598-8895 | frontrangebbq.com

Best of 2009

From owner Brian Fortinberry's down-home family recipes to the top-notch musical talent that plays at the Old Colorado City location, Front Range Barbeque continually keeps the quality high and the Best Barbecue awards rolling in. At the east location, hit the drive-thru and take home a simply succulent spread.

Glad's Original Bar-B-Q ~ $

3750 Astrozon Blvd., #110, 392-4156; 1510 Chiles Ave. (Fort Carson), 576-1851 | gladsbbq.com

Ever since Alabama natives Grey and Marilyn Davis started inviting young soldiers into their home for food and counsel 20 years ago, they've had one goal in mind: to bring comfort through home cooking. Dinners range from $5.99 to $14.99; we recommend the barbecued ribs, covered in a thick, zesty spice rub.

Brewpubs & pub food

Judge Baldwin's Brewing Co. ~ $

Antlers Hilton Hotel, 4 S. Cascade Ave., 955-5600 | antlers.com

Judge Baldwin's menu has radically improved under two-time James Beard House invitee Ryan Blanchard. The outfit's beer isn't the best around, but it doesn't entirely disappoint at happy hours, which also offer absurd food specials. Get the ale and cheese soup, calamari or standout Maine lobster roll.

Keg Lounge ~ $

730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531

If you're not expecting to run into mouth-watering items like a tender filet mignon burger and the juiciest buffalo burger in Manitou, all sourced from Ranch Foods Direct, then you're not expecting the Keg. Look for the flatiron steak, covered in sautéed mushrooms, or for the awesome berry salad — or just drinks.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. ~ $$

2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800 | phantomcanyon.com

Best of 2009

Phantom is a downtown cornerstone, boasting well-kempt pool tables, solid beers and superior pub food. It won three Best Of categories last year: Brew Pub, Happy Hour and Restaurant for Tourists. The blonde ale and smoked gouda soup is legendary, and you can usually find a great steak or fish dish on the dinner menu.

Ritz Grill ~ $$

15 S. Tejon St., 635-8484 | ritzgrill.com

Best of 2009

With so many loyal downtown lunchers, the Ritz can't really change up its daytime menu for fear of reprisal. Dinner bumps up the innovation (and price points) with uppity eats like a $27 filet mignon. After food service, the space turns into one of the most lively club scenes downtown, with weekly live music and DJs.

SouthSide Johnny's ~ $

528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487 | southsidejohnnys.biz

SouthSide Johnny's caters to everyone from bikers to suits, with an accessible menu of burgers and the like, highlighted by gourmet treats like a mahi mahi salad, Kobe sliders and powdered sugar-dusted sweet potato fries. While marketed as a bar and music venue first, Johnny's surpasses average bar food.

Tony's Bar ~ $

311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566 | tonysdowntownbar.com

Best of 2009

Tony's is so entrenched downtown that it's won Best Neighborhood Bar for eight years consecutively and Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Bar for five. Beyond cheap pitchers, you'll find locally famous fried cheese curds and well-orchestrated standards like fish 'n chips and an array of sandwiches.

Trinity Brewing Company ~ $

1466 Garden of the Gods Road, 634-0029 | trinitybrew.com

With almost monthly house-made beer releases and a rare tap selection of obscure beers from around the country, Trinity is a bastion for hops lovers. Its eclectic menu — featuring items from seitan Buffalo wings to Colorado buffalo sliders — helps this sustainably minded outfit fend off the hunger pains of smart-minded drinkers.

Cafés

Adam's Mountain Café ~ $$

934 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430 | adamsmountain.com

Best of 2009

Adam's Mountain Café beautifully blends slow food and good food. Enjoy standout dishes like orange almond French toast at breakfast and a nut-laden Planet Burger for lunch. Enjoy the locally famous art of Manitou's Charles Rockey and lift a glass of organic wine to toast the café's 16th year of winning Best Restaurant for Herbivores.

Café 36 at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center ~ $$$

30 W. Dale St., 477-4377 | csfineartscenter.org/cafe36.asp

Operated by Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Café 36 boasts the undisputed best restaurant view in the city from its stunning terrace. Go for the three-course lunch for $20, truly a great deal for quality food, or catch a pre-SaGaJi-Theatre-show dinner of Tuscan-braised Colorado lamb shank and crispy Brie with warm cherry-ginger compote.

Coffee Cup Café ~ $

251 Front St., Monument, 488-0663 | coffeecupmonument.com

A Second Cup ~ $

13860 Gleneagle Drive, Monument, 481-6446 | asecondcup.net

After a fire and a three-month hiatus, the Coffee Cup is back to offering its signature biscuits and pork gravy, served along outstanding country potatoes. Its second Gleneagle location offers a coffee bar, spacious booths, microbrews and, notably, a salmon entrée served with delicious, crisp-roasted vegetables.

Coquette Creperie ~ $$

915 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2420 | coquettecreperie.com

Head to this coffeehouse-meets-hipster-bar (Manitou's answer to downtown's Shuga's) for outstanding dessert crepes like the Cheeky Monkey (bananas, Nutella, chocolate sauce and whipped cream) and luscious drinks like a lavender-infused mocha. Worth commendation: Coquette's organic and fair-trade sourcing, with all crepes gluten-free.

The Corner Café ~ $

7 E. Vermijo Ave., 520-1843 | cornercafecs.com

Best of 2009

Owners Virginia and Bob Smoot have captured the hearts of the court crowd and downtown workers. Their sandwiches, made from sustainably sourced meats, are entirely satisfying, especially with a cup of Bob's outstanding pork green chile. Look for breakfast specials like the Hot Garbage and Big Smokin' Doobie burritos.

Dale Street Café ~ $$

115 E. Dale St., 578-9898 | mydalestreetcafe.com

Set in a charming Victorian home, Dale Street boasts a diverse menu that ranges from quiche and frittatas to pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, salads and entrées topping out at a $19.95 ribeye. Consider the walnut-crusted mahi mahi, gorgonzola gnocchi or famous cream of artichoke soup. Three-course meals begin at $11.95.

European Café ~ $

935A Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3556

Best of 2009

This Manitou stalwart is the domain of chef and owner Bozena Jakubczyk. Get the crepes with sweet cheese — "delectable packets of cream-filled goodness," in the words of a co-worker — or one of the café's equally yummy egg dishes. Then, schedule a special order of Jakubczyk's pierogi.

Poor Richard's & Rico's Coffee, Chocolate & Wine Bar ~ $

322-324 N. Tejon St., 632-7721 | poorrichards.biz

Best of 2009

Poor Richard's is to downtown what the heart is to the body. Loyal diners love the hand-tossed pizzas with gourmet ingredients and dough alternatives (whole wheat and spelt), as well as the great salads and sandwiches. In Rico's, you can order from the main menu while enjoying wine, coffee or a drinking chocolate.

Second Street Art Market & Wine Bar ~ $

366 Second St., Monument, 488-2506 | secondstreetart.com

This art/wine/dining space soothingly mixes colors, textures and sounds. The light wines pair perfectly with tapas-style dishes like the Provençe, a plateful of Brie, smoked salmon, sweetened nuts and fresh fruit. For heartier fare, there's a killer chicken corn chowder and a Brie, sun-dried tomato and artichoke hearts baguette.

Shuga's ~ $

702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412 | shugas.com

Best of 2009

Shuga's is hipster heaven, and artistic touches abound. It nabbed Best Of awards last year for Place to Chill, Café, and Bar for a Specialty Mixed Cocktail. The lavender martini is rightfully legendary, as is the Spicy Brazilian Coconut Soup. Also of note: the bruschetta plate and funky, yummy sandwiches like the Quebec (Brie, prosciutto and apple on ciabatta).

Sunflower by Day / Moonflower by Night ~ $

287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0649 | thesunflower.qwestoffice.net

Sunflower by Day serves gluten-free and whole-grain pastry options, quality build-your-own sandwiches and fresh soups. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, the café transforms into the candle-laden Moonflower by Night — a hidden date-night gem filled with tasty small plates, creative wines and scrumptious desserts like the Brazilian Avocado Cream.

Wooglin's Deli & Café ~ $

823 N. Tejon St., 578-9443 | wooglinsdeli.com

Wooglin's offers almost everything: perfect coffee creations (including a velvety mocha), hot and cold "overstuffed" sandwiches, hummus, burgers, quesadillas, salads and even veggie chili. With live music in the eclectic interior, it's no wonder that townies help Colorado College kids keep it busy at all hours.

Cajun & Southern

Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen ~ $

6502 S. Academy Blvd., 282-8479 | culpeppers.net

Best of 2009

Owners Martin and Kathy Anderson moved Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen from the north side to South Academy and reworked the menu for a more casual, less expensive dining experience. They've come out the other side with a true gem, as evidenced by their Best Cajun win. Try the Gulf Shrimp Po-Boy and look for lunch prices all day.

English Dockside ~ $$

2220 N. Academy Place, 380-7732 | englishdockside.com

English Dockside has perfected the art of serving fresh seafood in the mountain air. Just look at the variety: whole snapper, swordfish steak, soft shell blue crab. Plus, Thomas English and members of his lovely family have recently added burgers and wings to the menu.

Nawlins BarBQ & Seafood ~ $$

3317 Cinema Point Drive, 571-9777 | nawlinsbarbq.com

Hurricane Katrina may have taken Martin Allred out of New Orleans, but it didn't take New Orleans out of Martin Allred. For that, we're thankful. His Nawlins menu screams authenticity, from appetizer (light and crisp fried green tomatoes) to entrée (juicy pulled pork sandwiches, with perfectly matched sweet and spicy homemade sauces) through dessert (wonderfully fluffy beignets).

Oscar's Tejon Street~ $

333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070 | oscarstejonstreet.com

Oscar's East ~ $

5910 Omaha Blvd., 574-7447

Best of 2009

Though Oscar's still serves bar standards like burgers and club sandwiches, owner Phil Duhon overhauled the menu with a Cajun flair last year. His standout crawfish bisque earned him a writer's nod for Best Unusual Soup in a Local Restaurant, a new award to go along with his perennial Best Smokin' Patio pick.

A Taste of New Orleans Café ~ $

333 N. Tejon St., Unit B, 667-7286

Beth Mell just moved her mellow Big Easy operation downtown after a year in Old Colorado City. The expanded space accommodates her upgraded menu of authentic New Orleans cuisine, which includes po-boys, Cajun barbecue and seafood galore. The pecan-crusted catfish rocks; also try the jambalaya and finish with Ms. B's signature bread pudding.

Chinese

Chopsticks Asian Bistro ~ $

120 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 579-9111 | chopsticksasianbistro.com

You won't find any goopy sauces or canned mushrooms at this white-tablecloth establishment. What you will find: a minimalist dining room, an attentive, sharply dressed wait staff, and care and delicate spices put into each dish. Standout: the sesame chicken.

Dragon Gate Chinese Restaurant ~ $

323 N. Union Blvd., 633-1166; 7607 N. Union Blvd., 528-5153

Dragon Gate offers quick pick-up orders and deliveries and friendly in-house service, with food that betters most. Start with an order of crab rangoons and then get your favorite stir-fry.

Lanshing Café ~ $

9475 Briar Village Point, #150, 266-8351

Owners Cheau and Simpson Jiang clearly have a passion for food. Each dish — like the perfectly cooked pork egg foo young — is made fresh. They're also not afraid to pile on the veggies: the delicious garlic chicken features bamboo shoots, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, and garlic.

Shanghai Café ~ $

1107 S. Nevada Ave., #103, 634-4270

Kevin Tran brings 25 years' Chinese cooking experience to his modest south end restaurant. It shows with crisp veggies, perfectly tender meats and vibrant, flavorful sauces across the menu.

Silver Pond Chinese Gourmet ~ $$

5670 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343 | bestsilverpondchinese.com

Consistently voted some of the best Chinese in the city, Silver Pond offers a comprehensive list of gourmet Chinese. With multitudes of tofu, noodle and fried rice dishes, it's a vegetarian-friendly menu, but we'd recommend the strawberry or mango chicken and shrimp.

Coffee cafés & soda shops

These outfits, though known first for their drinks first, actually offer a pretty wide array of respectable eats, too. See a list of coffee and tea houses on p. 45 for more.

Agia Sophia ~ $

2902 W. Colorado Ave., 632-3322 | agiasophiacoffeeshop.com

With ties to the local Greek Orthodox church and doubling as a small peddler of classic religion, history and philosophy books, this opulent outfit (think leather couches) serves excellent Colorado Coffee Merchants-sourced drinks and a killer red bell pepper hummus off a tight food menu.

Bona Dea Tea House ~ $

1824 W. Colorado Ave., 473-8322

Bona Dea is a converted Victorian complete with murals and chandeliers and nearly 200 international tea offerings next to delicate food items served inside hollowed puff pastry. Look for rich cakes and sipping chocolates as well.

Canyon Coffee & Café ~ $

1791 S. Eighth St., 633-7400

Serving High Rise Coffee Roasters products, this corner coffee spot is also an earnest café, serving fine sandwiches, salads and homemade baked goods.

Coffee Exchange & Wine Bar ~ $

526 S. Tejon St., 635-0277

Under new ownership with a slightly revamped menu and later hours, the Coffee Exchange serves breakfast sandwiches and drinks like Irish coffees (thanks to its liquor license). Barista coffee products and four beers are available on tap.

Deb's Coffee House ~ $

2 S. 25th St., 630-5100 | debscoffeehouse.com

Located in a charming Victorian in Old Colorado City, Deb's offers traditional afternoon teas and Colorado Coffee Merchants-based drinks like the house Debbieato. Also look for salads, sandwiches and a full range of sweets.

Dog Tooth Coffee Company ~ $

505 E. Columbia St., #100, 632-0125 | dogtoothcoffee.com

This neighborhood roaster offers standout paninis and super-yummy homemade gelato in addition to fun, dog-themed coffee offerings.

The Maté Factor Café ~ $

966 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3235 | thematefactorcafe.com

Operated by friendly members of our local Twelve Tribes community (no, not a cult), this maté stop procures high quality yerba maté direct from a community in Brazil. The warm, wood-dominant atmosphere offers a great place to study or socialize late; snacks and sweets are available, too.

Montague's Parlour ~ $

1019 S. Tejon St., 623-6774 | montaguesparlour.com

Filled with lavish furniture perfect for idling and conversing, Montague's features a wide variety of teas by the pot and Barista coffee products. Look for fine cakes and pastries as well as delicious soups and salads.

R&R Coffee Café ~ $

11425 Black Forest Road, Black Forest, 494-8300 | rnrcoffeecafe.com

R&R is a dining spot with some gourmet flair. Roastmaster Ryan Wanner's drinks are well-balanced and let the coffee and espresso speak for themselves. Chef Robert Hudson rocks everything from soups to house-baked breads, which he uses for outstanding sandwiches and the like.

Squeak Soda Shop ~ $

812 Village Center Drive, 265-4677 | squeaksodashop.com

Squeak takes you back to when all you cared about were sweet, creamy and fizzy things. Grab some Pop Rocks, Laffy Taffy or wax bottles and get down with some Nintendo Wii or Monopoly. Try one of the sodas made with pure cane sugar or Splenda, and a spritz of cucumber, pumpkin pie or black cherry flavoring.

Wisdom Tea House ~ $

65 Second St., Monument, 481-8822 | wisdomteahouse.com

Wisdom Tea House is the place to find the best buffalo burger in the area: It's tender and juicy, with roasted Poblano peppers, red pepper aioli and spinach. On the tea side, enjoy the green Da Hong Pao oolong, or the jasmine white.

Diners & comfort food

Barney's Diner ~ $

129 W. Las Animas St., 632-1756

Barney's turns 45 this year, as the vinyl booths held together by strips of red duct tape will attest. This is a classic, cheap (topping out at around $6) diner frequented by everyone from hipsters to businessmen in ties and power plant workers from across the street. Oddly (and wonderfully), it stocks sustainability-minded products from local Ranch Foods Direct and Decker and Son Sausage Co.

The Goose Berry Patch ~ $

660 State Hwy. 115, Penrose, 372-3910

Heart-adorned window shutters, goose-print lace curtains, knickknacks galore: The Goose Berry Patch exemplifies small-town charm. It's worth a stop when headed south on 115, mainly for its outstanding pies and probably the best blackberry cobbler we've ever had. But you'll also enjoy any one of seven specialty burgers and the cream-cheese-filled jalapeño poppers.

King's Chef Diner ~ $

110 E. Costilla St., 634-9135; 131 E. Bijou St., 636-5010 | kingschefdiner.com

Best of 2009

Winner of the greasy spoon trifecta (Best Late-Night Dining, Green Chili and Diner), King's Chef brings the pain through the power of its green chili. It's equally good at the 13-seat purple castle as at its expanded Bijou Street location. If you're brave or nuts, try the New Mexico Stomper, an hour-long eating challenge to finish five pounds of hamburger meat.

Maggie Mae's Restaurant & Pub ~ $

2405 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 475-1623

Best of 2009

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the menu offers pages of options, from the hearty "meat lover's omelet" to one of the best green chilis in town. In business for 38 years, and yet still something of a secret, Maggie Mae's is a worthwhile destination — especially if you've got a Bush/Cheney sticker on your ride.

The Mason Jar ~ $

2925 W. Colorado Ave., 632-4820; 5905 Corporate Drive, 260-6555 | masonjarcolorado.com

This 28-year-old comfort food restaurant is so family-friendly, it's almost your-mother's-kitchen-esque. Southern-fried catfish will give you a taste of the bayou, but for something with a little more gravy, get the chicken-fried steak; more than a million people who've ordered the classic can't be wrong.

The Omelette Parlor ~ $

900 E. Fillmore St., 633-7770 | co-spgs-omeletteparlor.com

Best of 2009

The Omelette Parlor is one of those Sunday standbys whose parking lot is always jammed. It's won Best Breakfast every year since 1996, testament to its loyal customers and the great food they crave. Try the kitchen-sink-in-a-tortilla Thunderbird omelette, or a sweet plate like the Paddy-Cake Paddy-Cakes.

Pantry Restaurant ~ $

6980 Lake St., Green Mountain Falls, 684-9018

It's the breakfast you can never make yourself, tucked into the mountains you can't wait to get to. It's the perfect French toast, boasting a rich cinnamon flavor. It's the juicy, half-pound burger that you're a little afraid of. And it's all made fresh, from scratch.

Western Omelette ~ $

16 S. Walnut St., 636-2286 | westernomelette.com

In the constant battle to provide the best green chili around, Western Omelette consistently dishes out award-worthy stuff. Try it in the morning over the breakfast chimichanga, or pace yourself and go with the club burger for lunch. Either way you can't lose, especially with the friendly service and pro-wallet prices.

Fondue

Melting Pot ~ $$$

30-A E. Pikes Peak Ave., 385-0300 | meltingpot.com

A locally owned franchise outlet, Melting Pot offers a friendly and elegant subterranean dining experience, with a wide range of cheese, meat and chocolate choices for dipping. Plus, it's got a surprisingly good wine list.

The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant ~ $$$

733 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-0277 | monalisafondue.com

Of the three cheese fondue offerings, go with the strawberry salsa-enlivened South of the Border. Then pick a platter (traditional, seafood or wild game) and finish with the heavenly delight known as angel food cake (among fruits, pretzels and other treats) dipped in customized melted chocolate.

French

La Baguette ~ $

Multiple locations | labaguette-co.com

Family-owned and -operated, La Baguette specializes in freshly baked, French-style bread, and delights the senses with its savory French onion soup. Options like tomato and mozzarella plates, pasta tortellini and a delightful spinach salad (with eggs, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette) are but some of the tasty creations you'll find at this staple.

La Creperie Bistro ~ $$$

204 N. Tejon St., 632-0984

Here's fine French dining as it was meant to be: in a small, intimate setting with a wonderful sidewalk patio. Each crepe shines for its unique flavor, but we recommend the seafood option with mushrooms, covered in a delicate white-wine sauce. Additionally, a solid wine list and offerings like escargot make La Creperie an ideal destination for the Francophile in your family.

German

Edelweiss Restaurant ~ $$

34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220 | edelweissrest.com

Best of 2009

This mainstay of fine European cooking has won Best German 12 years in a row. With schnitzels like wiener, zigeuner, rahm and jaeger all priced between $15 and $16, those raspberry mousse or triple chocolate tortes are just ... dessert. In summer, grab a tall glass of German beer and enjoy one of the most comfortable patios in town.

Schnitzel Fritz ~ $

4037 Tutt Blvd., 573-2000 | schnitzelfritz.com

When Mitch and Anke Verburg, the folks behind Elke's German Deli in Fountain, opened Schnitzel Fritz, north-siders finally got an outlet for those jaegerschnitzel cravings. The schnitzels here are baked in an imported German oven and offered au naturel or with toppings like mushroom gravy or grilled onions.

Uwe's

31 Iowa Ave., 475-1611

You'd never expect the food to be what it is in this German restaurant, which is stuck in an outdated strip mall off the beaten path. Alpine booths set the stage for a meal that is as delicious as it is reasonably priced. Two tasty choices: rouladen and the pork schnitzel.

Gourmet & eclectic

Amuzé Bistro ~ $$$

292 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 481-1700 | amuzebistro.com

Originally constructed in 1874 as a bunkhouse for Denver and Rio Grande railroad workers, this warm, cottage-sized space is now the playground of skilled chef Bill Sherman. The creative and complex menu includes duck with a huckleberry habañero pan sauce and a red chili crème brulée. Entrées top out at a $48 filet mignon; reservations are a must.

B&E Filling Station Restaurant ~ $$

25 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 481-4780 | bandefillingstation.com

Venture to Palmer Lake for a special Sunday brunch at 14-year-old B&E, and you'll find lovely dishes like buckwheat pancakes with bourbon maple syrup. Head out for dinner during the week and enjoy treats like green chili pork osso bucco and New Zealand rack of lamb, prepared by chef and owner Chris Bohler.

Bistro de Pinto ~ $$$

26 E. Kiowa St., 473-3538 | bistrodepinto.com

Best of 2009

Operated by Tammy and Mike Pinto, this has been a downtown fine-dining fixture since 2006. Awarded Best Wait Staff in 2008 and 2009, Bistro shines with a cozy dining room and offerings like the brandy apricot chicken, a macadamia-encrusted chicken breast with chef's whipped potatoes and brandy apricot sauce.

The Black Bear ~ $$$

10375 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-9648 | blackbearrestaurant.com

Chef and proprietor Victor Matthews offers a dining experience that few in town can replicate. Perhaps the most memorable option is the Chef's Table Tasting Menu, where the chef or one of his star Paragon Culinary School pupils comes out and customizes a full-course meal for the table.

The Blue Star ~ $$$

1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086 | thebluestar.net

Best of 2009

Restaurateur Joe Coleman's original Springs venture, the Blue Star, won a stunning nine Best Of awards last year, including firsts in Overall Restaurant and Innovative Menu. The bar side offers a casual atmosphere and less expensive fare. The dining room features a contemporary menu of gourmet entrées like duck and lamb decked out in creative sauces, with yummy sides like sweet potato pancakes.

Briarhurst Manor Estate ~ $$$

404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864 | briarhurst.com

Best of 2009

At this 35-year-old Manitou landmark, an extensive wine list complements fine-dining winners like the braised bison short ribs, Rocky Mountain oysters and Colorado lamb chops prepared by young chef Tyler Peoples. The place has also been featured on Ghost Hunters, which is just cool.

The Broadmoor restaurants ~ $ to $$$

1 Lake Ave., 577-5733 | broadmoor.com

Best of 2009

For relaxed eats and drinks, hit up the Golden Bee or the Tavern. Upgrade to the Summit for artful specialties by chef Bertrand Bouquin and a stellar wine selection. For a lavish special-occasion brunch, it's the Lake Terrace Dining Room. Charles Court is the next step up with elegant Colorado cuisine, and the Penrose Room reigns supreme; its five-diamond, five-star rating is shared by only 14 other outfits in the nation.

Carlos' Bistro ~ $$$

1025 S. 21st St., 471-2905

Delicious appetizers like shrimp cocktail or tuna tartare start the night off right, and superb cocktails, like the key lime martini, keep it going. Owner Carlos Echeandia is famous for working the dining room, a friendly gesture that helps blunt any sticker-shock following your meal.

The Cliff House at Pikes Peak ~ $$$

306 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3000 | thecliffhouse.com

Best of 2009

The historic hotel's cushy wicker-chair-filled veranda defines comfort, and the new Red Mountain Bar & Grill offers killer patio views. Eat in the main area for a special, yet affordable meal and pick from elegant fish and game entrées (like, say, the phyllo-wrapped Colorado lamb with mint and an apple-apricot purée); relax in the bar for more mellow appetizers.

Craftwood Inn ~ $$$

404 El Paso Blvd., Manitou Springs, 685-9000 | craftwood.com

Using local meats and in-season vegetables, Craftwood is the perfect place to sample the gustatory goodness Colorado provides. New head chef Ben Hoffer and a talented crew are putting out dynamic and beautiful plates, such as the honey-rosemary grilled wild boar tenderloin over house-made venison sausage cassoulet.

The Famous ~ $$$

31 N. Tejon St., 227-7333 | thefamoussteakhouse.net

Best of 2009

The Famous is the truly upscale, high-end winner of Best Steakhouse and Best Restaurant for Carnivores. Expect to pay more than $40 for the best steaks — filet mignon, porterhouse or the exemplary bone-in Kansas City strip. During the afternoon hours, enjoy a lunch menu with smaller cuts of reasonably priced meat.

Joseph's Fine Dining ~ $$$

1606 S. Eighth St., 630-3631 | josephsdining.com

Owner Joseph Freyre, a wizard of tableside presentation, would gladly speak for his restaurant, but his menu speaks for itself. Try the Colorado lamb chops with rosemary mint au jus, or the crab-stuffed Idaho white trout draped in a white wine chipotle cream sauce. A cherries jubilee flambé may be the ultimate encore.

MacKenzie's Chop House ~ $$$

128 S. Tejon St., 635-3536 | mackenzieschophouse.com

Go underground and enjoy the exposed-brick cool with other downtown carnivores at MacKenzie's. We recommend the New York strip — an eight-ounce cut of choice strip loin topped with smoky tobacco onions — medium-rare. For ridiculous flavor, go with the Beef and Brie: tenderloin tips with baked Brie and garlic crostinis.

The Margarita at PineCreek ~ $$$

7350 Pinecreek Road, 598-8667 | margaritaatpinecreek.com

At dinner, enjoy one of three-, five- or six-course prix fixe options ($34 to $75), which defy cuisine categorization and change almost daily. Head downstairs for a cheaper bar/lounge menu that changes each fall, or just come at lunch. In the summer, be aware of dinner-and-a-movie nights on the riverside patio, and the Saturday morning Colorado Farm and Art Market.

Marigold Café & Bakery ~$$$

4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776 | marigoldcafeandbakery.com

Best of 2009

For almost 18 years, Marigold has been charming diners with a French bistro-inspired menu of gourmet, contemporary cuisine and standout baked goods. Readers honored it last year with nods for Best Bakery and Best Restaurant for Dessert. For savory: Start with escargot or a loaded salad, then move to a quality fish, steak, pasta or pizza entrée.

Metropolitain ~ $$$

101 N. Tejon St., 302-0280 | themetropolitaindowntown.com

Enter through the pseudo-subway entrance on Kiowa Avenue and say goodbye to the Springs. Descend into Metropolitain, and you venture into an ultra-chic city nightclub sporting uppity eats. Depending upon your mood, grab a martini and a cheese plate or glass of wine and the pine-nut-encrusted lamb loin.

moZaic ~ $$$

443 Hwy. 105, 481-1800, Palmer Lake | innatpalmerdivide.com

Inside the posh Inn at Palmer Divide, moZaic offers splendid views and European-inspired treats for all tastes. You can't go wrong with the three-course prix fixe menu ($22), but there's no harm in heading another route — say, an antipasto plate followed by bison short ribs, duck ravioli or the Colorado lamb. Over wine, of course.

Mucky Duck ~ $$

10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-2008

Sunday brunch brings nearly a dozen styles of eggs Benedict covered in delicious Hollandaise. But don't fill up, because dinner is coming, and dinner demands Colorado lamb, or even elk. For outdoorsy types, a recently expanded patio should help welcome in the warmer months.

Nosh ~ $$

121 S. Tejon St., 634-6674 | nosh121.com

Best of 2009

One of three Joe Coleman power ventures, Nosh works largely off a small-plate concept, from calamari and edamame to gnocchi and charcuterie. Of course, you can also just drop in for a happy hour drink and sweet potato fries, or in the summer, for live music on the expansive patio.

Oakley's Café & Bistro at Sundance Mountain Lodge ~ $$

1865 Woodmoor Drive, 481-6000 | sundancemountainlodge.com

Dine from the same menu in either a bright, Western-themed room or a dark, jazz-style bistro, and start with the waffle-cut fries with bacon, bleu cheese and green onion, and drizzled with ranch dressing and a spicy Buffalo sauce. End with an excellent Italian peach and mango sorbet.

The Olive Branch Restaurant ~ $$

23 S. Tejon St., 475-1199 | theolivebranchrest.com

Stop in at any time of the day, and you'll understand why the Olive Branch has weathered 20 years downtown. Breakfast brings well-executed renditions of all the regulars, lunch earns loyalty with standout soups, salads and sandwiches (plus a rippin' lemon bread), and dinner tops out at $15.95, with lots of vegetarian options.

The Pepper Tree ~ $$$

888 W. Moreno Ave., 471-4888 | peppertreecs.com

Though the view is killer, we think you'll be more enticed by the heady vapors rising from your Chateaubriand for Two: a 16-ounce center-cut filet mignon topped with a béarnaise sauce and served with a bouquetière of vegetables. Coming in at $39 per person, it's not for the faint of wallet or heart. But it's damn good, and nothing beats tableside food service.

Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone ~ $$$

123 N. Main St., Pueblo, 719/542-9999 | restaurant1521.com

If you try one thing, make it the pan-seared Australian sea bass: a perfectly crisped, flaky filet riding a shrimp-laden rice cake covered in a breathtaking miso beurre blanc sauce next to baby bok choy. Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone currently owns the gourmet scene in Pueblo, and for good reason.

Slayton's Tejon Street Grill ~ $$

28A S. Tejon St., 471-2311 | slaytonsbbq.com

Originally Slayton's Legendary Pit Barbeque, Slayton's updated its name and menu last fall. Look for dishes like the Wagyu Kobe beef cheeseburger and a smoky and tender pulled pork sandwich as well as a seared ahi tuna salad: a blend of tomatoes, candied pecans, sliced mango, avocado and Jack cheese, topped in a habañero vinaigrette.

Steaksmith ~ $$$

3802 Maizeland Road, 596-9300 | steaksmith.com

The Indy's consistently recognized 29-year-old Steaksmith with various awards, and we don't have the space to hit them all again. So suffice it to say that this is an eminently worthwhile destination for meat cuts aged in-house for up to eight weeks and complemented by one of the best wait staffs in the city.

Sunbird ~ $$$

230 Point of the Pines Drive, 598-8990 | thesunbird.com

Famous for its Sunday brunch that includes bottomless champagne and dishes like London broil and a delicious eggs Benedict, the Sunbird shines at dinner, too. Consider the Sunbird Salmon Oscar: Atlantic salmon topped with crabmeat, asparagus and a creamy Hollandaise sauce next to rice pilaf. And the view is gorgeous 24-7.

Swiss Chalet ~ $$$

19263 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-2001 | swisschaletofwoodlandpark.com

The humble, wood-walled construction belies the delectable European-inspired items inside. Brought to us by the same folks as the Pepper Tree, Swiss Chalet offers perhaps the best escargot in the region in addition to entrées like a Chilean sea bass covered with grenobloise (browned butter, capers, parsley and lemon).

Tabeguache Steakhouse ~ $$$

407 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-8536 | tabeguachesteakhouse.com

Tabeguache sources its steaks from Ranch Foods Direct, and its concern for quality food translates into proper care for the meat on the grill. The natural flavor is all you need, though the filet mignon's bacon wrap doesn't hurt. Either the Strawberry Fields or feta spinach salads make a great starter; the flaming Bananas Foster says farewell fondly.

Walter's Bistro ~ $$$

146 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 630-0201 | waltersbistrocs.com

Local gourmet options abound, making it hard to stand out. Unless, of course, you're offering dishes like grilled Hawaiian blue marlin in a ginger-coconut sauce aside cilantro rice, braised baby bok choy and macadamia nuts, then ending the night with pumpkin spice caramel cheesecake next to a raspberry truffle martini. That's Walter's.

The Warehouse Restaurant & Gallery ~ $$$

25 W. Cimarron St., 475-8880 | thewarehouserestaurant.com

The warm industrial-chic interior is the perfect place to enjoy Chip Johnson's culinary creations, which often revolve around Colorado products. Start with the intriguing bison carpaccio, then get the barbecued orange chipotle wild boar marinated with citrus and cilantro, served with fried tomatoes, sugar snap peas and peppered polenta sticks.

Wines of Colorado ~ $$

8045 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Cascade, 684-0900 | winesofcolorado.com

With more than 40 Colorado wineries represented, it's a mountain oenophile's paradise, and well worth a visit. But when you drop in, make sure you're hungry; you can enjoy dishes like whole, smoked garlic served on flatbread in addition to a favorite smoked salmon Caesar salad.

Irish & English

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub ~ $$

21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766 | jackquinnspub.com

Best of 2009

"Quinn's," our regular Best Irish Pub winner, is a downtown staple, and offers more than a good pint of Guinness in a traditional pub setting. It's also home to a weekly running club and traditional Irish music sessions. When the beers leave the belly wanting, order some bangers and mash, a shepherd's pie or plate of fish and chips.

McCabe's Tavern ~ $

520 S. Tejon St., 633-3300 | mccabestavern.com

While an easy pick for corned beef and Guinness, McCabe's is much more than that. A solid mix of local and European beers will quench your thirst, and the menu, including a killer lamb stew, will take care of the rest. Forego the diet for Scotch eggs (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, then breaded and fried) or a Reuben sandwich.

Italian, pasta & pizza

Billy's Old World Pizza ~ $

308 S. Eighth St., 630-3400

A fixture in the independent pizza scene for 18 years now, Billy's features Chicago-style deep-dish and thin-crust offerings, delivered or for dine-in. Also enjoy a full Italian buffet ($8.25/lunch, $9.75/dinner) with hearty Italian standards like pastas, traditional entrées, homemade soups and a salad bar.

Borriello Brothers ~ $

Multiple locations | borriellobrothers.com

Best of 2009

From eight stores in Colorado Springs, Borriello Brothers dishes out 18-inch, hand-tossed New York-style beauties, topped with the standards of your choosing. The outfit recently added personal-sized gluten-free pizzas, and also serves up salads, subs, appetizers and calzones.

Fratelli Ristorante Italiano ~ $$

124 N. Nevada Ave., 575-9571 | fratelliristorante.com

Offering Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, Fratelli makes wonderful salads featuring organic produce, and entrées are top-notch. Traditional plates like Genovese-style pesto cream gnocchi and fettuccine primavera pair wonderfully with a nice Chianti.

Il Vicino ~ $

11 S. Tejon St., 475-9224 | ilvicino.com

Best of 2009

Il Vicino removed its in-house brewery several years ago to make room for more tables, a sign of demand for its delectable wood-oven pizzas, delicious panini and heaping salads. Oh yeah — and that beer, now brewed elsewhere for them. Voted co-Best Local/Regional Restaurant Chain, this outfit will earn your love.

Joey's Pizza ~ $

1829 Briargate Blvd., 265-6922 | myspace.com/joeysnypizza

Long Island-born Joey Stasolla's worked in pizza since he was 14. Enjoy his light, crisp and delicate Margherita ($18.99), which sports a mild pomodoro sauce, fresh basil, garlic and Roma tomatoes. Or get the awesomely named Rocky Balboa hoagie.

Louie's Pizza ~ $

Multiple locations | louies-pizza.com

Louie's may not be the most gourmet pizza in the city, but there's a definite appeal to its greasiness. Take the garlic bread topped with melted mozzarella (wait, don't take my garlic bread): simple, yet buttery deliciousness that pairs perfectly with marinara.

Luigi's Homemade Italian Food ~ $$

947 S. Tejon St., 632-7339 | luigiscoloradosprings.com

1958. That's the year Leo and Anne Cervetti opened Luigi's. Now their daughter, Gina Costley, and her husband Les carry the torch. The traditional Northern Italian food (with its Chicago influence) hasn't changed: Delicious manicotti, ravioli, lasagna, pizza ... it's all there, with a salad or soup and fresh bread included.

Mangia Mangia! ~ $$

407 E. Grace Ave., Woodland Park, 687-3400

The name means Eat Eat!, and many Woodland Parkers return often to do just that. Many get greeted by name. We like that all entrées come with quality dinner salads, and we love the sausage puttanesca plate, beurre blanc salmon filet and the gluten-free pasta option.

Mollica's Italian Market & Deli ~ $

985-A Garden of the Gods Road, 598-1088; 1872 Southgate Road, 635-9889 | mollicas.com

Already a 20-year fixture of Garden of the Gods Road, family-owned Mollica's recently opened a second, much larger location at Southgate. Its huge deli, market and dining space will still treat you to the classics: lasagna, tortellini, manicotti and maybe the best cannoli in town.

Panino's Restaurant ~ $

604 N. Tejon St., 635-7452; 1721 S. Eighth St., 635-1188 | paninos.com

Panino's is family-owned and -operated, offering a menu complete with pizza, pasta and salads, and the signature "panino" sandwich. Each of the 35 paninos (buffalo chicken, Philly, Reuben, grinder, etc.) comes wrapped in a crispy, toasted white or wheat dough. Enjoy daily happy hours and weekly specials, like Tuesday's all-you-can-eat pizza for $6.99.

Paravicini's Italian Bistro ~ $$

2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200 | paravicinis.com

Best of 2009

Paravicini's food practically explodes with color and flavor. Enjoy signature originals such as veal scaloppini with spicy Italian sausage, onions, hot and sweet peppers, capers, olives and garlic, as well as the tortellini carbonara and beef-and-spinach lasagna. Franco Pisani and co-owner Tex Sexton also run Palmer Lake's La Zingara.

Pizza Time ~ $

8794 N. Union Blvd., 282-4177 | pizzatimecolorado.com

Roger and Imelda Chugh's Pizza Time is a family-friendly place offering a solid mix of pizza, subs, salads and pasta. Particularly notable are the two-person Antipasto salad — greens, bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, salami, pepperoni and ham — and the numerous gluten-free options (including pizza dough, pasta and beer). Finish with a Hawaiian shaved ice.

Pizzeria Rustica ~ $$

2527 W. Colorado Ave., 632-8121 | pizzeriarustica.com

One of the only Green Restaurant Association's three-starred pizzerias in the country, Pizzeria Rustica dishes sustainably created goods like the Antipasto di Gorno: marinated, fire-roasted tomatoes and peppers, cured meats and perfectly complementary cheeses. The Rustica pizza is superb: bright tomato sauce lying under ribboned prosciutto and arugula, with a ricotta kick hidden in the crust.

Rasta Pasta ~ $$

405 N. Tejon St., 481-6888 | rastapastacs.com

Rasta Pasta's menu relies heavily on a proprietary blend of dry jerk seasoning and a house marinara sauce, with choice of heat level. Think Italian Caribbean fusion. Our favorite dish: the Tortellini Jamaica Mon, of ricotta-stuffed noodles, pineapple, bananas and grapes in a white wine sauce. It goes down nicely with a Red Stripe or house rum drink.

Roman Villa ~ $$

3005 N. Nevada Ave., 635-1806

It's hard not to be synonymous with great Italian food when you've been around since 1959, and literally have served generations of families from an intimate, 14-table dining room. Start with a soup or salad, then tackle one of the standout traditional entrées or a pizza.

Jamaican

Island Grill Take-out ~ $

1107 S. Nevada Ave., #101, 578-1468

When you feel like having a pick-me-up lunch, stop in for some jerk chicken. Curried chicken and ackee also stand out among a variety of interesting main and side dish options.

Jamaican Flavor ~ $

3016 S. Academy Blvd., 391-0142

The food here is hot but balanced, so you can taste the allspice, coconut milk, garlic and whatever else has infused it. The goat curry's an authentic meal, as is the oxtail and ackee, and it all goes down well with a ginger beer.

Korean

Café Banzai ~ $

230 Pueblo Ave., 227-7357

Located next to the Rocket Room, Café Banzai, which offers Korean and Japanese cuisine, is run by the talented Mr. Kwi Kim. His L.A.-style (thin-sliced) beef short ribs, marinated in pear and apple pureé and teriyaki sauce, are sensational. And you can't beat $5 daily lunch specials that will actually fill you up.

San Chang House ~ $

3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707

Best of 2009

If it always seems to be the strip-mall joints that shine brightest, it's because of spots like San Chang House, the Indy's winner for Best Korean. Thanks to a mean bulgogi (thinly-sliced barbecue beef) and a sweetly spiced dak gui (similar, but with chicken), it's understandable that San Chang boasts a huge patronage of loyals.

Tong Tong ~ $

2036 S. Academy Blvd., 591-8585

Short of boarding a plane and heading for Seoul, Tong Tong is about as authentic as you're gonna get. Its bulgogi comes served on an iron skillet, and each meal includes side dishes like kimchi and bok choy.

Mediterranean

Caspian Café ~ $$

4375 Sinton Road, 528-1155 | caspiancafe.com

It's Mediterranean in spirit, but multi-ethnic in practice. Consider that the French-inspired Steak Niçoise, a pan-seared ribeye with sautéed tomatoes, Spanish olives and shallots, among other ingredients, shares menu space with a delicious beef and lamb kebab served with a refreshing yogurt sauce and pita bread. Don't forget dessert and live belly dancing on the weekends.

Heart of Jerusalem Café ~ $

4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554; 718 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1325 | heartofjerusalemcafe.com

Best of 2009

While sharing the Best Middle Eastern crown with Taste of Jerusalem (run by his former partner), Hussein Abukhdeir offers his own distinct spin on some desert classics. Look for the Heart of Jerusalem sandwich, a mix of lamb, beef and chicken breast. With the addition of a Manitou Springs location and a stuffed falafel option, Heart's future looks ever-tastier.

Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna ~ $$

2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406 | greekdining.com

Best of 2009

The lamb kebabs are delicious, the occasional complimentary ouzo is delightful, and the Greek salad decadent. Plus, with the reuniting of the Topakas brothers (Jake and Telly themselves) and extensive menu changes, Jake & Telly's is positioned to continue to defend its Best Greek title.

Mediterranean Café ~ $

118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115 | medcafe-co.com

Best of 2009

Before the other falafel-slingers downtown, there was the Mediterranean Café: winner of Best Gyro for rightful reasons. If you haven't tried the Half & Half (gyro and falafel together), you must. The Med Café's sauces are always vibrant, its pita is perfect, its meats burst with flavor, and salad options please the eat-light crowd.

The Nile Café ~ $

954 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1410 | thenilecafeco.com

Sit at comfy tables (that double as hookah booths), and enjoy a veggie plate or Meze platter, which are great options for sampling the Nile's respectable baba ghanoush, hummus and tzatziki. Go for a falafel or the yummy Kafta Kabob, and enjoy belly dancers late on weekend nights and a more Egyptian take on Mediterranean food.

Taste of Jerusalem Café ~ $

15 E. Bijou St., 477-1777 | tasteofjerusalemcafe.com

Best of 2009

Co-winner of Best Middle Eastern with Heart of Jerusalem Café, Taste of Jerusalem and owner Abdul Nasser offer their own Yemeni spin on the classic (and delicious) shawarma sandwich. For the vegetarian in you, go with the falafel sandwich; the offering shines with perfect seasoning, and a wonderful crunch complemented by garlicky hummus.

Mexican, Tex-Mex & Southwest

Amanda's Fonda ~ $

3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975

Best of 2009

Our readers voted Amanda's Fonda the Best Mexican food in the entire city, and have done so 10 times. This staple of the west side dining circuit has clearly won a loyal following with its hefty portions of Tex-Mex standards. We love their stellar creekside patio space most.

El Camarón Loco ~ $$

2704 E. Fountain Blvd., 477-6940

This eatery sports an 80-plus-item, shrimp-dominant menu and happy crustacean murals above clean booths. But more impressive, it shows teeth — literally. Expertly fried fish come head-intact, and delicious, molten bowls of Caldo 7 Mares are stocked with seafood. Get the Camarones Rellenos (cream sauce-covered, bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with ham and cheese).

El Taco Rey ~ $

330 E. Colorado Ave., 475-9722 | eltacorey.com

El Taco Rey may translate as "The Taco King," but it's the smothered avocado and pork burrito that's the real king here. Just make sure you've scoped out a seat before ordering, though there's certainly worse ways to spend your time than standing around, shoveling in pork swimming in spicy heaven juice.

El Tesoro Restaurant & Gallery ~ $$

10 N. Sierra Madre St., 471-0106 | el-tesoro.com

Recently under new ownership, this Santa Fe-style menu features delicious items like ceviche — lime-marinated seafood covered in a salsa of tomatoes, scallions, cilantro and jalapenos — and a delicious chile relleno: a whole Poblano chile filled with Mascarpone, goat and white cheddar cheeses, topped with ginger salsa.

José Muldoon's ~ $

222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311 | restauranteur.com/josemuldoonscom

Best of 2009

Both day and night, this Tejon Street fixture accommodates diners and provides bar access on its expansive patio, which our readers named the best in 2009. Thanks to its outdoor heaters, not even winter can shut down the revelry. Drop in for a margarita and the Vegetable Topolobampo plate or the grilled buffalo fajitas.

La'au's Taco Shop ~ $

830 N. Tejon St., #110, 578-5228

La'au's at Bristol ~ $

1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555 | laaustacoshop.com

Start with the filling, add the salsa, experience the bliss. The mahi mahi tacos are probably the best in the city, and are closely followed by the peanut-marinated huli chicken tacos. Wash it all down with bottled beers from Bristol Brewing Co., which hosts a satellite La'au's location Wednesday through Sunday.

La Casita Patio Café ~ $

Multiple locations | lacasitapatiocafe.com

Best of 2009

With its pink stucco buildings, La Casita doesn't trade in subtlety — it trades in value, and delicious, bountiful salsa. The side bar containing the multitudes of choices is merely one of the reasons La Casita wins Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Restaurant. Others include the beef fajitas with guacamole, a large plate merging tender beef, grilled veggies and the best tortillas in the city.

La Perla Tapatía Mexican Taqueria ~ $

511 N. 30th St., 228-6006

La Perla Tapatía is home of the torta ahogada, or drowned sandwich — a giant baguette roll filled with pulled pork and tomato sauce. It's the most popular street item from Guadalajara, Mexico, where owner Sergio Lauriano grew up, and La Perla Tapatía is the only place you'll find it in town. Lauriano also serves a great tacos al pastor: pineapple-juice-tenderized pork stuffed into soft corn tacos.

The Loop ~ $$

965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9344 | theloopatmanitou.com

Best of 2009

The Loop seldom fails to claim Best Bar for a Margarita, thanks to a list of a dozen fun specialty versions that include top-shelf infusions and fruits. Tourists keep it rockin' in summer and faithful locals keep it alive in winter. The menu is huge and includes a lengthy fish section, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas and even burgers.

Monica's Taco Shop ~ $

Multiple locations

Best of 2009

Its perennial Best Taqueria win confirms what most already know: If you want the best quick tacos, you get 'em at Monica's. The juicy carne asada tacos come wrapped in hot corn tortillas and go great with the red or green salsas available at the counter; same for the spicy chicken cradled in fresh, hard shells.

Salsa Latina ~ $

28 E. Rio Grande St., 328-1513

Owner Danny Aguilar spent years toiling under his father at local favorite El Taco Rey, and he learned more than a thing or two about how to produce that magical, smoky green chili. One bite into his smothered burritos at Salsa Latina proves that the family recipe is alive and well. ¡Dé gracias a dios!

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill ~ $$

802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244; 9420 Briar Village Point, #100, 955-6650 | salsabravaonline.com

Best of 2009

You don't win Best Chips and Salsa, the hallmark of any good Mexican joint, by resting on your laurels. All the salsas at Salsa Brava are made fresh daily, and they complement a wide menu of Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas, enchiladas and chimichangas. Specialty plates like mahi mahi tacos and the seafood rellenos are worth a look, too.

Sonterra Grill ~ $$

28B S. Tejon St., 471-9222 | sonterragrill.com

Sonterra cradles you into its cactus-plant-accented bosom through warm colors and a ceiling painted to look like drifting clouds. In conjunction with the perfectly seasoned, dry-aged center-cut filet, which could be sliced with an infant's spoon, it creates a near-and-dear relationship between atmosphere and food. (Having a kick-ass margarita will only heighten that sense, by the way.)

Sushi & Japanese

Bara Sushi & Grill ~ $$

1645 Briargate Pkwy., #245, 599-7330 | sushibara.com

Bara offers sharp, ultramodern décor and beautiful food presentations. Get the Bara Roll, where bacon joins asparagus and baked salmon. Lunchtime offers some affordable options, such as a stocked box for $10.50. Bara's Nigiri pieces are as fresh as anyone's locally, and most of the fancy sushi creations deliver.

Fujiyama ~ $$

22 S. Tejon St., Suite A, 630-1167 | fujiyamasushi.com

With bamboo-accented walls, an intimate sushi bar, hibachi grills and a full liquor assortment, there remains very little reason not to indulge, especially with creations like the Tiger Mask roll: shrimp tempura, crab, spicy tuna, avocado and tempura flake.

Jun Japanese Restaurant ~ $$

1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368; 3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690 | junjapanese.com

Best of 2009

Jun is a charter member of the local sushi circuit, and you only have to look at its annual awards for Best Japanese and Best Sushi to see why. Fill up fast with one of the combination plates that feature a smattering of California rolls, a ginger-dressed salad, tempura and teriyaki of your choice.

Kura Japanese Restaurant ~ $$

3478B Research Pkwy., 282-8238

Kura tends to surprise at every turn. The asparagus-wrapped beef is wonderfully tender, and the asparagus itself bites you a bit. The crab balls are California crabmeat formed into spheres, covered in panko crumbs and flash-fried; combined with the sweet and creamy wasabi mayo, it's a winning combination.

Miyake Sushi & Mongolian BBQ ~ $$

3609 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 268-2565

Miyake Sushi is the domain of John Yi. Let him get you going with a crisp tempura soft-shell crab appetizer, then a fresh chili-and-garlic-sauce stir-fry from the Mongolian grill. Enjoy a sizzling chicken teriyaki entrée served with veggies and rice, and a mean Miyamoto Musashi roll of tuna, eel, crab, salmon and roe.

Sakura Sushi & Grill ~ $$

3117 W. Colorado Ave., 632-7866 | sakurasushi.us

Best of 2009

Sakura takes home a writer's choice Best Sexy Sushi Roll award for its Pink Lady Roll (a salacious amalgamation of crab tempura, cream cheese, cucumber, steamed shrimp and avocado), but the restaurant delivers across the board. We also like the Negihama Roll, a simple, yet delicious, combination of green onions and yellowtail.

Shinji's ~ $$

308-M S. Eighth St., 475-0669

The food may take a while, but that's because Shinji Shibuya preps sushi alone, true to small-town, rural Japanese restaurants. Every bite is worth the wait, and Shinji's unconventional special rolls redefine the genre.

Tomo Sushi ~ $$

975 N. Academy Blvd.,597-2422

Tomo II ~ $$

8029 N. Academy Blvd., 277-0200 | eatattomo.com

Tomo gets so many things right, it's hard to choose which to highlight. The original location boasts a roomy, but relaxed dining room, highlighted by a stone fireplace. The huge rolls, including the awesomely named Tijuana Ninja Roll, are creative and flavorful. And we can assure you that the plum sake goes down like water.

Yoo Mae ~ $$

21 E. Kiowa St., 473-8105

Chef JJ Kim has a dream, a dream in which each state is represented by its own individual roll. Take the Alabama: crab mated with spicy tuna, tempura and seaweed. Perfection. Though a little sauce-crazy at times, Kim has our constant culinary attention.

Thai

Arharn Thai ~ $

3739 Bloomington St., 596-6559 | arharnthai.net

Owner and Bangkok native Doungsamorn "Pong" Peanvanvanich proves that when your plates abound with bright, crisp vegetables, floral, pore-opening spices and generous strips of meat, you don't need a flashy name. "Food" (the English translation of "Arharn") will do.

Bhan Thai ~ $

1025 N. Academy Blvd., 574-3401; 4431 Centennial Blvd., 266-1309 | bhanthai.net

Three words: tom kha gai. It's a magnetizing mélange of lemongrass, galangal, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and bird chiles spinning around a coconut broth packing chicken or shrimp. If that doesn't do it for you, try the spiced noodles: drunken, black soy or otherwise.

Lanna Thai ~ $

8810 N. Union Blvd., 282-0474

A beautiful new addition to the Thai circuit, Lanna dishes outstanding curries that are true to temp — hot means hot. Go for the Pa-Nang Talay, which features buttery scallops, perfect calamari and quality shrimp and white fish in a basil-rich coconut milk bath. The starters, like spring rolls and traditional soups, burst with cilantro, galangal and other fresh spices.

Roungnapa/House of Yakitori 8 ~ $

319 N. Chelton Road, 597-8374

Focusing on both Thai and Japanese yakitori, Roungnapa shines with family recipes. Seafood lovers should try the pad phed pla muk, a combination of finely cut tender squid, bell pepper, onion and spicy Thai sauce. Poultry fans might opt for the delicious chicken teriyaki, juicy chicken in a sweet, dark sauce.

Taste of Thai Spice ~ $

1609 Lashelle Way, 226-1999

Clad in a strip-mall robe, Taste of Thai Spice is easy to miss. But doing so would be a huge mistake — after all, the food here tastes like it does on the streets of Thailand. It's the best Thai in the city, hands-down. Pad Thai, any curry dish, and the papaya salad all shine as exemplary tastes of, well, Thai spice.

Wild Ginger Thai Restaurant ~ $

3020 W. Colorado Ave., 634-5025 | wildgingerthai.com

Best of 2009

Wild Ginger has earned reader nods for Best Thai for nine consecutive years, and it's largely thanks to charming owner Khon Onexayvieng, whose big smile owns the two-tier dining room. But beyond that charm, folks of course go for competent versions of Thai staples.

Vietnamese & Filipino

Lemongrass Bistro ~ $

6840 N. Academy Blvd., 592-1391 | restauranteur.com/lemongrassbistro

Look to Lemongrass Bistro for standout Vietnamese in an area dominated by chain outfits. Its dishes are both beautiful and fragrant, with mint, basil and cilantro greeting you at the door. Get the unique beef lemon appetizer or the classic pho (rice noodles and brisket). Then dive into a bun noodle bowl with chicken, beef, pork or tofu.

Nanay Betty's Filipino Restaurant & Karaoke Bar ~ $

1863 S. Academy Blvd., 596-4019

The Philippines may be some 7,000 miles away, but Nanay Betty, her daughter Maribeth and her husband Plenty Groover have brought that ginger-amped soul food taste here to roost. Apps include dense and satisfying beef egg rolls that provide a perfect prequel to adobo chicken, which segues nicely into fried plantains wrapped in a rice paper, flash-fried and topped with a sugary glaze.

Saigon Café ~ $$

20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888 | coloradosaigoncafe.com

Best of 2009

Outstanding buns (noodle bowls) and fine renditions of all the usual suspects — from lo mein and fried rice to meat stir-fries — have made Saigon a seven-consecutive-year Best Vietnamese winner. But it goes well beyond, with a big menu, great value, good service and an expanded space that accommodates crowds of lunch and dinner regulars.

Vietnamese Garden ~ $

3043 W. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-9599 | vietnamesegarden.net

Owner and sole cook Dung My Tram runs this noodle and rice spot, making traditional dishes the way her mother taught her. She makes sauces daily and marinates meats overnight, which explains the vibrant quality of her dishes. Start with potato fritters, then hit one of her bun bowls (better than most) or the spicy beef soup.

CAN'T MISS EVENTS: FOOD

Herb Fest

May 1 | The Community for Spiritual Living, 3685 Jeannine Drive, 533-0707 | herbassociation.com

All herbs, all day long: Now in its eighth year, featuring speakers, vendors and healers covering cooking, growing and healing applications.

Taste of the Springs

Early summer; date and venue to be determined | tasteofthesprings.org

Stuff yourself silly at this benefit for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, featuring food and drink tastings provided by dozens of acclaimed local restaurants and catering companies.

Fiddles, Vittles and Vino

July 25 | Rock Ledge Ranch, 3202 Chambers Way, 578-6777 | fiddlesvittlesandvino.com

As fun to attend as it is to say. Fiddles, Vittles and Vino features live bluegrass and food and drink tastings, in benefit of the historic ranch.

Pasta in the Park

Aug. 21 | Myron Stratton Home Campus, 435 Gold Pass Heights, 785-6808 | tessacs.org/events

An 18th annual fundraiser for TESSA, featuring a pasta sauce cook-off, wine tasting, dinner and dancing. Oh, and the chefs often attend in crazy costumes — like pirate slops and full-sized broccoli stalks.

Zonta Club of the Pikes Peak Area Glass Slipper Ball

Late January 2011 | Crowne Plaza Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive, 460-4960 | glassslipperball.com/coloradosprings.htm

Get all dolled up for an evening out at this principal annual fundraiser for Zonta (working to advance the status of women worldwide), featuring a fifth annual chefs competition, food tastings and live music.

Colorado Springs Chorale's Chef's Gala

Late February 2011 | The Broadmoor Hotel's Broadmoor West, 1 Lake Ave., 634-3737 | cschorale.org

Looking for a place to sample dishes like sauerbraten-style braised beef cheeks? Look no further. The Chorale's main annual fundraiser, now in its 26th year, features a chefs competition, tastings and live music.

Colorado Restaurant Association's Pikes Peak Hospitality Expo

Late February 2011 | The Broadmoor Hotel's Broadmoor Hall, 1 Lake Ave. | ppcra.org

A benefit for the CRA's ProStart high school program, featuring an Iron Chef-style cook-off and tastings from area independents. Now in its 16th year.

CAN'T MISS EVENTS: DRINK

Vineyard in the Village

April 23 | Mr. Biggs Event Center, 5825 Mark Dabling Blvd., 592-0200 | cheyennevillage.org/vineyardpage.php

The fifth annual fundraiser for Cheyenne Village (helping those with disabilities) promises to feature tastings and something you don't see in these parts much — a traditional grape stomp.

Manitou Springs Colorado Wine Festival

June 5 | Manitou Springs' Memorial Park, 502 Manitou Ave. | manitousprings.org

This festival features tastings from approximately 25 wineries and entertainment. Bottles and cases of wine are available for purchase — be one of the first 1,500 people to buy a ticket and you'll receive a free wine tote to carry home all your loot.

Craft Lager Festival

Aug. 14-15 | Manitou Springs' Memorial Park, 502 Manitou Ave. | craftlagerfestival.com

Benefitting Friends of North Cheyenne Cañon, Fountain Creek Restoration, Manitou City Parks and the Colorado Brewer's Guild, the festival features more than 30 craft brewery samples. Beer and music in the sun. Ah.

Firkin Rendezvous

Feb. 19, 2011 | Bristol Brewing Company, 1647 S. Tejon St., 633-2555 | bristolbrewing.com

You read that correctly — a "firkin" is a British cask size. And you'll appreciate it even more at this celebration of cask ales from a handful of Colorado microbreweries.

Wine Festival of Colorado Springs

Early March 2011 | Various venues, 634-5581 | csfineartscenter.org/WineFestival.asp

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's main annual fundraiser includes a grand tasting, seminars and 300-some wines (yes, really) over a weekend.

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