There comes a time in every local's life when a poor family member, probably hailing from a flat, boring part of the country, arrives in town yearning for that quintessential elevated experience. Here's where you can save a whole lot of time and just hit the new west-side location of Colorado Mountain Brewery.
It's a gorgeous, two-level eatery with a crystal-clear view of the hills, and the second salvo from co-owner Scott Koons, just two years after the original CMB opened on Interquest Parkway.
But this one ain't like that one. Though it's a branch off the same tree, it's better.
Where the north-side location has always struck me, from tone to taste, as kind of a generic focus-group concept, the newbie comes with ready-made character. It's part of what you get in the former Midland Terminal Railroad Roundhouse, a building that's been around since before Colorado City was considered old.
Beyond that, the homey restaurant, colored in tans, browns, black and stone, is just done up right. A staircase curving over a two-sided fireplace is the first thing you see. The semi-open kitchen is in the top-right corner, while a large bar with an impressive rack of TVs dominates the left side before giving way to the patio and its own mammoth, two-sided fireplace overlooking Highway 24. With nods to current restaurant-design trends, like bar seating in front of the kitchen, you can see every dollar of the millions in renovations that went into the place.
And, while largely sticking to entrées unique to the new location, we found the food fared fine. One easy reason is the blue-tiled, wood-fired oven kicking out handmade pizza creations ($11) like the Italian Deli, or the Mediterranean. Both sporting hot, chewy crusts, the former buried layers of sopressata and pepperoni under a tangle of arugula; the latter combined a beautiful basil pesto with Kalamata olives, onions, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and, in a fit of genius, chorizo.
We paired that with beers by Andy Bradley, including a perfectly balanced Christmas ale ($6) that lovingly sported a candy-cane garnish; an epic, amber-colored rye IPA ($5), a cavalcade of biting, citrusy hops and rye notes; and, unfortunately, a flat brown ale ($5) full of off-putting, medicinal finishing flavors.
Elsewhere, three bacon-wrapped sea scallops ($12) furthered my addiction to soft, grilled sweetness, though the chili-garlic sauce underwhelmed. The striped bass ($18) brought overcooked filets plated atop an overcooked, soupy mound of mussels, but at least the bouillabaisse was worth the cost of extra bread to sop it up.
The Colorado Mixed Grill ($24) — featuring a quarter-rack of lamb wrapped in silky fat; a Gorgonzola-crusted beef filet (delicious, though cooked much rarer than requested); and sliced wild-boar sausage — was the highlight of dinner. And the duo of house-baked, soft jumbo pretzels ($7), and the charred Gray's Peak burger ($10.50 and full of bacon, onion rings, blue cheese and the A1-like Pickapeppa sauce), took care of the afternoon.
Personnel-wise, our servers were night and day, the first forgetting silverware, steak knives, and a dessert menu; the second busting her ass in the middle of a rush just to get us to-go boxes. But it all evened out in the afterglow that comes from a big, bourbon-y, housemade bread pudding ($7) and Barista Espresso's rich, black mud.