Favorite

Welcome to our look at the area's restaurants, broken down in seven quadrants: north, south, east, west, central, Manitou Springs and Monument. Each section contains descriptions of dining spots in that area, as well as a short story about other places worth a look. Feel free to comment with any restaurants we've missed, and bon app├ętit.


NORTH

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Bara Sushi & Grill

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

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

Bara has a sister operation in Denver; both are sleek and modern with gorgeous plate presentations. Lunch boxes, complete with soup, salad, rice and items like teriyaki chicken, beef or salmon, are a great deal. Tempura and noodle entrées are available, but the sushi stars, with fresh nigiri and quality specialty rolls like the unique Bara Roll of salmon, asparagus and bacon.

Bird Dog BBQ

Barbecue ~ $

1645 Briargate Pkwy., #243, 599-4655, birddogbbq.com

Bird Dog smokes with oak — milder than hickory or mesquite, allowing the meat's natural flavors to emerge. On the same tip: Your house-made sauces will come on the side. The Smokehouse ­— brisket topped with a hot link — has been known to make tails wag. Also look for the Powers Boulevard location and a new location in Fountain this spring.

Broadway Deli

American ~ $

4475 Northpark Drive, 203-3100

After a decade on Academy Boulevard, Broadway opened this larger spot in December, then closed the original location in March. The breakfast and lunch menus remain but a new, extensive dinner menu has been created, featuring pizzas, pastas, steaks, seafood and much more. We like the chicken Parmigiana at dinner, Reuben at lunch and cheesecake anytime.

City of Philly Cheese Steaks

American ~ $

4747 Flintridge Drive,265-5770

In the corner of a strip mall at Academy Boulevard and Flintridge Drive, father and son Tim and Chris Cotrinaz dish steaming steak sandwiches on chewy bread from Philly-based Amoroso's Baking Co. Hoagies, hamburgers and a bevy of side options prevail, but the namesake is all the reason to visit you'll need.

Colorado Mountain Brewery

Brewpub ~ $$

11202 Rampart Hills View, 434-5750, cmbrew.com

Led by former Phantom Canyon brewer Andrew Bradley, CMB offers six signature beers — which Bradley assures us are "dialed in" after a hit-and-miss opening — as well as rotating specialty batches. A full and largely delicious menu accompanies the booze. We recommend the venison spring rolls, full of venison sausage, black beans, bell peppers, cheese, onions and mustard with a sweet chili sauce.

India Palace

Indian ~ $

5644 N. Academy Blvd., 535-9196

India Palace has long been a Springs favorite for Indian standards. The outfit came under new ownership in early 2010, and again this past February, so expect minor changes. Co-owner Rag Kumar says his mother does the cooking for the family business. The new menu features more of a Northern Indian style with additional meat dishes, says Rag, though vegetarian options still abound. Hours, including the buffet, run seven days a week.

Joey's Pizza

Pizza ~ $$

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

Joey Stasolla might still be in his 20s, but the Long Island-born pizza slinger certainly knows his craft well, having been at it since he was 14. He's fanatic about his daily-made dough and sauces, and loves to introduce diners to "real" New York-style pizza with quality toppings. If not in for a pie, get the knockout Rocky Balboa hoagie.

Jun Japanese Restaurant

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368, junjapanese.com

All that you really need to know about Jun is that the outfit, operated by owner Jun Aizu, has won our readers' vote for Best Japanese/Sushi for the past 15 years. Some employees have been with the meticulous operation for more than 20 years. Where many sushi outfits get wacky with odd roll fillings, Jun and his talented team tend to focus on tight execution and overall quality.

Kura Japanese Restaurant

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

3478B Research Pkwy., 282-8238

Four-year-old Kura, run by former Jun server Song Brinck, tends to surprise at every turn, offering more than 100 traditional types of sushi, sashimi, Japanese tapas and tempura items. A popular Wednesday ladies' night out continues indefinitely with great specials, wine tastings and more. And even those with man bags will find delight in well-executed creations like the Research Roll.

Lanna Thai

Thai ~ $

8810 N. Union Blvd., 282-0474

Lanna Thai is named after owner Varanya Meyer's daughter, and Meyer appears to show her menu equal love. The food is largely tremendous, laced with floral notes of sweet basil, lemongrass, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and, thankfully, no MSG. Start with the excellent tom yum goong soup and a papaya salad, then grab either the Pad Thai or pa-nang talay, which features buttery scallops, calamari, shrimp and white fish in a basil-rich coconut milk bath.

Lanshing Café

Chinese ~ $

9475 Briar Village Point, #150, 266-8351

Lanshing Café is the passion of longtime owners Cheau and Simpson Jiang. Their Chinese standards are uniformly fresh and delicious, as evidenced by standouts like the pork egg fu young. Portions are generous, and super-affordable deals include a $6.75 lunch special in which your main course comes with soup, rice and an egg roll.

Lemongrass Bistro

Vietnamese ~ $

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

Owner Dang Truong and Lemongrass Bistro serve superior Vietnamese renditions that exude freshness with bright herbs like cilantro, mint and basil. Grab a combination bun, pho, fried rice platter or curry dish, or get one of the specialties like grilled pork and shrimp paste on sugarcanes.

The Margarita at PineCreek

Gourmet ~ $$$

7350 Pine Creek Road, 598-8667, margaritaatpinecreek.com

Chef Eric Viedt and Cathy Werle's three-, five- and six-course, wine-paired prix fixe dinners ($34 to $75) change daily, incorporating cuisines from around the world. They're awesome, but for a more affordable meal, we love the downstairs lounge menu that ranges from about $4 to $15 and currently features killer plates like scallops bouillabaisse, braised oxtail and Peking duck confit. Brunch and lunch are also great, as are a dinner-and-a-movie night and the seasonal, Saturday morning Colorado Farm and Art Market.

Marigold Café and Bakery

Gourmet/Bistro ~$$$

4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776, marigoldcoloradosprings.com

Marigold is nearing the 20-year mark, and it has once again earned our readers' votes for Best Bakery/Patisserie and Best Dessert Destination. The cake and pastry cases are simply gorgeous, and flavors match the presentation. In the savory department, look for a diverse, contemporary French bistro-inspired selection of gourmet items ranging from salmon roulade and lamb chops to mussel and clam linguini and pizzas.

Pita Bella

Mediterranean ~ $

3578 Hartsel Drive, Unit F, 599-0400, pitabella.com

Jordan native Rami Jdour and his wife Manal opened their north side Pita Bella in early November 2009 and their south location just a couple months later, showing ambition from the get-go. Good thing their Greek, Turkish, Moroccan, Georgian and Yemeni dishes back it up. Go for salads, pitas or platters filled with excellently spiced shawarma and kafta or a curry- and cumin-rich falafel. The hummus and baba ghanoush sides are better than most, and a great homemade baklava delivers a perfectly sweet finish.

Pizza Time

Pizza/Italian ~ $

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

Family-friendly Pizza Time offers a solid mix of pizzas, subs, salads and pastas with gluten-free options among its pies, noodles, sandwiches and even beer. Start with some garlic breadsticks or the awesome antipasto salad, and then try the Philly Cheesesteak if not making your own custom pie or calzone. But leave room, because you'll want to finish with a Hawaiian shaved ice.

R&R Coffee Café

Café/Coffeehouse ~ $

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

Not merely a coffee shop with delicious, scratch-made baked goods, R&R is an earnest breakfast, lunch and dinner spot that enjoys the gourmet touch of chef Carla Erick. Ryan Wanner is a medium-profile roaster who doesn't dig sugar-bomb-style drinks. His are well-balanced, letting the coffee and espresso speak for themselves. Look for the addition of specialty coffee-tasting menus soon. (Think: the coffee equivalent of a wine flight.)

Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$

802 Village Center Drive, 266-9244; 9420 Briar Village Point, #100, 955-6650, rockymtnrg.com/salsabrava

Sure, you can find killer chips and salsa — made daily — not to mention all the hallmarks of solid Mexican food, but we know why you really Brava up: the running and cycling clubs. Apparently, running on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Briargate, and biking on Saturdays at 10 a.m. in Rockrimmon, you really get your gears grinding for great guacamole. Margaritas in hand, we salute you for it.

San Chang House

Korean ~ $

3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707

Besides winning our award for Best Korean, San Chang stands out for its great service. It's not uncommon to have the server help you on heat amounts, or to walk you through vegetarian suggestions. If you're the meat-eating type, however, you can't go wrong with the bulgogi or the tasty squid stir-fry.

Senor Manuel's Mexican Cuisine

Mexican ~ $

4660 N. Nevada Ave., 598-3033, senormanuel.com

While the neighborhood around it changes, Senor Manuel's clings tight to its 40-year-old tradition of serving affordable, family-made, stick-to-your-ribs Mexican food. The chile rellenos are the epitome of comfort food (assuming you're comfortable with green chile and a ton of wonderful melted cheese), but the real attraction here is the no-frills, down-home feel.

Silver Pond Chinese Gourmet

Chinese ~ $$

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

Silver Pond's large, lively and affordable menu boasts unique plates like the strawberry or mango chicken and shrimp entrées. Lots of spicy options, including the triple kung pao, are happy to deliver an afterburn. Dinner tops out in the $18 range, with delicious plates like crispy duck and honey walnut poultry or prawns.

South Jersey Subs

American ~ $

1726 Brookwood Drive, 531-5100, southjerseysubs.com

South Jersey Subs nails the East Coast vibe with a combination of attitude, quality ingredients and deftly prepared sandwiches. From the hot sub list, go for the zesty ground Italian sausage sub or cheese steak. Off the grill, there's the ample Genoa salami, capicola and provolone sub, full of veggies of your choice. Don't leave without eating a Tastykake or knocking back a birch beer.

Squeak Soda Shop

Dessert ~ $

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

Think of Squeak as a culinary ride through childhood for nostalgic, but sophisticated, adults. That may look like a grilled cheese sandwich next to a glass of grape soda, but it's more likely to be an oven-roasted turkey Dijon panini with a glass of custom-blended fizz flavored like an Anjou pear or graham cracker. By the time you're done eating, your inner child will probably be ready to tackle the in-house Wii or collection of classic board games.

Sunbird

American ~ $$$

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

A Mother's Day institution, thanks to its expert rendering of brunch classics (and perhaps thanks to the bottomless Champagne as well), the Sunbird boasts gorgeous views and food that satisfies at any time of day. Go for the Sunset Dinner menu, or browse and pick a few offerings from among the lounge nibbles — blue cheese kettle chips with scallions are a highlight. Either way, consider making a reservation at thesunbird.com.

Taste of India

Indian ~ $

4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428, tasteofindiasprings.com

Taste of India won your vote for Best Indian/Curry in 2010, and it's no stranger to accolades. The family-run outfit is beloved within the local Indian community, much of which is also known to shop at the grocery store next door. The menu is huge, so whatever it is you're after — tandoori plates, lamb curry, shrimp masala, saag paneer, aloo gobi — it's here, and often wonderful.

Trinity Brewing Co.

Brewpub ~ $

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

At Trinity, the excitement employees bring to the business of drinking is palpable. New, house-made draft releases happen more or less weekly, with creative brews like the recent Farmhouse Nocturnum, a super saison brewed with sarsaparilla, sassafras, rosemary, coriander and cumin. The joy in the obscure continues with a menu that boasts Belgian-style fries, portobello sliders, and a godlike concoction known as the Bacon Cone.


SOUTH

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Steel this

A look at Pueblo's sugar and spice

Because even a Steel City needs to eat, Pueblo abounds with spots to grub, and grub hard.

•King Taco (217 E. Northern Ave., 719/546-6280) takes its corner neighborhood spot and makes it a must-visit destination. Dishing tacos tasting like they're fresh off the Los Angeles food trucks the owners used to operate, this staple's fresh buche, tripas and lengua offerings are not to be missed.

For those who like a little booze with their cruise, there's •Gray's Coors Tavern (515 W. Fourth St., 719/544-0455). It offers the usual bar fare, but its main claim to fame — besides being one of the few establishments able to use the "Coors" name, thanks to an old business arrangement — is its Travel Channel-highlighted Slopper. Supposedly invented here, the Slopper's an open-face double-burger delight covered in a mess of green chili and, optionally, onions and French fries.

Inspired by the Slopper but updated for a brave new world is the namesake offering at •Bingo Burger (101 Central Plaza, bingoburger.com), where the green chiles are actually folded into the Colorado beef. Patties here can be topped with fried eggs, chile cream cheese, caramelized onions and much more. Co-owner Richard Warner — who also owns the heavenly •Hopscotch Bakery (333 S. Union Ave., hopscotchbakery.net) with his wife, Mary Oreskovich — has said Bingo Burger serves "gourmet burgers, cooked to order, with a sustainability flair."

For other eats, the •Do Drop Inn (1201 S. Santa Fe Ave., menusfirst.com/pueblo/dodropinn.htm) does breakfast and lunch, but it's the pizza that keeps the locals talking: It's known for being sweeter than most.

If it's real sweets you're after, hit •Nettie's Candy Company (109 Colorado Ave., 719/543-4631) or •Taffy's (114 W. Abriendo Ave., 719/545-0282). The former is drowning in house-made chocolate turtles, truffles and more, while the latter is perfect if you're a creature with a popcorn-and-limeade habit.

Not exactly a restaurant, •Gagliano's Italian Market (1220 Elm St., 719/544-6058) is still the coolest little shop you're going to see. Small and packed with shelves of Italian goods priced a little cheaper than average, the 90-year-old shop kicks out handmade sausage, pepperoni, dough, sauce, pasta and more.

Finer diners can find fare to match at either •Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone (123 N. Main St., restaurant1521.com) or •Rio Bistro (126 S. Union Ave., 719/253-0126). But the real pull of Pueblo is its green chili, and while many lay claim to the best, the green (and red) at •Rita's Mexican Food (302 N. Grand Ave., 719/542-4820) may just take the title.

— Bryce Crawford

Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen

Cajun/Southern ~ $

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

Owners Martin and Kathy Anderson moved Culpepper's from the north side to South Academy Boulevard a couple years back and reworked the menu for a more casual, less expensive dining experience. That experience remains satisfying with the fantastic flavors of Louisiana and the Gulf: shrimp, gumbo, crawfish etouffée, gator bites, Po-boys, blackened catfish, maque choux, jambalaya and more. Finish with house-made beignets and look out for boiled crawfish specials from April to July.

Dad's Kwik Inn Diner

Diner ~ $

385 Main St., Security, 392-5063, dadskwikinn.com

When all you want is comfort and calories, Dad's has you covered. Larry Neuhalfen and his son Larry Jr. used to dish barbecue from Dad's Smokewagon until the restaurant's current space came open, which mandated an expansion into breakfast and diner staples like the solid chicken-fried steak. Grab the Front Range Mountain Man to taste hamburger excess, or the three-meat, two-side option to sample good pulled pork or chopped brisket.

Flatiron's American Bar & Grill

American ~ $$

2540 Tenderfoot Hill St., 576-2540, flatirons.biz

Launched in the shell of a former Bennigan's, this fifth Concept Restaurants spawn serves a family-friendly menu with something for everyone — truly. The awesome $8 Monte Cristo Sliders star alongside a $26 filet mignon and even a menu-topping $125 bottle of Napa Cab. Complimentary hot kettle chips hit the table before menus, and the flatbread pizzas, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers and salads are interesting enough to have garnered our readers' vote for Best New Restaurant in 2010.

The Hatch Cover

Pub Food ~ $

252 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-5223, hatchcover.biz

The Hatch Cover tied SouthSide Johnny's in 2010's Best Of issue for south-end Neighborhood Bar. The live music and karaoke and expansive bar selections are partly to credit, but 50-cent wings, all day, every day, in a variety of sauces such as sweet Thai chile probably swayed some voters. The full menu of burgers, steaks, seafood plates, pastas and starters recently saw new additions, like chicken sandwiches.

It's All Good Soul Food Restaurant

Cajun/Southern ~ $

3117 S. Academy Blvd., 393-0677, itsallgoodsoulfood.com

Look for grease-borne, lethargy-inducing comfort food and all its much-loved hallmarks: salt, sauce and a Southern-hospitality-sized dose of sweetness. Not everything measures up: Stay away from the gizzard basket and the fried chicken. But note that owner Sheryl Burns makes most of her ingredients from scratch, including her barbecue sauce, rubs and gravies.

Lake Terrace Dining Room at The Broadmoor

Gourmet/breakfast ~ $$$

1 Lake Ave., 577-5771, broadmoor.com/lake-terrace.php

Lake Terrace routinely wins our Best Sunday Brunch award by making a routine of excellence. Chef Siegfried Eisenberger's opulent spread ($39) contains more than 100 options underneath beautiful ice carvings, and each week brings a new focus on a different international cuisine. Catch lavish breakfast plates like Trout Oscar or Belgian waffles through the rest of the week, for anywhere between $7 and $20.

Maxi's Restaurant and Lounge at the DoubleTree Hotel - World Arena

Gourmet ~ $$

1775 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-8900, coloradospringsworldarena.doubletree.com

The feather in Maxi's cap is talented chef Jay Gust, of longtime Ritz Grill repute. Charged with the task of reviving a once-hoppin' spot, Gust has created a satisfying bar menu with items like mahi mahi tacos, Kobe sliders and seared ahi hovering in the $10 range. His overhauled and similarly priced lunch menu includes signature VooDoo Chicken Tenders and solid sandwiches such as pastrami and Swiss on rye. At dinner, which sports items like a $23 New York strip, look for more gourmet touches like truffle cream sauce and Merlot demi-glace.

Penrose Room

Gourmet ~ $$$

1 Lake Ave., 577-5773, broadmoor.com/penrose-room.php

The Penrose Room is the Springs' pinnacle dining spot. It's one of 15 eateries in the nation to hold both AAA's Five Diamond rating and Forbes Travel Guide's Five Star rating. The food is stunning, and the service truly impeccable. Three-course tasting menus run $72 a head; four courses, $78; and the full chef's tasting menu paired with wine tops out at $158 per person. Good news: You may eat à la carte and spend as little as $30 on a bottle of wine to savor the surprisingly comfortable atmosphere.

Sabores del Peru

Peruvian ~ $$

2356 S. Academy Blvd., 447-9646

It's the Springs' only Peruvian outfit, presenting a few Puerto Rican dishes as well. Expect interesting accents like cinnamon and cumin creeping into the chicken fried rice, and cloves appearing in a sweet Peruvian iced-tea-like corn drink called chichi morada. The carne frita con mofongo, fried pork hunks with mashed plantains in a garlic sauce, is a go-for item, as is the papa rellena: ground beef, raisins, chunks of hard-boiled eggs and spices wrapped with fluffy mashed potatoes, dusted with flour and fried into a ball of something like shepherd's pie.

The Summit at The Broadmoor

Gourmet ~ $$$

1 Lake Ave., 577-5896, broadmoor.com/summit.php

Characterized as an "American brasserie," the Summit emphasizes high design and graceful approaches to classic fare. The ingredients are top-notch and constantly in flux, in order to take advantage of the best of the given season. The atmosphere is more playful and relaxed, but it's still The Broadmoor — if nothing else, the towering glass-enclosed wine rack, home to an imaginative collection of vintages, should make that clear.

Sushi Ring

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

1861 S. Nevada Ave., 635-5550, sushiring.com

Sushi Ring resembles more of an American lunch counter than a Japanese concept in design, and a small shrine to Elvis confuses at first. Then you learn that owner Takashi Kishimoto is a former Elvis impersonator who still delights customers with quick hip shimmies. Though there is an à la carte option, the real gig here is all-you-can-eat: $19.95 for lunch or $24.95 for dinner. (No cheating — finish your rice.) It's quality fish served fast at a good price, considering most eaters can easily take in about $30 to $40 worth of offerings at other sushi joints.

Taste of Thai Spice

Thai ~ $

1609 Lashelle Way, 226-1999

Located just outside Fort Carson, Taste of Thai Spice is a destination drive for many — but it's well worth it. The Thai plates are super-authentic, which means delicious and often hot. Go for the green curry or excellent pad Thai, and always request a coconut ice cream when you sit down; sometimes they sell out right under your nose.

TK's Mongolian Grill

Greater Asia/Mongolia ~ $

1817 S. Nevada Ave., 328-1000

TK's is a local counterpart to the HuHot Mongolian Grill chain that recently hit town. The concept is basically identical: load up a small bowl with meat, veggies and other fixins, including mixtures of several sauce options, then hand it over a counter to have it cooked for you. Here, there's no teppan table or showmanship (spatula tricks, etc.); items are stir-fried in a large wok. Everything is serviceable and affordable, and MSG-free.

Walter's Bistro

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

With a relaxed yet genteel ambience, the dining room at Walter's glows. Given the extensive wine list, the diners themselves might feel a certain glow as well — at least after finding pairings for such diverse menu items as pan-fried duck and ginger pot stickers, potato-crusted Alaskan halibut with orange butter sauce, and (steady, there) Maine lobster bisque with Cognac-scented crème fraîche. You might feel a little woozy, but hang on long enough to sample the caramel mousse cheesecake before you slide under the table.


EAST

Click here for a East Colorado Springs map!

Move it

Taco trucks ensure mobility never tasted better

If it's eaten in eastern Colorado Springs, it's often mobile Mexican food. Some of the most authentic, or at least best-tasting, food in this area comes from the kitchen on four wheels.

Almost all of the following outfits serve a variety of meats — adobada, asada, barbacoa, buche, cabeza, chicharrón, lengua, pastor, pollo, tripas and more — on doubled corn tortillas with oily, burn-your-face-off jalapeños, lime wedges and ramekins of red and green chili sauce. As best as we can determine, they're all currently operating in the general vicinity named.

•El Poblano Mobile (Chelton Loop South and North Chelton Road, 632-1971) won an Indy taco competition last year with its damn-near-breathtaking tripas (grilled cow intestine) tacos. Just imagine bits of fatty, crispy deliciousness covered in popping pico de gallo and a smoky red chili sauce served in a repurposed 1980 Blue Bird school bus with diner-style counters on each side. (Easy, right?)

Nearby is •Karely's Mobile (Chelton Loop South and North Chelton Road, 482-9087), a truck with a great rojo azada (red chili with beef) taco that gives the buyer a chance to board and self-garnish. A little further down Chelton is •Tacos El Paisa (South Chelton Road and East Fountain Boulevard, 213-6692), the only truck offering auténticos tacos al pastor: shaved off a rotisserie pork log stacked with pineapple and onion.

Closer to the Circle Drive and Airport Road area are three worthwhile stops: •Tacos Junior (South Circle Drive and Airport Road, 244-8459), •Tacos Junior #2 (Airport Road and South Academy Boulevard, 232-6246) and •El Tio Gaby (South Circle Drive and Airport Road, 337-4027). As you might have guessed, the first two are run by a single family; the original TJ offers a moist red-chili marinated adobado (red chili pork) taco, while TJ2's tripas are plenty tasty, even if they don't top El Poblano Mobile's. El Tio provides two standouts: a juicy pollo taco and a killer shredded barbacoa.

— Bryce Crawford

Arharn Thai

Thai ~ $

3739 Bloomington St., 596-6559 arharnthai.net

Arharn, which literally translates to "food," is a Powers Boulevard gem run by owner and Bangkok native Doungsamorn "Pong" Peanvanvanich. Her menu abounds with gluten-free options, bright, crisp vegetables, floral, pore-opening spices, and generous strips of meat atop rice and noodle plates. The unique pad Thai ho kai (a great rendition of the staple, folded inside an egg purse) is a go-for dish. Start with a papaya salad or the fish cakes and end with coconut ice cream.

Bambino's Italian Eatery and Sports Bar

Italian ~ $

2849 E. Platte Ave., 630-8121 bambinospizza.com

There aren't enough pizza buffets in the world — especially pizza buffets that for $7.95 deliver meaty, Sicilian deep dish pies, light Hawaiian-esque options, and a dozen gems in between. That deal, offered daily at lunch and from 5 to 8 on Wednesday and Sunday nights, would be enough by itself to recommend Bambino's. But the Megyeri family's à la carte dishes are flavorful and hearty, too, led by the chicken Parmesan and the Flag Platter of lasagna, fettuccini Alfredo, and linguini with pesto.

Bean Bandit

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

320 N. Circle Drive, 634-9945

Bean Bandit has been a staple Tex-Mex destination under the care of the Vasquez family for 45 years. It's outlasted a list of failed competitors as long as Bean Bandit's menu. Go-for items including the tender and rich pork-avocado burritos and the hearty, gooey chile rellenos, followed by an order of sopapillas.

Bhan Thai

Thai ~ $

1025 N. Academy Blvd., 574-3401 bhanthaico.com

There are two Bhan Thai locations in town which were formerly owned by the same people. The Centennial Boulevard location (bhanthai.net) maintains a menu almost identical to this North Academy Boulevard location and some locals are partial to one location or the other. The curries are delicious and the Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles are equally fine. Prices are competition-beaters.

Big Burrito

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-0843

Late-night dining is often the only reason to hit the 24-hour burrito spots scattered throughout the city, but Big Burrito offers a quality that demands a visit at any time. Like the name suggests, the burritos are hefty — try the steak burrito filled with fresh guacamole and tender carne asada. In other offerings, the adobada torta is a little heavy on the chewy bread, but the marinated chopped pork sports a nice, easy burn, and the carne asada fries are like Mexican poutine.

E Ado

Korean ~ $$

296 S. Academy Blvd., 591-7809

When owner E.J. Ruchalski isn't around, communication in English at E Ado can be a bit difficult, but as long as you can place an order, you won't care. The food's authentic and super-flavorful, with a wonderful, rotating array of banchan (small, shared side dishes such as kimchi varieties, cured beans and sautéed veggies in hot chili sauces) as well as delicious entrées. Start with pot stickers and get the perfectly sweet and slightly salty beef bulgogi or unctuous duck hunks, and be ready for a to-go box.

English Dockside

Cajun/Southern ~ $

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

Thomas English and family, Alabama natives, run this standout seafood joint that pays beautiful tribute to the South. Find everything from whole crawfish, crab salad, snow crab and whole snapper to nine different Po-Boys, a superb clam chowder and Ranch Foods Direct steaks and ribs. We keep hoping our readers will rightfully vote it Best Seafood over Red Lobster one year. (We can dream, right?)

Frankie's Bar and Grill

Pub Food ~ $

945 N. Powers Blvd., 574-4881

Frankie Patton opened Frankie's Bar and Grill in 1984, long before Powers Boulevard started wearing chains. In the last 26 years, it's become a favorite hangout of Pete Field employees but also east-siders, as evidenced by 2010's Best Of win for east-side Neighborhood Bar. From the starter, sandwich and burger menu, go for Frankie's Original Slopper or the classic hot wings. When in Falcon, check out Frankie's Too.

Glad's Original Bar-B-Q

Barbecue ~ $

1510 Chiles Ave., 576-1851 gladsbbq.com

Alabama natives Grey and Marilyn Davis used to invite young soldiers into their home for food and counsel many years ago, and they've always kept one goal in mind: to bring comfort through cooking. Their affordable dinners range from $5.99 to $14.99; go for the tender barbecued ribs covered in a thick, zesty spice rub. For sides: The cabbage and collard greens are great, and you won't stumble with the extra cheesy mac 'n cheese.

Heart of Jerusalem Café

Mediterranean ~ $

4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554 heartofjerusalemcafe.com

This year's recipient of the Best Middle Eastern crown, Heart of Jerusalem dishes delightful fare that includes the expected falafel, gyros and shawermah, but also fun blends like the "chikofel" or "beefofel" sandwiches (a mix of those meats with falafel). The outfit also placed second for Best Hummus, and the Crisspura Fries are a lovely sandwich accompaniment. Finish with a great house-made baklava.

Jasmine Cafe Chinese Restaurant

Chinese ~ $$

6064 Stetson Hills Blvd., 591-9898

Owner David Bang apparently relocates each time his restaurant gets overrun with customers clamoring for his rich broths and clean flavors. Now out off Powers Boulevard, Bang is dishing out great Pad Thai, egg rolls, teriyaki beef and coconut-flake-battered fried shrimp, among other offerings. For liquid lovers, his wor wonton soup was named one of the Indy's favorite dishes of 2010.

Nawlins BarBQ and Seafood

Cajun/Southern ~ $$

3317 Cinema Point Drive, 571-9777 nawlinsbarbq.com

Nawlins owner Martin Allred relocated to the Springs after Hurricane Katrina and is making it work where other indies have failed, next to the IMAX theater. That's because items like his delicious alligator green chili, pecan wood-smoked barbecue and Po-Boy sandwiches have earned a following. He recently updated his menu with new items like a blackened chicken pasta, crawfish and shrimp étouffée, and Ranch Foods Direct burgers.

Orange Plate Café

Café ~ $

1825 Peterson Road, 574-2060

Orange Plate Café's claim to fame is the Bulgogi Hoagie, courtesy of owner and Korea native Ramona Burns' imagination. Think: strips of beef marinated in soy, sugar, sesame oil and garlic, then sautéed with veggies like sweet red onion and mushrooms. Then, stuff that mix in a hoagie with melted Provolone. Other yummy sandwiches include a club and a Philly cheese steak. Breakfast is served all day next to oversized coffee mugs.

Schnitzel Fritz

German ~ $

4037 Tutt Blvd., 573-2000 schnitzelfritz.com

It can't be easy, competing against perennial powerhouse Edelweiss German Restaurant, but Schnitzel more than holds its own through quality food and perks like the daily special for $7.49 to $9.99. Mondays bring fleischkaese, spiegelei, bratkhartoffeln and salat (baked German bologna with egg and fried potatoes); while Wednesdays offer two frikadellen, kartoffelpuree und rotkohl (or two meatballs, mashed potatoes and red cabbage).

Steaksmith

Steakhouse ~ $$$

3802 Maizeland Road, 596-9300 steaksmith.com

With 30 years of expertise in preparing perfect cuts of beef aged in-house, and offering some of the best service in the Springs, Steaksmith is a dependable winner for fine dining. Its list of awards is long, as is the menu — as long as diners plan on indulging their carnivorous side, they'll find something to please the palate.

Thai Lily Cuisine and Yakitori 8

Thai/Japanese ~ $

319 N. Chelton Road, 597-8374 thaililycuisine.com

Focusing on both Thai and Japanese yakitori, or skewered meat, Thai Lily (formerly Roungnapa) shines with time-tested family recipes. (The owners haven't changed.) 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: the delicious chicken teriyaki comes in a sweet, dark sauce flecked with red chilies.

Tomo Sushi

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

975 N. Academy Blvd., 597-2422 eatattomo.com

Tomo owner John Ra isn't satisfied with running two delicious and successful sushi joints: To keep from getting bored, he recently launched a new concept called Burgers and Bowls, aimed at students downtown. If it goes the route of Tomo, it'll do fine. Both sushi locations sport fun and creative rolls like our favorite heat bomb, the Tijuana Ninja Roll. Tonkatsu boxes are a value at lunch.

Uwe's German Restaurant

German ~ $

31 Iowa Ave., 475-1611

Owners Sabine and Michael Berchtold have been sharing their family recipes with the Springs since they took over this operation 15 years ago. They please regulars with homemade, traditional German staples like a variety of schnitzel plates, rouladen, sauerbraten, smoked pork chops and more. Open for lunch and dinner, they offer a full bar including popular German beers and Rieslings.

Wade's Cafe

Café ~ $

3504 N. Academy Blvd., 596-8122 wades-cafe.com

The star at Wade's is the buttermilk pancakes, made with flour specially milled just for them; they're properly light, fluffy and served with odd toppings that include peanut butter and gingerbread. The affordable breakfast and lunch spot has been around since 1953, dishing all the expected diner plates, including egg dishes, sandwiches, steaks, chops and, of course, pie.


WEST

Click here for a West Colorado Springs map!

West indies

Find spices and more at these gourmet stores

Downtown, there seems to be a spice store every other block. (OK, there are only two, but it's a pretty small downtown.) When you go west of Interstate 25, where can you find similar treasures?

If it's natural or organic you seek, just west of the highway you'll find the 32-year-old, but recently overhauled and expanded, •Mountain Mama Natural Foods (1625 W. Uintah St., Suite A, 633-4139). It sells bulk herbs and dry goods, organic produce and the usual health food store list, and just added a café feature.

In Manitou Springs, •Naturally's Market & Café (110 Cañon Ave., naturallys.net) is the new spot to grab organic dry goods, vitamins and supplements, not to mention an entire dine-in menu full of fresh fruits, vegetarian options and more. •Community Foods (56 Park Ave., 685-1314), an offshoot of the Maté Factor café, does discounted natural and organic groceries, not to mention dented and damaged goods for less.

Still in the vein of store-and-dining spots is •Spice of Life (727 Manitou Ave., manitouspiceoflife.com) "an ingredients emporium." Enjoy a wall full of jars of cardamom, various salts, pepper and the like, as well as tons of loose-leaf teas, or just grab a good sandwich.

Now, when somebody whispers "olive juice" it sounds like a declaration of love, which is what you'll be offering after perusing the •Olive Tap (906 Manitou Ave., #103, theolivetap.com) and its extra virgin olive oils, flavored oils, spices, gift baskets and balsamic vinegars. Specialty selections include avocado, grapeseed, French-roasted walnut and the ever-decadent white truffle oils.

For variety closer to downtown Colorado Springs, try Old Colorado City's •Olive Tree Traders (2526 W. Colorado Ave., olivetreetraders.com). Besides offering wares from all over the Mediterranean, the store features organic fig jam and Tuscan orange mousse from Italy, saffron and turmeric from Morocco, and olive oil from Syria. And be aware that •Organica Herb & Tea Co. (12 S. 25th St., 344-3213) manages to stock 500-plus varieties of tea, plus tea-drinking accoutrements, into a cozy, cheerily painted shop just a block or so away.

Lastly, Garden of the Gods Gourmet (godsgourmet.net, 2528 W. Cucharras St.) is the perfect place for pigging out. Food's available in-house, but it's the market full of gourmet cheeses, meats, spice blends and desserts (plus cooking classes and wine tastings), that keep the folks rolling in.

— Bryce Crawford

Amanda's Fonda

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

3625 W. Colorado Ave., 227-1975

Our readers have voted Amanda's Fonda the Best Mexican food around for 11 of the past 12 years: They love the hefty portions of Tex-Mex standards, made from treasured family recipes. Go for a margarita and some chile rellenos, and in summer make sure to dine on the relaxing creekside patio.

BierWerks Brewery

Brewpub ~ $

121 E. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 686-8100, bierwerks.com

A relative newcomer to the local craft brew scene, BierWerks offers traditional German lagers, and complements them with cold eats from the Mucky Duck in Green Mountain Falls. All are found either within a darkly lit converted service station, or the fire pit outside. The Wee Heavy Scotch Ale and the brewery's helles are standout examples of the craft.

Billy's Old World Pizza

Pizza ~ $$

308 S. Eighth St., Suite E, 630-3400, billyspizza.net

Billy's is a taste of Chicago, located in a small strip mall on South Eighth Street. Look for "old world-style" deep-dish pizza "worthy of Chicago's heritage and reflecting the discerning tastes of the owner's passion for great food," as it's put on Billy's website. In addition to pastas and sandwiches, look for thick pizzas featuring homemade Italian sausage, beef and meatballs as well as the traditional assortment of veggies and cheese.

The Black Bear

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Victor Matthews and his Paragon Culinary School students offer a unique and ever-changing menu inside this cozy Green Mountain Falls relic. The concept honors Thomas Keller by being built around "small elite courses," meaning pricey, customized chef's tasting menus of five, seven or 12 courses. You can also go à la carte and get modestly priced comfort food, like a chicken fried steak or a burger.

Bona Dea Teahouse & Emporium

Tea/Café ~ $

1824 W. Colorado Ave., 473-8322

Bona Dea is located inside a charming Victorian, and each spot in the dining room represents a stop in owner Lari Trogani's travels. Alongside internationally sourced teas of every variety imaginable, you'll find delicious puff pastries filled with items like chicken, crab or salmon salad. Finish with a lavish cake or a sipping chocolate.

Carlos' Bistro

Gourmet ~ $$$

1025 S. 21st St., 471-2905

Peruvian native and owner Carlos Echeandia is so hands-on with his outfit that he can often be found greeting you in the parking lot. That attention to detail continues with excellent martinis and delightful appetizers, as well as standout surf-and-turf entrée selections. Since 2004, his superb plates have attracted the Broadmoor crowd as well as special-occasion diners. You'll pay, but you'll smile.

Carlos Miguel's

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$

730 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-7150, carlosmiguels.net

With a second Springs location on Cheyenne Mountain Road and several other locations in the state, Carlos Miguel's is a tight-run, small family chain with identical menus and surprisingly gourmet renditions of standard Tex-Mex plates. Get the tableside guacamole with the Grande Traditional Margarita and the Chimichanga Ranchera.

Estela's Mexican Restaurant

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

925 S. Eighth St., 575-0244

Originally open from 1993 to 2000, then closed due to an illness in the Mares family, Estela's made an unlikely comeback in mid-2009, reopening in its original location. The family also runs Pueblo's nearly three-decade-old Mill Stop Café, also popular for the family's daily-made, from-scratch green and red chiles. Those sauces smother most menu items delightfully; the chile relleno plate is a highlight. The best part to a meal: outstanding, authentic sopapillas served with honey and cinnamon sugar at meal's end, for no charge.

Firehouse Southern Style BBQ

Barbecue ~ $

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

Winner of our July 2010 barbecue "food fight" for its superior ribs, Firehouse describes its meat preparation as a Texas-Oklahoma hybrid style, which equates to gorgeously charred meats served with four house sauce options. The menu also offers apps, sandwiches, burgers and great sides like fried okra. End with one of Kari Tresner's awesome homemade pies.

Front Range Barbeque

Barbecue ~ $

2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596, frontrangebbq.com

Award-winning Front Range is the child of Alabama native Brian Fortinberry, who has converted many a Colorado Springs local with his family's favorite Southern recipes. Catch live music at the west location and from the extensive menu, enjoy a heaping plate of ribs, brisket or a pulled pork sandwich. Or go for an elk, buffalo or veggie burger and spicy cole slaw next to a local microbrew. FRB's second location on 4935 Templeton Gap Road recently turned into a catering kitchen, solely.

Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna

Greek ~ $$

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

Jake & Telly's is operated by the Topakas brothers (can you guess their names?), who continue to reshape and re-create their menu in creative ways. Catch a wallet-friendly, three-course, $10 lunch from 11 to 3, Monday through Friday, and great happy hour specials from 3 to 6. Rather than try to outline the exhaustive options, let's let one starter speak to the gourmet excellence: the Saganaki of sheep's milk Kasseri cheese grilled and then flambéed with lemon and served with grilled pita. Yum.

Jo-Mamas Pizza

Pizza/Italian ~ $$

751 Gold Hill Place, Woodland Park, 687-8786, jo-mamas-pizza.com

While some of the snarkily named restaurant's menu items are hit and miss, the hits are home runs. The pepperoni pizza is greasy and good, while the Ultimate Italiano is perfect: a toasted sub loaded with mortadella, capicola, pepperoni, ham, salami and veggies. And the Sloppy Bird of smoked turkey and provolone topped in cole slaw proves as tasty as it is wet.

Joseph's Fine Dining

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Owner Joseph Freyre boasts of more than 25 years in the fine dining industry, and it shows when he greets you tableside to prepare your lovely Hot Spinach Pernod salad or Cherries Jubilee Flambé dessert. In between those courses, find delicious starters like the escargots en croute and lavishly dressed entrées like lamb, scallops, veal, trout and filet mignon.

La Perla Tapatía Mexican Taqueria

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

511 N. 30th St., 228-6006

La Perla Tapatía, run by Guadalajara, Mexico native Sergio Lauriano, serves fantastic tacos al pastor: pineapple-juice-tenderized pork in soft corn tacos. It also serves the Springs' only torta ahogada, or drowned sandwich — a baguette filled with pulled pork and tomato sauce. Even if you opt for a standard burrito instead, finish with a delicious, flan-like jericallas.

Little Nepal

Greater Asia/Indian/Tibetan/Nepalese ~ $$

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

With a large, varied menu, Little Nepal is the type of place where you could eat for more than a month without duplicating dishes. Good thing they offer a $9.99 lunch buffet where you can sample widely in one sitting. Dishes are uniformly piquant, from tandoori oven-cooked masalas to traditional Indian curries, basmati rice biryanis, potato vindaloos and meat kormas cooked with whipped cream, coconut milk and nuts.

The Mason Jar

American ~ $

2925 W. Colorado Ave., 632-4820, masonjarcolorado.com

The Mason Jar has been kickin' it comfort-food style since 1982, and its chicken-fried steak has become locally famous. But that's just the beginning of your happy, food-induced lethargy. Biscuits and gravy, anyone? How 'bout mozzarella cheese sticks, a three-cheese burger, prime rib or pork chops? Oh, no — you didn't say buttermilk-crusted fruit cobbler ...

Mollica's Italian Market & Deli

Italian ~ $

985A Garden of the Gods Road, 598-1088, mollicas.com

This past November, Mollica's closed its newbie satellite location in Southgate, placing all its resources back into its 23-year-old market on Garden of the Gods Road. That retreat speaks more to the tough economy than Mollica's products, which generally shine. The Italian sandwiches range from $7.25 to $8.95 and feature goodies like the hot pastrami, Italian hero and homemade Italian sausage grinder.

Motif

Gourmet ~ $$

2432 Cucharras St., 635-5635, motifwest.com

Motif is the hippest spot west of the Blue Star, and in fact rivals the chic of that iconic restaurant. The walls are covered in warm hues, the bar changes colors, the room resonates with the sounds of live jazz, and the food more than holds its own. Amazing Kobe beef sliders took a Writer's Pick in our 2010 Best Of issues, and quality cocktails alongside your tapas make every visit (open Fridays and Saturdays only) an experience.

Mucky Duck

Café/Bistro ~ $$

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

Finally — a website! After years of drawing Sunday brunch crowds for its lovely, Hollandaise-rich eggs Benedict plates and dinner crowds for its mix of gourmet steak and seafood plates, the Mucky Duck was sold this past October, and the new owners have ushered it into the digital era. But wisely, they haven't tinkered with the popular menu. Lunch offers great, affordable sandwiches, and dinner includes items like a buffalo tenderloin with blueberry Merlot sauce.

Omelets Etc.

Diner ~ $

1616 S. Eighth St., 634-7321, omeletsetc.com

A generic name belies the surprising quality to be found at Robin Turner and Juan Gonzalez's breakfast spot. The Philly Griller of roast beef, sautéed onions and mushrooms and Swiss cheese is cheap, good and greasy, while the pork chops are pleasantly salty and tender. Stopping in for pastries and coffee alone is also a wise idea.

Pantry Restaurant

American ~ $

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

The Pantry is Green Mountain Falls' other wildly popular breakfast spot (along with the Mucky Duck) with more than a half-century of history, where everything is currently made from scratch, including the wonderful breads and pastries. The cinnamon raisin bread is locally famous, as is a French toast plate made with a cinnamon roll. Also look for custom omelettes, great eggs Benedict plates and giant burgers.

Paravicini's Italian Bistro

Italian ~ $$

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

A regular winner for Best Italian in the city, seven-year-old Paravicini's offers a sizeable menu designed by chef and co-owner Franco Pisani and overseen in the dining room by co-owner Ted Sexton. The traditional, rich plates became so popular that the duo opened a sister outfit in Palmer Lake called La Zingara a couple years back. But spread too thin between the two, they sold it on craigslist this past April. That kind of focus on quality is likely why they've earned your vote, and why that gnocchi bolognese tastes so good.

The Pepper Tree

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Sister restaurant to Woodland Park's Swiss Chalet, the Pepper Tree is a regular contender in our Best Of poll's Fine Dining category. Open for dinner only and boasting a great view of the city skyline, it offers lavish seafood entrées, rich steak courses prepared or finished tableside, and classic flavors like Colorado rack of lamb with a mint rosemary demi-glace. Call this our favorite tree to climb.

Pizzeria Rustica

Pizza/Italian ~ $$

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

Before Dave Brackett opened TAPAteria this past fall, he launched Pizzeria Rustica. With an eye toward sustainability, he quickly racked up a rare and respectable three stars from the Green Restaurant Association. But what you really care about are the fantastic wood-oven pizzas like the perfectly simple Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes, basil and house-made mozzarella. Appetizers like the caprese salad and desserts like the pistachio gelato or limoncello sorbetto are equally memorable.

Rudy's Little Hideaway

Mexican/Southwestern - $

945 S. Eighth St., 632-9527

After calling South Nevada Avenue home for 16 years, Rudy's picked up and moved last year to South Eighth Street, right next door to Estela's Mexican Restaurant. A "rising tide" mentality has allowed Rudy Escobedo and Co. to blend in comfortably, while dishes like the pork con chile verde make their food stand out.

The Silver Tongue Devil Saloon

Pub Food ~ $$

10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-2555, thesilvertonguedevil.com

Formerly the Pine Gables Stray Dog Saloon, the reshaped Silver Tongue Devil far surpasses bar-food expectations. After all, it is a bar, with big-screen TVs, a jukebox, arcade games and doodled-on dollar bills stapled about. But then you eat the finest jalapeño poppers ever to be stuffed into an egg-roll wrapper, and you realize the kitchen ain't playin' around. The buffalo and barbecue wings are also excellent, and the pizzas are totally solid. Also, you can order from the neighboring Mucky Duck's menu during lunch hours. Here, the details are in the Devil.

Swiss Chalet

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Neil and Paula Levy's second fine dining spot, sister to the Pepper Tree, resembles an actual Swiss chalet. But there's no neutrality to be had on these premises, with the flavor assault from the classy menu. At lunch, take in the view of Pikes Peak over sandwiches and entrées like a Jaegerschnitzel around $13; at dinner, mains run in the $20 to $30 range, not bad for Swiss cheese fondue, Zurich-style veal and Colorado lamb.

Tabeguache Steakhouse

Steakhouse ~ $$$

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

The Tabeguache is Woody P's answer to Outback, but it's got a conscience, sourcing all of its steaks locally through Ranch Foods Direct and serving some nice Colorado wines on the side. After the Strawberry Fields salad, topped with the fruit, bleu cheese and glazed walnuts, go for your steak cut and size of choice, then the flambéed bananas Foster.

TAPAteria

Gourmet ~ $$

2607 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8272, tapateria.com

Dave Brackett's latest restaurant venture — he also owns and operates Pizzeria Rustica — offers small glasses of European wines and Barcelona-inspired tapas at small plate prices in a hip setting. The charcuterie plate of peppers, olives, smoky stuffed red pepper, marinated apricots and cheese and meat selections is incredible, while his wild salmon tartare was recently chosen as one of the Indy's 10 favorite dishes of 2010.

Uchenna

Ethiopian ~ $$

2501 W. Colorado Ave., #108, 634-5070, uchennalive.com

It's our city's first authentic Ethiopian eatery, and it's simply a gem. Ethiopia native Maya Hetman prepares her family recipes from scratch using roughly 70 percent organic ingredients and 100 percent intoxicating spices. Eat with your hands and scoop delicious items like lentils and chickpeas, or beef and lamb with teff-flour injera bread. The star item is the doro wat, a mole-esque chicken dish with a sauce so lovely that songs should be composed about it. House-made Mediterranean pastries like baklava complete the euphoric experience.

Vietnamese Garden

Vietnamese ~ $

3043 W. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-9299, vietnamesegarden.net

Owner and sole cook Dung My Tram runs this noodle and rice spot, making traditional dishes the way her mother taught her. Her potato fritters starter is fabulous: shredded yam and carrot, battered in rice flour and Vietnamese beer, which you wrap in a lettuce leaf with fresh cilantro, mint and basil and dunk in a sweet dipping sauce. Tram makes the sauces daily and marinates meats overnight, which explains the vibrancy of her dishes. Whatever bun you get, end with the superb mung bean cake served in a tiny pool of coconut milk.

The Wines of Colorado

American ~ $$

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

Colorado continues to battle to be respected for its wines, but the cuisine and cellars of Wines of Colorado give the industry a healthy (OK, more like hedonistic) boost. With items like portobello ravioli and a buffalo wine burger that comes topped with green chiles, the menu seems calculated to reflect all that's delicious in the Mile High State, including vintages from more than 40 Colorado wineries. Get your introduction with a complimentary tasting session before dining creekside.


CENTRAL

Click here for a Central Colorado Springs map!

Eye spy

Dishing on the spots that are easy to miss

•Alice's Mexican Cuisine (109 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 578-8882) hides down the hallway next to Josh and John's Naturally Homemade Ice Cream. The outfit known for its simple cuisine and unique décor — local blog Oinkety likened the lighting level to staring into the sun — offers delicious warmed salsa and homemade takes on classic Tex-Mex.

For a different feel, hit •Vallejo's (111 S. Corona St., 635-0980), located across from the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. The roughly 48-year-old restaurant offers a blend of classics and Mexico City-inspired recipes brought by original owner Paula Vallejo in 1923.

Keeping in a Southwesterly vein, •El Tesoro Restaurant & Gallery (10 N. Sierra Madre St., el-tesoro.com) does dining with a Sante Fe kick, serving ceviche, carne adovada, blue corn enchiladas and killer margaritas in a quiet and arty space next to Pikes Peak Community College's downtown campus. •Lucia's Family Restaurant (230½ Pueblo Ave., 329-4496) jams sustainably raised meat from Ranch Foods Direct into its beef burritos while hiding out next to the new Zodiac club. And •Salsa Latina (28 E. Rio Grande St., 328-1513) is easy to miss among the office spots on East Rio Grande, but its green chile makes the search (and the cash-only policy) totally worth it.

If it's still tacos you crave, but with more flair, find •La'au's Taco Shop (830 N. Tejon St., #110, laaustacoshop.com) at the other end of downtown, on the Colorado College campus. Follow the posted signs to tacos, bowls, burritos and salads with toppings from mahi-mahi to vegetarian options.

There are also a couple secret diner destinations. •Detz Café (211 E. Cucharras St., 632-9712) comes complete with old men in hats reading the newspaper at the breakfast counter. •Barney's Diner (129 W. Las Animas St., 632-1756), across from the Martin Drake Power Plant, churches up the beef with meat from Ranch Foods and know-how that comes with 46 years of operational experience.

You could make an argument to include the original •King's Chef Diner (110 E. Costilla St., kingschefdiner.com) in here, what with its total of 13 indoor seats, but they come wrapped inside a purple castle. Sort of blows the cover.

— Bryce Crawford

2000 Wok

Chinese ~ $

115 E. Fillmore St., 633-6900

Do you really need to be told how awesome a deal $1.75 per item is? Your "item" can be a giant scoop of fried rice or lo mein, or beef and broccoli, or our personal favorite: spicy chicken with onions and pineapple, ready for drenching in Sriracha. Get it to-go — the portions are bigger.

Amuzé at the FAC

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

In July 2010, Amuzé chef Bill Sherman traded in his four-table Palmer Lake space for the room and responsibility of dishing in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Here, his French influences emerge in artistic ways, like the Zia sun symbol arrangement of the filet mignon carpaccio, which pays homage to the FAC's architectural leanings. Look for brunch, lunch and (pricey) dinner service, including special pre-theater menus.

Arabica Café

Mediterranean ~ $

12 S. Tejon St., 471-2444, cravearabica.com

Arabica Café owner and Palestine native Kamel Elwazeir won this year's Best Of pick for his standout hummus, a thick, rich chickpea blend with a perfect balance of lemon, cumin and tahini. It's his mother's recipe, and it's delicious paired with most of his menu. The outfit's beef shawarma is also a highlight, laced with Lebanese spices and marinated overnight to deliver great flavor.

Bistro de Pinto

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Bistro de Pinto opened in 2006 under Tammy and Mike Pinto and has been a downtown fine-dining fixture ever since. Meats are sourced from Ranch Foods Direct, one sign that they put a lot of care into their creative menu. Lunch items include soups, salads, burgers, pastas and a few Mexican plates. Dinner brings starters such as lobster ravioli and entrées like a brandy apricot chicken.

The Blue Star

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

The Blue Star netted our readers' vote for Best Overall Restaurant for a third year running in 2010. So, really, what else do you need to know? That they also won for Best Wait Staff, Fine Dining and Restaurant Wine List? Fine. The lounge and dinner menus are roughly the same price these days, so sit wherever you're comfortable, unless you're after a burger (lounge) versus a rack of wild boar (dining room). Incoming head chef Daniel Gerson and chef de cuisine Andrew Sherrill recently added new menu items, with more on the way. Wine tastings and dinners abound; whenever you go, save room for pastry chef Alicia Prescott's superb sweets.

Borriello Brothers

Pizza ~ $

215 E. Platte Ave., 884-2020, borriellobrothers.com

From seven Springs locations, Borriello Brothers dishes out our readers' favorite pizza. Pies are 18-inch, hand-tossed New York-style beauties, topped with the standards of your choosing. Personal-sized gluten-free pizzas are also available, as are salads, subs, appetizers and calzones. But really, wouldn't you rather be eating the Five Boroughs pie: olives, bell peppers, mushrooms, sausage and pepperoni?

Cafe El Paso

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

3840 N. Nevada Ave., 634-3940

El Paso native Sandra Santoscoy-Sherer and her husband Paul opened Cafe El Paso 10 years ago and have earned loyalty with items like stuffed jalapeños under mango jalapeño salsa. The menu of Tex-Mex classics also features a popular Dos Pistolas salsa that has recently experienced a retail explosion. It's sold in Whole Foods and Albertsons, and the cafe's Travis Taylor says they're currently moving 4,000 jars weekly.

Caspian Café

Mediterranean ~ $$

4375 Sinton Road, 528-1155, caspiancafe.com

It's Mediterranean in spirit, but multi-ethnic in practice. Dish influences come from Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and beyond. From the huge menu, start with hummus, mussels or the awesome eggplant in spicy honey sauce. Then go for a gyros platter, lamb shank or vegetarian moussaka. Finish with baklava or our favorite, the orange and saffron caramel custard.

China Village

Chinese ~ $

203 N. Union Blvd., 475-8299, menu4food.com/chinavillage

China Village is in its 28th year of serving delicious and affordable Szechuan and Mandarin eats (what most of us just call Chinese), and the free delivery option within four miles has earned many a faithful customer. The menu is huge, and lunches come with rice and an egg roll and top out at $6.45. The dinner menu counts up to some 129 items: just about every way you can imagine that shrimp, beef, pork, chicken and vegetable can be stir-fried and sauced.

The Corner Cafe

Café ~ $

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

Because of its proximity to our office and its general excellence, the Corner Cafe remains a favorite Indy destination. Owners Virginia and Bob Smoot brought their homey ways from California in 2004 and immediately captured the hearts of the courthouse crowd and downtown workers. Their sandwiches, made from sustainably sourced meats, are entirely satisfying, especially next to fries and a cup of Bob's outstanding pork green chile. Breakfast specials are also great, particularly with Bob's garlic habañero ketchup.

The Curry Leaf Restaurant

Greater Asia/Sri Lankan ~ $

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

The Springs' only Sri Lankan restaurant, the Curry Leaf is a delight. Run by native Sri Lankan Lana Hillstrom, it captures the true flavors of a country with culinary influences that include India, Malaysia, China and Western European nations. Amazing curries reveal hints of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and more rare spices like rumpe and goraka. The chicken curry is particularly euphoric, and the deviled shrimp will burn you. End with the stellar coconut caramel custard.

Dale Street Café

Café/Bistro ~ $$

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

Set in a charming Victorian, Dale Street boasts a extensive lunch and dinner menu that's made it a downtown staple. The artichoke dip and cream of artichoke soup are two starter standouts. From there, you can go pizza, pasta, quiche, frittata or sandwich. Entrées usher in everything from Jaegerschnitzel to Cajun pasta to peanut-crusted mahi mahi.

Edelweiss Restaurant

German ~ $$

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

Our Best Of winner for the past 13 years, Edelweiss delivers an authentic taste of Germany with delicious schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerbraten, steak selections and much more. Lunch brings sandwiches like a Reuben and Cordon Bleu — and spätzle for the kiddies. Most exciting for some diners is the wide German draft list with all the fine imports you desire (see: Franziskaner Weissbier). Drink 'em out of a big boot for $20, or just go with the half-liter for $5.25.

El Taco Rey

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

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

"The Taco King" has reigned supreme downtown since 1976, under the great care of the Aguilar family. It's often tough to find a seat in the small eatery during lunch hours, a testament to how great the Mexican standards are here. The avocado pork burrito wins the most awards, but you truly won't go wrong with anything on the menu.

Everest Nepal Restaurant

Greater Asia/Nepalese/Indian ~ $

28 E. Bijou St., 473-3890, everesttibetimports.com/restaurant.html

Operated by the same folks who run the Everest Tibet Imports store across the street, Everest Nepal Restaurant is a downtown staple for an affordable weekday lunch buffet. Nepali and Indian staples rule the roost: daal dishes, curry plates, wonderfully seasoned meats and vibrant veggie offerings pair well with sweet lassis, chai tea or beer.

The Famous

Steakhouse ~ $$$

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

A regular contender (and winner) in the Steakhouse and Restaurant for Carnivores categories in our annual Best Of guide, the Famous presents some of the priciest plates in town, including a $50, 24-ounce Porterhouse for people who believe that eating that much meat in one sitting is a bright idea. All the high-end steaks are, of course, delicious and tasty, and family-style sides pair beautifully. If you just want to gaze over dark wood and feel leather on your bum, nab a $12, kick-ass cheeseburger at lunch.

The Flow of Mexico

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$

16 E. Bijou St., 633-2526

The Flow of Mexico thus far has held its ground in a spot that's spurned other Mexican outfits. Why? Because owner and chef Jose "Chelis" Luis Flores is a badass with 35 years' culinary experience. His is no mediocre Tex-Mex. Where others are greasy and heavy, Flow is crisp, fresh and somehow lighter. Try the excellent and chocolatey mole de pollo or get the ceviche de pescado y camarón or campechana: giant goblets of mixed seafood bearing refreshing citrus broths, cilantro, tomatoes and a touch of jalapeño heat.

Fratelli Ristorante Italiano

Italian ~ $$

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

For 16 years, Fratelli has been dishing out an outstanding, authentic blend of Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, including classics like linguine con carne and fettuccine Bolognese. Look for separate lunch and dinner menus and a great wine list as well as iconic Italian desserts like tiramisu, gelato and Grand Marnier Crème.

Fujiyama

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

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

Winner of this year's Best Happy Hour, Fujiyama just released a new sushi menu that sports hilariously named, complex rolls like the Michael Jackson (too soon?), X-Men, Moby Dick, Sugar Daddy and Deer Butt. Drop by to find out what's in them, or just go for standard two-piece nigiri selections. Lunch inside the bamboo-accented walls brings delicious and affordable noodle bowls and bento boxes. Dinner offers a teppanyaki menu and a show at hibachi grills.

Giuseppe's Old Depot Restaurant

Italian ~ $$

10 S. Sierra Madre St., 635-3111, giuseppesdepot.com

The roughly 40-year-old restaurant had taken a turn toward the unpalatable in recent years, but the addition of chef Brent Beavers — of the much-missed Sencha — has changed much of that. Out went the can openers, and in came fresh sauces made from scratch. Beavers says he has a three-year plan to turn Giuseppe's into the best Italian in the city, and he's off to a fine start. The ribeye steak is thick and buttery, while the grilled sausage pasta sports well-spiced Polidori Sausage from Denver.

Il Vicino

Pizza ~ $

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

Il Vicino is a small chain that now extends into four states, but its downtown eatery has always felt local. It's popular for a pint and a delectable, gourmet wood-oven pizza. The paninis and salads are also satisfying. Beer is no longer made at this site, but the outfit recently completed a new brewery in Albuquerque to meet demand for all the locations.

Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub

Irish/English ~ $$

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

"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 an enormous weekly running club, traditional Irish music sessions and a pub quiz. As for dining, in addition to American pub standards, look for more unusual Irish fare like a Celtic Reuben, Irish Stout Beef Boxty, or a traditional Irish breakfast.

José Muldoon's

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311, josemuldoons.com

Perennial winner in the Best Patio Dining category for its lovely interior atrium as well as sidewalk tables downtown, José's thrilled east-siders by opening a second location in late 2009. Springs diners love the weekday happy hour deals from 4 to 7 and specials like a Sunday margarita brunch from 9:30 to 2. Otherwise, they come for tasty Tex-Mex staples, a sizzling skillet of buffalo, or lighter fare like the vegetable topolobampo. (Try and say that after three house margaritas.)

Judge Baldwin's Brewing Company

Brewpub ~ $

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

Judge Baldwin's has always promoted a generous happy hour to lure those not staying at the hotel into the sharp space. The house-made beers don't top those from other local microbreweries, but under former Plate World Cuisine chef Ryan Blanchard, the eats have improved. Catch a game at the bar and go for the Maine Lobster Roll sandwich.

King's Chef Diner

Diner ~ $

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

Winner (again) of Best Of's greasy spoon trifecta — Diner, Late-Night Dining and Green Chili — King's Chef is famous for its seriously hot vegetarian green chili (with a gluten-free version now, too). That sauce is so freakin' good, you can now buy it at places like Whole Foods. When dining at either location, pour it over the enormous breakfast burrito or try it on the green chili cheeseburger. Hello gut-bomb goodness, goodbye hangover.

La Baguette

Café/Bakery ~ $

117 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 636-5020, labaguette-co.com

There are essentially four area La Baguette stores locally. Each is operated independently and keeps a slightly different menu, but all receive their baked goods from the Old Colorado City location. The Kelly Johnson Boulevard location recently changed its name to La Tartine, though, and the Chestnut Street location added "French Bistro" to its name and plans to open for dinner soon. Visit all three websites to study the French-inspired menus, which include a great French onion soup and affordable baguette sandwiches.

La Casita Mexican Grill

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

4295 N. Nevada Ave., lacasitamexigrill.com

With its pink stucco buildings, La Casita doesn't trade in subtlety — it trades in value, and delicious, bountiful salsas as well as quality Tex-Mex standards. The enchiladas always hit the spot, and the braised pork carnitas with guacamole are delicious. Satisfying breakfast plates in the $5 range include huevos rancheros and eggs and chorizo. Load up on the aforementioned salsas at the complimentary garnish bar.

La Creperie Bistro

Crêperie ~ $$$

204 N. Tejon St., 632-0984

In a year when four other crêperies opened locally, our readers still voted La Creperie to the top, speaking to its 30-plus years as a local favorite for Francophiles and American crêpe-lovers alike. The tiny dining room and cozy sidewalk patio offer a charming intimacy in which to enjoy your savory or sweet treat. A full French menu and lovely wine list complement the popular pancakes.

Louie's Pizza

333. N. Tejon St.; 1146 E. Fillmore St., louies-pizza.com

Since 1985, family-owned and -operated Louie's has rocked affordable Italian pastas, sandwiches, salads and of course pizzas, growing to five Springs locations currently. The buttery garlic bread is a favorite, and the pizzas and calzones are plenty hearty. "La Fruita" dessert pizzas put fruit spreads and icing over a cinnamon-sugar crust.

Luigi's Homemade Italian Food

Italian ~ $$

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

Leo and Anne Cervetti opened Luigi's in 1958. Today, their daughter, Gina Costley, and her husband Les run the eatery. The authentic, Northern Italian food thankfully hasn't changed. Rich, homemade sauces define the pastas and stone-baked pizzas. From ravioli to rib eyes, Luigi's pleases, then finishes you off with a yummy tiramisu.

MacKenzie's Chop House

Gourmet/Steakhouse ~ $$$

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

Concept Restaurants' swankiest joint, MacKenzie's is the dark wood, exposed brick, subterranean lair where carnivores go to feast and sip specialty martinis. Talented chef Pete Moreno oversees the large menu and a weekly fresh sheet that sports some of the best choices. Steaks run from around $24 to $39, but favorites like the basil-poblano tortellini will only set you back $16.95. Cut that price nearly in half at lunch next to items like a stellar $9.95 Reuben.

McCabe's Tavern

Irish/English ~ $

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

With more than 20 primo Irish whiskeys in addition to a large, international beer list, McCabe's could be considered a drink destination first, especially during European soccer matches, pub quiz nights and Colorado College hockey games. But there's plenty of authentic Irish eats as well, in addition to a rockin' Sunday brunch. Grab the divine Rosemary Guinness Lamb Stew at lunch or a shepherd's pie or bangers & mash for dinner.

Mediterranean Café

Mediterranean ~ $

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

When you've been voted Best Mediterranean for so many years in a row, you've eventually got to break out of your routine of domination and try something new. Why not a cupcake truck? Seriously, that's what Mike Bergman and Pat Kennelly did a few months back (see thespringscupcaketruck.com), and someday we may see a mobile Mediterranean cart. Meanwhile, the downtown outfit's food is simply fantastic, with bright flavors, fresh ingredients and damn good renditions of the usual suspects.

Monica's Taco Shop

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $

30 E. Fillmore St., 473-1996

Really cheap prices and a killer salsa verde — what more do you want, people? Monica's continues to garner the Indy's Best Tacqueria/Taco Cart award for standout dishes like the chorizo burrito, and carne asada or adobada tacos. Get extra guacamole. The fat breakfast burritos also must be tried, whether having imbibed the night before or not.

Montague's Parlour

Tea/Café ~ $

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

Montague's charms with comfortable antique furniture that encourages unplanned lingering over conversation and that piece of amazing cake you just can't resist. Before it, you will have already shared a pot of fine loose-leaf tea or a couple of dolled-up coffee drinks in giant mugs. Or maybe you've just come in for a delicate soup and sandwich. It's open until midnight on weekends.

North End Diner

Diner ~ $

3005 N. Hancock Ave., 442-1833, northenddiner.com

The North End Diner is a hodgepodge of good ideas: free Wi-Fi, meat from Ranch Foods Direct, a buy-one-burger-get-one-for-five-cents deal on Wednesdays, and more. Around since 1958, the diner also proudly offers jobs to help ex-convicts successfully re-adjust to society (though it won't accept anyone who has served time for a violent crime). Consider a burger with benefits.

Nosh

Gourmet ~ $$

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

A perennial winner in our Best Of issues, this past year for Appetizers/Tapas and Innovative Menu, Nosh is usually tasty and always interesting. Chef Shane Lyons' Crispy Korean Wings took our pick as the best dish we reviewed in 2010, and it's commitment to unusual and diverse flavors is as compelling to the senses as the giant koi pond wall décor in the dining room. Oh ... and the spicy bison sandwich at lunch: amazing.

The Olive Branch Restaurant

Café/Bistro ~ $$

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

The Olive Branch has been a downtown go-to for more than 20 years for all meals of the day. New, extensive gluten-free menus show that it knows how to adapt to demand. Overall highlights: a juice bar (tons of drink options, for that matter); pancakes and omelettes until 4; the French Dip sandwich at lunch; and steak and seafood entrées at dinner.

The Omelette Parlor

Diner ~ $

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

Winner for Best Breakfast in each of the past 14 years, the Omelette Parlor is the type of place whose parking lot is perpetually packed during morning and lunch hours. There's a full sandwich and salad menu we've never tried because we can't stay away from the delightful breakfast items: Belgian "Wa-fulls," eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and, of course, cleverly named three-egg omelettes.

Opb&j

American ~ $

3 E. Bijou St., 571-9854, opbandj.com

Opb&j spins the childhood staple of peanut butter and jelly into a full-on, mostly organic meal. More than 700 variations are available from the combination of the restaurant's 10 bread options with toppings like watercress, sprouts and sugar snap peas, and jellies that range from sweet to savory to spicy. But if you've never been, get the Bomb.

Oscar's Oyster Bar

Pub Food ~ $

333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070

Oscar's is a downtown go-to at lunch hours for a satisfying, largely better-than-bar-food menu of thick burgers and sandwiches, plus gourmet treats like a spicy seafood gumbo and fresh oysters. The outfit wins a perennial pick for Best Smokin' Patio, where local tunes may also be enjoyed over drinks. By night, it's known more as a bar.

Panino's Restaurant

Italian ~ $

604 N. Tejon St., 635-7452, paninos.com

Though it also has single locations in Minnesota and Fort Collins, longtime Springs dining hub Panino's is family-owned and -operated, and offers a hearty menu with pizzas, pasta, salads and more than 30 signature baked Panino sandwiches. Weekly specials and generous happy hours vary slightly between the locations, but look for promotions like all-you-can-eat pizza for $6.99, or spaghetti for $8.99.

Paris Crepe Euro Café

Creperie ~ $

218 N. Tejon St., 444-0110, pariscrepeeurocafe.org

A full-fledged member of Colorado Springs' crêpe surge, Paris Crepe goes the bargain route, offering regional crêpes of varying quality for $3 to $7.95. The Thai beef is a wonderful example: Made from a rice-flour batter, it's full of peanut crumbles, pickled pear, cilantro and peanut sauce. The sweet crêpes overall eclipse the savories, with well-made usual suspects and all-out rock stars like the S'more and cheesecake crêpes.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

Brewpub ~ $$

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

Gov. John Hickenlooper opened Phantom Canyon Brewery in 1993; it's since changed hands but remains a downtown cornerstone with excellent pool tables and solid, higher-end pub food. Brewer Alan Stiles put out some excellent beers in 2010 and our readers voted Phantom as Best Restaurant for Tourists, probablly because the famous and spectacular Blonde Ale and smoked Gouda soup.

Pho-N-Thai

Thai/Vietnamese ~ $

125 N. Spruce St., 329-0705

In a challenging spot near the Bijou Street bridge, Pho-N-Thai dishes not only Asian standards, but American items like wings and a Philly cheese steak. The service is great, the price is right (cheap!), and you'll do well to stick with the green curry. Oh — and dig the unprecedented three free refills on Thai iced tea.

Poor Richard's & Rico's Coffee, Chocolate and Wine Bar

Pizza/Drink House ~ $$

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

The fact that Richard Skorman's Poor Richard's and Rico's took first and second places, respectively, in 2010 for Best Place to Dine Alone (in addition to several other food awards and a Best Wine Bar nod for Rico's) makes them sound like somber hermitages. They're actually super-lively hangouts where loners can somehow blend in comfortably. Rico's has your tastes covered with fine wines, drinking chocolates, teas and coffee drinks, and Poor Richard's satisfies that never-ending craving for awesome gourmet pizza. The adjoining book and toy stores make food waits painless.

Rasta Pasta

Italian Caribbean Fusion ~ $$

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

Rasta Pasta started in Breckenridge and Fort Collins and expanded to a Springs location thanks to some devoted locals. Its menu relies heavily on a proprietary blend of dry jerk seasoning and a house marinara sauce, with choice of heat level. Try the odd and awesome Tortellini Jamaica Mon or stick with the signature Rasta Pasta. Bananas Marley finishes strong; a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 offers $2 Red Stripes and more.

Ritz Grill

Gourmet Bistro ~ $$

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

Lunch at the Ritz, which turns 24 this year, draws the business crowd, and Don Draper wannabes get the $15 executive plate of a 12-ounce New York strip with asparagus, mashed potatoes and a house martini. Dinner can be cheap with a $10 pizza or flashy with a $27 filet topped with Gorgonzola. Catch regular happy hours, weekend brunches and a lively club scene with live music and DJs at night.

Roman Villa Pizza

Italian ~ $$

3005 N. Nevada Ave., 635-1806

Roman Villa dates to 1959, and in the 14-table dining room, the Biondi family has literally served several generations of other local families with delicious Italian staples made from scratch. The crispy-crust pizzas are great, especially with the homemade sausage. The ravioli also makes for a smart choice.

Rumi's Kabab

Greater Asia/Afghani ~ $

36 E. Bijou St., 635-7749

Rumi's, aptly named for the mystic poet, is the Springs' only Afghani restaurant, and its floral flavors are brilliant, touching on both Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Catch hints of rosewater and cardamom and enjoy delicious yogurt sauces such as the one that covers the kadu, made from sweet baked pumpkins. Owner Shams Forough recently swapped the lunch buffet for walk-up window service onto the Bijou sidewalk with quick, tasty gyros and falafel. But you can still dine from the full menu of kababs and the like inside for lunch and dinner.

Saigon Café

Vietnamese ~ $$

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

If it's award-winning, and it's Vietnamese, it's Saigon Café. This downtown staple took our award for Best Vietnamese for the eighth consecutive year, mostly on the power of its noodle bowls and great service. A large lunch menu boasts more than 19 combination plates alone. Even better, each plate comes with white rice, soup and an egg roll — not a bad haul for around $8.

Shuga's

Café/Drink House ~ $

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

You might say that Shuga's is a great place to end the night, but it's a little too specific: Shuga's is a great place to start the night, spend the night and end the night. The boozy cocktails are quality, the atmosphere is always changing — a flock of folded paper cranes dominated as of this writing — and the food, especially the ever-lauded Brazilian coconut shrimp soup, is as good as the drinks.

Slayton's Tejon Street Grill

Barbecue ~ $$

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

Part of the local Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group, like Sonterra Innovative Southwest Grill, Slayton's specializes in Kansas City-style barbecue smoked with apple and hickory wood. In addition to ribs, brisket, pulled pork and the like, look for upscale burgers like the Guinness Stout Burger and classic salads and sandwiches.

Smiley's Bakery & Café

Café ~ $

323 N. Tejon St., 328-9447

Smiley's delivers kitschy, but quaint, décor, with antique kitchen tables, novelty signs and houseplants galore. Its deli counter demands attention with pies, pastries and muffins, but Smiley's makes solid sandwiches and soups as well. French toast, pancakes and egg plates, including quiches, are popular at breakfast.

Sonterra Innovative Southwest Grill

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$

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

Like Slayton's (above), Sonterra claims on its website to use local and organic ingredients when possible, which is always appreciated, as are the gluten-free options. The "innovative Southwest grill," complete with cacti and a cool, cloud-painted ceiling, is otherwise known for dry-aged steaks and gourmet, Coastal Mexican-type seafood plates enlivened by accents such as a sweet chile mango chutney. Catch $3 tapas, $3 to $5 drink specials and $5 to $9 app specials from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 to 7, Mondays through Fridays.

SouthSide Johnny's

Pub Food ~ $

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

For those who love high-energy dining, SouthSide Johnny's offers an above-par menu in a packed atmosphere with a great soundtrack. You might come just for the drinks and the music, but you'd be missing out on tasty highlights like chicken tenders tossed in Asian bruja hot sauce, Kobe sliders on pretzel rolls, or at dinner, grilled lemon-caper ahi tuna steaks. Look for Johnny's Navajo Hogan, a similar venture, to open on North Nevada Avenue.

Springs Orleans

Cajun/Southern ~ $$

123 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-0123, springsorleans.com

Originally opened this past fall as Il Postino — the first arm of the upcoming The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Hotel project — what's now Springs Orleans has undergone several changes and growing pains. Out with the healthy concept menu and old chef, and in with former Blue Star chef James Davis and a Cajun/American menu featuring Po-boys, burgers, Southern "tapatizers", gumbo, étouffée, pastas and build-your-own platters for $19.99. Look for the opening of outdoor patio dining — including beignets and café au lait — sometime this summer.

Taste of Jerusalem Café

Mediterranean/Yemeni ~ $

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

Once part of the conflict-strewn Heart of Jerusalem Café dynasty, Taste of Jerusalem and owner Abdul Nasser broke away in 2009, and added a Yemeni spin to what had been a classic Mediterranean menu. Though some dishes still resemble HOJ items, the menu has grown to encompass delicious marinated kababs and lively new veggie and meat platters in addition to the usual suspects.

Tony's Bar

Pub Food ~ $

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

Three words: fried cheese curds. For those who get excited at the sight of a Pabst logo and who like their bar food to double as a coronary threat, the menu at Tony's is a dream come true. Actually, the smiling Blue Ribbon man with the cheesehead toque looks a little like some of our relatives back in the Midwest, which is exactly where Tony's feels like it was transplanted from. The clientele is pure Springs, though — in fact, residents have chosen it Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Bar for six years running.

The Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Featuring a gallery-style succession of artwork and chic décor as well as Chip Johnson's intriguing take on dinner-date favorites like seared ahi tuna and steak Oskar, the Warehouse offers fine dining with a locavore's twist. Many of the star ingredients come from Colorado ranchers and growers, as in the tender spinach and squash gnocchi or the caramelized Redmesa lamb shank with mole barbecue sauce.

Wooglin's Deli & Café

Café ~ $

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

Many folks probably spent their undergrad years thinking that places like Wooglin's didn't exist, and wishing that they did. With a cozy, offbeat atmosphere, live music, and all-from-scratch menu that specializes in excellent coffee drinks, veggie chili, hot and cold "overstuffed" sandwiches, burgers, quesadillas and salads, it's a paradise for CC students and Springs residents alike.

Yoo Mae

Sushi/Japanese ~ $$

21 E. Kiowa St., 473-8105

Few sushi restaurants feature a giant map of the United States as part of the décor. But then again, few sushi restaurants are helmed by a man like chef JJ Kim, whose take on Japanese cuisine is as inventive as it is tasty. Where most menus stop at the California roll, Kim's offers diners the chance to eat Rhode Island, Alabama and all the rest in sushi form as well. (Hence the map.) The convivial atmosphere and generous lunch specials make Yoo Mae a can't-miss for sushi devotees.


MANITOU SPRINGS

Adam's Mountain Café

Café/Vegetarian ~ $$

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

Adam's Mountain Café, one of our perennial Best Of winners, executes a beautiful menu with slow food principles and an eye toward local and organic ingredients. Regulars all have a breakfast favorite: huevos rancheros, orange almond French toast, whole grain pancakes — what's yours? Lunch ushers in stand-bys like the nut- and rice-based Planet Burger, and dinner brings amazing dishes like the Brazilian-style barramundi in a coconut milk sauce and the Malibari Curry: organic turkey meatballs in a traditional Indian sauce. Call ahead, or enjoy the art of Manitou legend Charles Rockey while you wait.

Briarhurst Manor Estate

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Young and talented chef Tyler Peoples has designed a colorful, creative and very gourmet menu built around four-course dinners that include an amuse bouche, salad and intermezzo in addition to your entrée. Mains include rabbit, elk, duck, bison, lamb and, of course, decadent beef steaks. Apps include foie gras and escargot, and dessert tempts with plates like the Oaxacan dark chocolate torte with espresso reduction. Did we mention you're dining inside a gorgeous "haunted" castle?

The Cliff House at Pikes Peak

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

How serious is the Cliff House? Let's just say that chef Scott Savage has his own Internet cooking show — comedic and instructional video segments posted on the website. The historic hotel's seasonal wicker-chair-filled veranda rivals the most comfortable dining anywhere in the city, and the newer Red Mountain Bar & Grill offers fantastic patio views with modestly priced appetizers. The main dining room's menu is also priced under most fine dining places — a welcome reprieve, considering the excellent eats. Get the Colorado lamb T-bone.

Coquette's Bistro and Bakery

Creperie ~ $$

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

As Manitou's answer to Shuga's, Coquette continues to convert hippies to hipsters. With the recent acquisition of Ceres' Kitchen, the name changed from Coquette Creperie to Coquette's Bistro and Bakery, but the outfit is on a gluten-free mission to delight. To the existing list of sassy savory and sweet crêpes you'll see an expanded menu of goodies like French toast as well as more of a retail focus on gluten-free goods like pizza dough, breads and muffins. On the drink side, look for GF beers, wines, martinis and fancy coffee drinks.

Craftwood Inn

Gourmet ~ $$$

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

Though boasting nearly 100 years of history, the Craftwood is anything but staid under young, talented chef Ben Hoffer. Look for classic plates like the Colorado elk in red wine hunter's sauce and creative, contemporary takes on everything from local lamb to antelope and ostrich on the game-dominant menu. Oh — and pumpkin butter foie gras, anyone? The best way to sample the soaring selection is by printing a $50, four-course, dinner-for-two coupon off Craftwood's website.

The Dutch Kitchen

Café ~ $

1025 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9962

When you've been around since 1959, you can afford to close down in winter and make people wait until March to get another slice of locally famous buttermilk pie. Though the Flynn family is best known for that and other pies, the Dutch Kitchen also serves standout sandwiches like the cabbage and corned beef, as well as burgers and the like.

European Café

Café ~ $

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

Chef and owner Bozena Jakubczyk runs this popular Manitou breakfast spot, known for its delightful sweet cheese crepes, omelets and the like. But drop in for lunch sometime, too: The generously portioned Reuben shines, and locals love the French Dip and burgers. Special orders of Polish favorites can be arranged.

Keg Lounge

Pub Food ~ $

730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531

The Keg is a Manitou icon that's less dive than it is delicious. The food surpasses mere bar eats with items like the locally famous buffalo cheeseburger and other meaty delights like a flatiron steak, all sourced from Ranch Foods Direct. On the lighter side, the popular berry salad delivers fresh fruit mixed with bleu cheese and chicken teriyaki.

The Loop

Mexican/Southwestern ~ $$

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

The Loop, which recently renovated its bar area, seldom fails to claim Best Bar for a Margarita from our readers, thanks to 16 lively specialty offerings that include top-shelf tequilas and sweet fruit liqueurs. Beyond that, a border-sized menu draws large tourist crowds and Manitou locals. It's all here in Mexi-color (it's like technicolor, but makes you salivate): enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, seafood plates, mole and more.

The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant

Fondue ~ $$$

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

Enjoy a wine flight with cheese or chocolate fondue in Mona's Wine Cellar, or splurge for the four-course fondue dinner for two ($40 to $49 a head) upstairs in the charming restaurant. Start with a choice of two salads, then three cheese fondues. Next it's either a wild game, seafood or traditional entrée platter, and then your choice of decadent chocolate fondues. À la carte options are also available.

Ruffrano's Hell's Kitchen Pizza

Pizza - $$

9 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-4355, hellskitchenmanitou.com

Say what you want about owner Nelson Rufran's claim that his pizza is the best his customers have ever tried — it's damned good. A smattering of house pies, side salads and mini-pizzas are available, as are offerings with gluten-free crusts. Grab the Hellfire Pie: Italian garlic sausage strips, onions, mozzarella and a spicy special sauce give enough burn to back up the restaurant's name.

Wild Ginger Thai Restaurant

Thai ~ $

27 Manitou Ave., 634-5025, Manitou Springs, wildgingerthai.com

With a new space and 10 years of Best Of plaques gracing the walls, Wild Ginger continues to please the crowds with competent versions of Thai staples and a few Isaan specialties. Go for the laarb; stay for a chat with perpetually friendly owner Khon Onexayvieng, who's happy to make menu recommendations when she's not passing the time with regulars. As she'll warn you, "Thai hot" is not for the faint of heart. We'd also counsel visitors to request no MSG.


MONUMENT

Northern heights

Dash into Tri-Lakes dining

The Tri-Lakes area is booming — and how. Recent census numbers show roughly 180 percent population growth in Monument in the last 10 years and, by and large, the area's restaurants have kept pace. Here's a look at a few.

Italian food tastes mighty fine against a backdrop of emerald green mountain ranges, and it's found at two well-known Palmer Lake spots: •Bella Panini (4 S. Hwy. 105, bellapanini.com) and •La Zingara Italian Restaurant (75 S. Hwy. 105, lazingarapalmerlake.com). Bella is a family-owned spot doing the pizza, pasta and (of course) panini thing; La Zingara is fresh off a menu reboot after having come under new ownership.

Also under new ownership in Palmer Lake: longtime fine-dining staple B&E Filling Station, which now goes by •Folie a' Deux (25 S. Hwy. 105, folieadeuxdining.com). A sophisticated French-American feel can still be found among its simplified menu of a few starters, some salads and select entrées like elk medallions and rosemary lamb. Meanwhile, •moZaic (443 Hwy. 105, innatpalmerdivide.com) gives area diners classical European offerings with "a nouveau flair," while •O'Malley's Steak Pub (104 S. Hwy. 105, omalleys.biz) goes the other way with burgers and steaks you cook yourself.

In Monument, worldly chef Wai Tung brings a contemporary touch to inventive, largely Asian-influenced meals at •Fusion World Cuisine (15910 Jackson Creek Pkwy., fusionworldcuisine.com). •Wisdom Tea House (65 Second St., wisdomteahouse.com) is more traditional, as its name (and afternoon tea offerings) would imply, but its kitchen still kicks out buffalo burgers and line-out-the-door-inspiring breakfast burritos. Meanwhile, •Pikes Peak Handmade Ice Cream & Gelato (481 S. Hwy. 105, #208, pikespeakicecream.com) has the sweets on lock-down, and of course no Monument mention is complete without •Rosie's Diner (411 S. Hwy. 105, eatatrosies.com), the old-timey steel-and-neon encased look back at the '50s.

Lastly, Gleneagle's •Another Pint/A Second Cup (13869 Gleneagle Drive, asecondcup.net) may offer plenty of breakfast and lunch options, just like its sister store in Monument, but it's the beer selection here that headlines; look for around 30 pretty rare microbrews.

— Bryce Crawford

  • An all-in-one listing of our area's restaurants.

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