4 S. Cascade Ave., 955-6291, antlers.com/dining.shtml
Were it not for the captive hotel audience, Baldwin's could not exist. The lunch-menu shortrib tacos ($9) lack spice, salt, consistency, value and memorability. Some sorcery swallows all nuance in the ham and cheese ($9) despite its Brie, pear and Aspen Baking Co. rosemary sourdough, leaving the house-cut french fries the most notable thing on the plate. Lift your coaster, and you may find a Bennigan's in disguise.
Mediocrity like this sabotages city leadership's stated goal of turning the Springs into a business conference destination. Baldwin's serves many visitors' first taste of local cuisine, and flavorless shortribs and baby's first French bite only undercut our reputation. Hopefully that'll improve now that Perry Sanders has bought the hotel. Sanders tells the Colorado Springs Business Journal he'll "transform" it "just as we did the Mining Exchange. ... The name Antlers needs to be synonymous with only the finest of things." — Griffin Swartzell
Although the Lincoln School Development sits distant on the horizon (see Side Dish, Sept. 30), Local Relic has begun bottling beers for purchase in liquor stores, such as Downtown Fine Spirits and Wine (103 S. Wahsatch Ave.). Relic boss-man Jeff Zearfoss won't be green-lighting any flagship brews, so catch what you can, when you can, from brewer Grant Goodwiler.
The pear apricot saison ($9.50/500ml) merges an apricot nose with a hint of sourness, subtly bittered by German-grown Hallertauer hops. For the joy the yeast flavors deliver, the beer lacks malt body or any stone fruit flavor, and the pear fades out entirely. Meanwhile, fermented with Brettanomyces, the Chinook wild ale ($10.99/500ml) uses locally grown Chinook hops for a challenging sip, biting and spicy with a hint of onion and a dark funk, like a Burgundy, or compost. Both offerings are bottle-conditioned with corn sugar, and pour a lingering, fine head. — Griffin Swartzell
Vera's Coffee Coach
Year-old Vera's is a cute, rounded trailer painted red and white, with a gray zigzag and attached fin accent for a classic-car look. The chalkboard menu is larger than the tiny ordering window, and inside, a Nuova Simonelli espresso machine handles beans from the likes of High Rise and Spanish Peaks coffee roasters.
At our visit, Spanish Peaks' Espresso X, described as having "hints of spice with a bold flavor," informs our lavender latte and macchiato (each a steep $5 per four-shot 20-ounce). The syrup's nicely under-sweet and balanced in the first, hiding any coffee flaw. But an off-tasting burntness to the roast emerges as the macchiato's foam settles. Also, I have trouble calling this a macchiato, as that'd normally be a small drink "marked" by milk or foam. This reverses the equation, with espresso poured last, meaning you taste more coffee than cream up front. Which would probably be fine if it were a more refined medium roast with character intact. — Matthew Schniper