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Mirch Masala, PJ's Bistro, Patty's Gourmet Hamburger 

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click to enlarge Mirch Masala - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mirch Masala

Mirch Masala

5047 N. Academy Blvd., 599-0003, mirchmasalaa.com

The Indian buffet is a staple of American culture. Lunchtime largess on the cheap. While pondering that intercontinental culinary exchange, I find an online posting at First We Feast titled The Essential Guide to Eating at an Indian Buffet. At first, I think, "Do we really need directions on how to properly punish a buffet?" But I scan and concede its use value to a newbie, someone who may not know how intoxicating a mint chutney can be or that they need to save room for kheer for dessert.

Indian spreads are so ubiquitous that it's fair to expect a good chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken, saag paneer and daal. Most outfits prepare the traditional dishes so similarly you often can't go wrong at any of the eateries locally. That said, I can't pin down any major differentiating factors at Mirch Masala's lunch buffet ($8.95), but we dine happily, enjoying mugs of steaming, creamy chai tea ($2.99). Guide aside, we're content with everything that hits our plates. — MS

click to enlarge PJ's Bistro - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • PJ's Bistro

PJ's Bistro

915 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2440, pjsbistro.com

Paul Jakubczyk's Polish-American bistro has returned to Manitou, with his mom's European Café moving into his former West Colorado Avenue digs. PJ's now operates in the site that once housed Coquette's and, until recently, Suzy Q's BBQ. The dining room feels an appropriate level of homey, painted in bright primary colors.

The food is no joke, either. A plate of pierogis ($10.95) comes with wilted spinach and buttery onions, plus paprika-speckled sour cream. The menu didn't reflect what was in the tender dough, listing only three options, but all were good, save for an overground meat option we couldn't identify. Euro fries ($7.95), generic and pale, do present cheese and tasty beef stroganoff, with the wine-spiked sauce evoking poutine. But hunter's stew ($11.95) won our hearts, a bowl of paprika-red cabbage, 'kraut and mushrooms with tender pork and poppin' kielbasa slices. Lech Waesa would be proud. — GS

click to enlarge Patty's Gourmet Hamburger - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Patty's Gourmet Hamburger

Patty's Gourmet Hamburger

Varous locations, facebook.com/pattysgourmet

Rick Stilson's bright red hamburger truck holds some promise from concept. As he told us in Side Dish last month, Patty's signature burgers came from Stilson grinding veggies into burger patties to feed his 3-year-old son. The results, unfortunately, don't entirely pop. The peppered patty ($10) may contain chipotle peppers, but it lacks most of their smoke and all of their bite. It's hard to tell apart from the basic cheeseburger ($8). That said, either is good, the patties retaining laudable moisture despite arriving well done.

The piggy patty ($10), though, comes wrapped in Black Forest ham, which brings a mighty black pepper component into play. Of the three available the day I visited, it was the standout on taste alone. While the fries ($2) may be dull in their from-bag lack of character, housemade ketchup brings plenty of flavor to the party. Most Saturdays, the truck winds up at 300 Days of Shine in Monument. Check them out there. — GS

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