Momma Pearl's Cajun Kitchen
6620-B Delmonico Drive, 964-0234, mommapearls.com
The rumors are true. This little Rockrimmon strip mall treat added a few new items to the menu. We pass on newly added beer and wine options, which include macro and local options, plus Louisiana-brewed Abita beers. But we jump on the blackened chicken, cheaper in a po-boy ($12.99/7-inch) than as a pasta dish. The meat is richly spiced and juicy besides, pleasant on squishable bread with a sweet-tangy remoulade. Go for quality sweet potato fries over Cajun fries, salty with Tony Chachere seasoning. Or ditch both and pay $2 extra for a bowl of chicken and sausage okra gumbo, bearing a fishy base behind rich meaty and smoky notes.
We also try an alligator sausage po-boy ($12.99/7-inch), mild and a little sweet, with a pleasant texture. Added pork in the sausage gifts meaty texture, and it plays nice with that remoulade as well. We enjoy the fried catfish po-boy ($11.99/7-inch) too, fried up simple and clean. — GS
Fossil Craft Beer Company
2845 Ore Mill Road, #1, 375-8298, fossilcraftbeer.com
We haven't been to Fossil since brewer and co-owner Josh Bye turned brew duties over to new co-owner Josh Mater in January. Mater's a vet of Saint Arnold's Brewing Co. in Houston, so we're excited to see what he's done.
Good news, the beer's still of respectable quality, maybe even better than before. We try a flight ($8/four samples) of Mammoth IPA, Evolution ale VI, BAMF Pterodactyl bourbon barrel-aged barleywine and Stone Age stout. Mammoth has a pleasant American IPA bitterness, but the hops veer potpourri mid-sip. Pterodactyl bears fruity notes on the nose, with a strong though one-note dark flavor. We're fonder of the stout, very roasty with a sweet lactose finish. And Evolution's sixth iteration bears tart black currant with mild molasses flavor from added brown sugar. The amber ale base contributes just enough backbone that it still reads beer. — GS
Crystal Park Cantina
178 Crystal Park Road, 685-5999, crystalparkcantina.com
Five years in, Manitou's answer to Mexican food — with historic roots as the former, longtime Mission Bell Inn, co-owned by ex-Denver Bronco Justin Armour — continues to shine as a superior margarita spot and not-the-norm taqueria and Tex-Mex eatery.
The evidence: a back-of-the-throat burning but balanced reposado habanero margarita ($10), and the great, grapefruit-forward Speedy Chihuahua ($8), bright with fresh house mix. How quickly they go. Just like thin house chips with thick, oregano-and-black-pepper-exuding house salsa. Sweet potato nachos ($12), really a happy wet mess of fries, almost cloy due to sweet chili sauce and caramelized onions, reined in by chorizo spice. Chipotle mayo highlights the poblano chile ($13) plate, here replaced by a red bell pepper (when poblanos aren't available) stuffed with creamy garlic mashed potatoes, lightened by mixed veg and rough-chopped crunchy slaw. Muy bueno. — Matthew Schniper