Musashi Japanese Restaurant
1765 N. Academy Blvd., 597-0634, musashijapaneserestaurant.com
Don't be fooled by the adjacent, largely derelict strip mall under the harsh winter sun — Musashi is fantastic. Inside the Tudor-revival building lies a series of distinct eating areas, including a bar with paper lanterns, a sushi bar and cozy teppan tables, as well as traditional Western-style tables. Though dim in the early afternoon, the well-maintained space enchants.
The lunch menu largely consists of teppanyaki dishes. Combos start with a chicken soup with a powerful broth, near-dissolved onions and whipped-in egg. Think excellent egg drop soup. Whichever meat sounds good — the chicken and sukiyaki steak ($10.25) works for the indecisive — arrives with zucchini, onion, bean sprouts and mushrooms. It's all cooked fast and hot with ample butter, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Simple, delicious and plentiful. Finish with a refreshing six-piece shinko roll ($4.00), cumbersome with one thick spear of pickled radish, but sweet-sour and pleasant. — GS
The Depot Restaurant at Palmer Lake
11 Primrose St., Palmer Lake, 481-8668
From the 19th-century Union Pacific legal settlements framed on the walls to the toy train circling a track suspended above the dining area, this Palmer Lake standby is trains, trains, trains from cab to caboose. Said theme makes for, all told, a reasonably pleasant and comfortable diner experience. As a bonus, it's operated by members of the American Legion Tri-Lakes post. But don't expect mess-hall grub on a tin plate here.
The express car red chili ($5.25/bowl, $4.25/cup) is standard Texas-style chili con carne, with plentiful chili powder, cumin and stewed tomatoes, coming together as a well-balanced bowl of stew. But my waitress told me that folks come for the burgers and the green chile, and the Wabash ($8.75) does both. The 6-ounce patty gets a pleasant grill char, and the green itself gets plenty of cumin for a pleasant bite. Bonus, there's plenty of green on the plate for dipping extra-crispy beer-batter fries. It's diner food, done well. — GS
New Belgium Brewing Co.
500 Linden St., Fort Collins, newbelgium.com
Several years ago here, I wrote up the unequivocally best gluten-free beer on the mass market, Widmer Brothers' Omission series. (See "Dine & Dash Extra: Omission's Secrets," Oct. 31, 2012, to learn about an enzyme used to prevent chill-haze, which also breaks down proteins.) Those beers are great because they taste like regular brews, not like sorghum. I've waited since then to see if more breweries would copy Wheat Ridge's Brewery Rickoli, which removes gluten from its full lineup to be "more accessible to everyone."
Few outfits have, though locals like Fieldhouse do cater to GF folk, in part, which is what New Belgium's doing with its new Glütiny Pale Ale and Golden Ale ($9.50 each/six-pack). They're generally just as good as Omission. The 6-percent ABV, hop-forward pale packs more body and pine-y personality. The thin, 5.2-percent golden gains little from oats in the malt-bill, hinting at Cascade hop citrus in the finish. — MS