Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.
2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800, phantomcanyon.com
"The expansion has been great. Sales are up, as is quality, and the beers really show that they're being aged longer," says head brewer Alan Stiles, noting "exciting stuff on the horizon," such as barrel-aged and sour brews. Expect weekly bomber releases in the next month, including the house's 3,000th batch.
For now, grab a Two Headed Dog Imperial IPA bomber (around $12), a 9.8-percent ABV, 111-IBU beauty whose majority 2-row, then Vienna, German Carapils and Belgian malts add "a solid malt back to mute the hops a bit." Those tropical- and citrus-note hops being Simcoe, Citra, Bravo and Sorachi Ace. After a secondary dry hopping, THD sees bottle conditioning (natural carbonation via residual yeast and a minuscule sugar input) for "better all-round flavor," believes Stiles. THD will be brewed in small batches nearly year-round, though its hop profile may change slightly due to availability. — Matthew Schniper
The Willow Tree Café
140 Second St., Monument, 481-1225, thewillowtreecafe.weebly.com
Formerly Shani's Café, Willow is a pretty, though incongruous space featuring a Japanese koi pond, French signage for the WC's, and Mission-style chairs. Its menu also globe-trots, promoting no freezers or heat lamps and delivering noticeably fresh food, clearly homemade — as in, an onion sliver in our bowl of proficiently light French onion soup ($3.95) still had its skin on.
The country club-ready Oink, Gobble, Oink Grill ($8.51) sandwich of Swiss cheese, ham, turkey and bacon on thick, buttery grilled sourdough lacks only a mayo or mustard slather for moisture. The spastic and borderline overly sweet Hawaiian Sunrise Salad ($8) sports Craisins, pineapple, mandarin oranges, strawberries, and coconut flakes with raspberry vinaigrette; its chicken could use some herbs or a citrus back. But house cinnamon rolls ($3.50) are potently spiced, frosted with restraint, and awesome. — Matthew Schniper
Steak n' Shake
1560 Briargate Blvd., 434-3002, steaknshake.com
Everything about the fast-food chain standing on the grave of a longtime Pizza Hut was impressive until I took a bite of the burger. First, you're seated by a host, as we learned once we made it through the line out the door, and there's table service. The straws are wide, the prices cheap and the cookies-and-cream shake ($3.49) thick and sweet. The salt-and-vinegar fries are the most dynamic option among the seasoned shoestrings, and the overflowing Chicago-Style Steak Frank ($3.99), though it falls apart in two seconds, did a fine rendition of the classic next to them.
The Royale Steakburger ($4.99) and the Double 'N Cheese ($3.99) were just globs of grease, though. Maybe it was all the mayo, but each mouthful left an oily coating behind. Even the Royale's gooey fried egg wasn't enough, as its bacon looked and tasted like it was peeled from a sticker book. — Bryce Crawford