702 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9400, stagecoachinn.com
It's a burger more fit for Crave Real Burgers' menu — as in, it's too big to bite, and after trying, you'll finish it all civilized-style with a fork 'n knife. Meet the half-pound buffalo burger ($13.99) prepared in the style of the Stagecoach burger, meaning add-ons of barbecue sauce, bacon, cheddar and onion rings ($2 more). Plus, in my case, a gluten-free Udi's bun ($1) and sweet-potato crinkle fries substitute ($1) on the side with a killer chipotle honey ranch dip.
That's $17.99 out the door for a burger (where even Crave tops out at $11 for its monstrosities, fries included). Value and worth of course being subjective, I can say it's at least a flavor bomb, well-handled but for a medium-rare request hitting more of a solid medium. While I'm compelled to note that a friend recently had an all-around disappointing meal here, mine definitely delivered on taste, in an eminently warm atmosphere. — Matthew Schniper
Canyon Coffee & Café
6550 S. Academy Blvd., 226-2327
The owners who overhauled Canyon Coffee & Café on Eighth Street in mid-2010 purchased this former Black Bear Coffee & Tea Lodge location back in March. Oddly enough, it was already serving the same Washington-based Dillanos Coffee Roasters products now exclusive to these two Canyon spots locally.
That brew, already proven competent to me from an Eighth Street visit last year, here nicely informs a seasonal eggnog latte ($4.25/medium). As you'd expect, it walks a sugary line, but stays in balance with the strong espresso notes. A Good Drinks-brand Chai concentrate — which advertises the much-appreciated absence of high-fructose corn syrup on its label — infuses steamed milk for an equally sweet but not cloying chai latte ($3.25/small). Pair either with something off a food-and-pastry menu that's heftier than the average coffee shop's, and enjoy the comfortable ambiance — carved-bear kitsch and all. — Matthew Schniper
Pho 65 Vietnamese Restaurant
2628 W. Colorado Ave., 636-2120
Kind of like how the three Truong brothers kept a local Vietnamese eatery empire going for years, among Saigon Café, Lemongrass Bistro and the now-closed Fine Asian Cuisine, Trung Nguyen and his family have made quite a claim to the local bun business. They own Pho 54 and Pho Viet 1, we were told by our waitress, and Trung (formerly of Saigon Grill) opened Pho 65 in this former Yakitori Grill space just recently.
The 20-plus-year cook claims to use no MSG, and everything's clearly prepped fresh, from vibrant pho garnishes to the colorful bun dac biet (chicken, shrimp, pork and egg-roll rice noodle bowl, $8.95), with its crispy, sugar-glazed meat strips and generous, ubiquitous nuoc cham sauce pour. Spring rolls ($3.50) are perfectly average, as is the house pho ($7.95/large), bearing a floral, herbaceous astringency, mild anise hint and black pepper bite, made spicier via jalapeño slivers. We enjoyed the steak and fat brisket option. — Matthew Schniper