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Pie Five, La Baguette, Bar-K 

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click to enlarge Pie Five Pizza Co. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Pie Five Pizza Co.

Pie Five Pizza Co.

721 N. Academy Blvd., piefivepizza.com, 596-9613

Fixed-price, build-your-own personal pizzas are A Done Thing now. Pie Five Pizza emerges locally as the newest chain to compete with MOD Pizza and our indie option: Bambino's Urban Pizzeria. And Pie Five's $7.99 pizzas rate pretty standard for the price range. Though they don't serve alcohol, they do sell a small array of cookies and brownies served by the slice.

But the pizza's the thing, and Pie Five sets itself apart by offering a pan pizza. It lacks the buttery golden crunch of pizzas actually cooked in a pan, but it's a perfectly serviceable, medium-thick crust with a High Five pizza. A cut-and-dried, marinara-meat-cheese affair, its Italian sausage and bacon lead on flavor, with 3-plus-inch pepperoni slices commanding attention visually. Though it's good, I favor the Athenian, an oil-and-garlic 'za with punchy kalamata olives, good chicken and a sun-dried tomato puree. Atop a thin crust that tastes like a saltine cracker, it's a fine fast bite. — GS

click to enlarge La Baguette French Bistro - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • La Baguette French Bistro

La Baguette French Bistro

4440 N. Chestnut St., labaguettefrenchbistro.com, 599-0686

A quick lesson in French cuisine: A croque monsieur is what every ham and Swiss sandwich dreams of being. There's good ham, Swiss cheese and mustard, baked between two pieces of soft bread with more cheese on top. That's then smothered with silky béchamel sauce, yielding one of the most highbrow gut bombs l ever had. Then there's its big sister: the croque madame, which takes the whole gluttonous affair to new levels of pleasure with a fried-egg top, yolk begging to ooze out and finish the decadent dish. A few years back, we sung the praises of La Baguette's croque madame ($9.75). And while the sandwich remains ineffable, the swap from a side of fries to grapes has made sopping up the sauce a bygone dream. Why must dreams always tarnish?

Still, healthier eaters can do a soup and half deli sandwich ($10.95). Turkey and Swiss are worthy on killer bread, and the velvety leek and potato soup bears beautiful flavor and balanced spice. — GS

click to enlarge Bar-K - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Bar-K

Bar-K

124 E. Costilla St., 358-7788, barkcocktails.com

A standing 10 percent discount for service industry folk says Bar-K wants to be the late-night stop for the restaurant set, be it for bar-side beer banter or basement-level ping pong. But by day, when sunlight floods the sleek black furniture and dark cherry flooring, Bar-K feels like 15C with the lights up — the stodginess of a press club balanced by a "Colorado classy" dress code.

Commendably, cocktails generally cost under $10, and drink strong, though they don't quite hit the sophistication found at, say, Brooklyn's, lacking ideal balance and textures. The Jackelope Fizz — Jackelope Gin, lime, egg white, sparkling water — sips dry, the citrus burying the botanicals under a thin head. The Anschutz (each $7 at happy hour) also could use more shaking or egg white for thicker foam, blending Fireside Whiskey, Cointreau, Bordeaux cherry juice and soda water. It drinks sweet and creamy, channeling a bitters-free essence of a cherry-garnished Old Fashioned. — MS

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