Pikes Perk Coffee & Tea
5965 N. Academy Blvd., #203, 522-1432, pikesperkcolorado.com
The "about us" page on Pikes Perk's website could use updating, as could the decor of the coffee shop, a dull assortment of mixed wood tables and awkwardly arranged comfy chairs. The website reminds us that the business has been around since 1996, but it says nothing of current owner Ruth Hoerner. Nor could I get a callback from Hoerner with the number given by our barista, who was sweet, but after months on the job, couldn't answer my basic questions about the products she served us.
So I don't know whether the espresso that helped compose our drinks was a single-bean roast or a blend, presumably still roasted by former owner Rick Roehrman. Based on flavor alone, my cappuccino ($3.10/12-ounce) is at least well-constructed and still nuanced enough for what tastes like a dark roast. My pal's properly milk-foam-"marked" double-shot macchiato ($2.75) punched a bit astringent though, as if the grind or extract time needed a slight adjusting. — MS
Abuela's Cuban Bistro
mobile business, www.abuelascubanbistro.com
We catch Abuela's at Smiling Toad Brewery one evening when proprietor Steven Calleiro has already run out of half his menu, including black beans and tostones. So we sub small salads and compile what we can for his Mojo Cuban Pork and Ropa Vieja plates (each $8.95). The former lands juicy enough, but lacks the spice-depth in other renditions we've had, tasting overly oregano-forward. The latter's braised beef brings the noise quite nicely, however, plated differently from versions I've had between Cuba and other Cuban outfits: Calleiro doesn't incorporate the brightly herbaceous, typifying pepper-onion mix, but places it on the side. No major matter.
We have high hopes for his Cuban sandwich ($7.75, for which we weren't charged for some reason), having chatted him up about its preparation by phone recently for Side Dish. Soggy-edged bread sinks its potential and again the mojo pork fails to shine and elevate it past Americanized renditions. — MS
Fuzzy's Taco Shop
5915 N. Dublin Blvd., 388-8226, fuzzystacoshop.com
Restaurants like Fuzzy's may be to this decade what Applebee's and its ilk were to the 1990s — passable food and cheap hooch, ready to propagate. It's surprising that slushie machines churning boozy pre-made drinks haven't caught on more widely. My Ram Lada ($5.50), a weak piña colada with Cruzan light rum dyed to a disconcerting tropical teal, bore sugar and scant hooch as dominant flavors.
We went for à la carte tacos to go with. Breakfast tacos ($1.99) came well-filled and non-greasy on flour tortillas. The potato, egg and cheese option needed more seasoning, and both meaty picks we tried — bacon and chorizo — were light on actual meat. The same was true for the baja tacos ($2.19 to $2.99) — not enough seasoning or meat. Standout Cali Heat ($2.99) featured avocado, overcooked shrimp and a thick, garlicky hot sauce I'd be happy to see more of. Skip bland chicken and far-from-fresh fish. — GS