Quijote's Mexican Grill
208 N. Union Blvd., 313-9127
Like the man of La Mancha himself, this offbeat central eatery swings into action to defend the downtrodden and under-appreciated. Sometimes, as in this case, that means serving up gigantic breakfast burritos for $4 or less. There are mornings when that can be the best kind of heroism for beleaguered working people.
For something traditional, the chorizo breakfast burrito ($3.50) provides that earthy chili spice in fair balance with some mushy beans, potatoes and eggs, the last of which makes up the bulk of the burrito's filling. For a leaner though no less egg-filled option, the chicken avocado ($3.50) has plenty of seasoning as well, with creamy avocado pleasantly textured in the context of the overall bite. Don't forget a little plastic ramekin of the roasty-toasty house salsa, which adds a little warmth and smoke, further waking up burrito and diner alike. — GS
Black Bear Coffee & Tea Lodge
6550 S. Academy Blvd., 226-2327
Black Bear opened in 1999, but for a brief stint in 2013, it turned into Canyon Coffee & Cafe under a new owner. Then, in January 2015, Janis and Michael Zarter took over, re-establishing the Black Bear brand. A long bulletin board and map in the back of the dining area shows the loyalty of nearby Fort Carson soldiers, who've taken photos with Black Bear mugs around the world.
Janis makes me a special of the month, the White Chocolate Cherry Blossom ($4.65/16-ounce), adding chocolate sauce and Luden's-channeling Monin black cherry syrup to two shots of Serranos' Monument Hill dark roast. It cloys, but anyone ordering this knows what they're getting into. As Janis adjusts her grind mid-day, we sample a 26-second espresso pull, which lands flat, then a 24-second, perfectly-dialed-in pour, which manages surprising nuance under the dark roast. Amazing how two seconds can change everything. — MS
Steele Smokin BBQ
401 E. Main St., Florence, 719/784-7500
Only open since January, Steele Smokin's already up to speed, displaying barbecue prowess between half pounds of brisket ($8), Carolina-style pulled pork ($5.25), chicken ($5.98), and a half-rack of St. Louis-style spareribs ($13.95). Each pulls smoke from a variety of fruit-tree woods utilized. The brisket's soft char rind yields to the driest presentation in the batch, the meat pulling into hunks as if cut with the grain. But the flavor's spot on, as it is with the chicken and pork. The ribs see a "Memphis-inspired rub," arriving well-sauced and bearing a quickly surrendering bark.
For sauces, Steele Smokin preps a simple and effective Carolina mustard and a sweet, dark sauce that tastes of molasses with a faint hint of Worcestershire sauce. A pecan sauce option runs as thin as salad dressing and cloys. Our favorite, a red-hued spicy sauce, bites just right, particularly with the pork. — MS