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Rancho Alegre, Phantom Canyon, Oscar's 

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click to enlarge Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800, phantomcanyon.com

I enjoyed my first visit to the revamped Phantom last July, finding more creative fare, like a summer squash salad with figs, pistachio goat cheese and blood orange vinaigrette. With the recent winter menu overhaul, that's been replaced by a butternut squash salad, but we try the duck prosciutto salad ($12) with grapefruit segments, halved red pearl onions, roasted whole hazelnuts, and Pecorino shavings over an olive-oiled quarter of a grilled Romaine head dusted in coarse black pepper.

If ever a dish makes you think its creator never tried it, this is it. It's difficult to eat, with entirely disparate flavors that never gel sensibly between the citrus, sharp onions, nuttiness, and musky, questionably fresh, leave-it-on-the-plate prosciutto. We're flummoxed, barely assuaged by brainless pretzel bites ($9) with a good cheese dip. At least the barleywine ($6) is bully, and a rich cask vanilla porter ($5.50) sports lovely tobacco undertones with big vanilla character. — MS

click to enlarge Rancho Alegre - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Rancho Alegre

Rancho Alegre

1899 S. Nevada Ave., 329-1719

There's that smell, which a friend describes as "barnyard," when a bowl of tripe is set before you. It's challenging and off-putting to the average American eater, who prefers primal steak cuts to the sliced, seriously chewy chambers of a cow's stomach — eaten Worldwide across cultures. Here, some gringos have fallen for Mexican menudo ($10.75), the spicy tripe and hominy soup (not the '80s Puerto Rican boy band).

Rancho Alegre owner of 11 years Victor Luquin, who hails from the tiny Jalisco town of Juchitlán, says he grew up eating menudo for weekend breakfasts, as it was the meat his family could afford. He makes a simple broth with salt, onions, garlic and spicy guajillo chilies. He then serves a side plate of oregano, chili flakes, white onion, jalapeño and lime, for dumping in as if gussying up a Vietnamese pho. The acid and heat tame the meat's intensity a bit, rounding out a primitively pleasing, sweat-inducing, voluminous dish. — MS

click to enlarge Oscar's Tejon Street - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Oscar's Tejon Street

Oscar's Tejon Street

333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070, oscarsoysterbar.com

Oscar's new website currently prices gumbo by the cup or "bowel." Do not dwell on this unwanted mental image; instead, buy a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo ($4.95/cup, $6.95/bowl) so Oscar's can afford a copy editor. Said soup is a cozy and welcome hug from your bayou cousin on a winter day. It balances earthy filé powder and spicy cayenne with the mighty smoke from andouille sausage that the restaurant ships in from Louisiana twice weekly.

The muffuletta ($11.95) is a reasonable take on the classic sandwich, pairing underwhelming ham and salami with a well-considered green olive salad and mayo. The bread has a great herbal flavor that plays well with the dish overall. But the salad and mayo come together on the wet side of things, and it's hard to justify the price point. Skip the side mac & cheese (95 cents extra) altogether. The noodles swim in the pepper-dominated cheese sauce. — GS

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