Red Dog Coffee
739 Manitou Ave., 313-9080, reddogcoffeemanitou.com
Does anyone else think the logo for Red Dog looks like a cat — or maybe, charitably, a red panda? Well, no matter what, the Manitou coffee shop has recently received its liquor license, so we stopped by for a brew and a bite. Beyond coffee drinks and smoothies, expect mimosas, craft drafts and bottles, and hard cider. Draft beer comes in 10- or 20-ounce pours; we opt for a spendy Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale ($5/10-ounce).
Red Dog brews Colorado Coffee Merchants beans, which play little role in a milk-dominant iced latte ($4). That said, we're impressed by a homemade pumpkin sweet potato tart ($4.59), warmed by request. Buttery crust holds a smooth filling delightfully perfumed with cinnamon, topped with pecan streusel. But a chicken pesto sandwich ($8.99) on US Foods wheat bread merely exists, with meat, veg and pesto saying little. — GS
Ruffrano's Heavenly Squeeze
10 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-4388
To be verbose about it, the full name's Ruffrano's Heavenly Squeeze Oxygen & Juice Bar, because apparently people are still willing to pay to suck air even though studies have failed to confirm the purported benefits of doing so, according to multiple sources online. The heaven shtick — carried through design elements like cloud-shaped tables and sky-colored walls — revolves around neighboring Hell's Kitchen Pizza, by the same owner.
Showing grace, Ruffrano's buys organic produce for juices, such as my Eternal Peace ($5.95/16-ounce), which balances carrot and apple sweetness with celery saltiness and bite, heightened by a small ginger zing. I also add an "anointment" of green powder (Amazing Grass' Green Superfood in this case) for 50 cents more, taking the whole affair into grassier, vegetal territory. Beats the hell out of pizza for leaving one refreshed versus carbed into a food coma. — MS
NaRai Siam Cuisine
120 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 434-1975, narai-thai.com
Owner Jasmine Andrew has continued to grow the list of offerings at her south location since expanding from her Rockrimmon-area spot a few years back. Then, she'd added plates like Korean bulgogi-inspired lemongrass beef short ribs to the predominantly Thai menu. More recently, she's run ongoing chef specials like a mango-halibut red curry, lobster seafood red curry, and a unique-to-town lobster seafood Pad Thai ($24.99), presented as a large curled, grilled lobster tail atop a tangle of rice noodles engulfing a few-each shrimp, scallops and mussels. It punches with a fishy aroma and a caramelized sugar char leading the wok hay; though the lobster's a bit tough, it's a rich, fulfilling dish.
Less pricey and a great app: tempura kabocha squash ($5.99) are thinly battered for a surprisingly light finish considering their fried nature and inherent starchiness. The gourd keeps some tooth too, and a sweet-and-sour dip enhances the whole. — MS