7970 N. Academy Blvd., 593-5968, tacobueno.com
Lots of cars in the parking lot, lots of cowboy hats in the crowd, and lots of talk of freshness on the digital screens at new resident Taco Bueno. After a stressful visit into the people-slammed depths of the restaurant — and there are two more planned for the area — I can tell you that Taco Bueno is basically the bastard child of On the Border and Taco Bell. Which means quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, all covered in sauce and yellow cheese.
Not sure if the aforementioned freshness extended to the nacho cheese covering everything in the Wholotta Platter ($8.49), but the effect on the bland ground beef Chilida was that of Casa Bonita. There was more beef in the hard taco and more beef in the Muchaco — which boasted a deliciously soft fried shell — along with guacamole that tasted like the refrigerator. Killer Firehouse salsa at the bar, though. — Bryce Crawford
Rosco's Coffee House
432 W. Bijou St., see Facebook page
Lead barista Annette Moon hand-whisks my matcha in a dark bowl that looks misplaced from a hot-pot eatery, frothing a bubbly head onto the dark green-tea pond. In go a touch of honey and ice come cup-time, and I'm on my way with a clean, grassy, touch-tannic refresher. But not before sampling the potent, citrusy house cold-brew, and adding a tart iced blueberry rooibos tea (each $2.50) to my order, plus two small breakfast burritos ($3.95 apiece) prepared by local pastry provider Le Chocolat. The turkey sausage bests the potato-egg-and-cheese with brighter flavors, but ramekins of red salsa and green chile aid both.
The space is small, sunny and tidy, bearing many a representation of house mascot Rosco the donkey, who visits out-front monthly for play and PR. Owner Tony White acquired him after discovering burro racing, but he leaves the coffee prowess to Moon, a Colorado Coffee Merchants alum, and manager Caleb Duckworth, who trained at the revered Intelligentsia. — Matthew Schniper
Colorado Smokehouse Barbecue
4737 N. Academy Blvd., 424-7462, coloradosmokehouse.net
No longer just a roadside location in Fountain — where we found "nirvana in a foam container" in 2011 — Colorado Smokehouse now boasts a full-sized restaurant at the intersection of Academy and Flintridge. The inside is spacious and populated with warm employees who are as happy to chat as they are to leave you to eat. The restaurant smokes everything on-site using a gas rig suffused with mesquite.
Tables are fully equipped with a slate of six sauces, our favorite the chipotle with a kicking fruity bite; it squeezes out like a thick, smoky jelly. Though the menu lists salads, the kitchen doesn't offer them and during our visit the burnt ends weren't ready yet. A three-meat plate ($18.75) yielded juicy ribs with no bark but nice chew, an amazing pile of chopped brisket, and some righteously bold hot links. More joy followed from the easy eating in a moist pulled-pork sandwich ($9.25). Start with fat, house-battered fried pickles ($5.99). — Bryce Crawford