Side dish: The 'snack bar in a carpet store' 

Pig in a blanket

"Bring your wife — she might want to buy some carpet," jokes James Bussiere, owner of The Munch Box (3132 N. Hancock Ave., 632-0884), which might just be the most entertainingly perplexing local eatery I've yet encountered.

The sign-of-the-times story goes like this: Bussiere has been a local contractor for 30 years, and the job has given him three blown discs in his back, an arthritic hip and hands so overworked that it takes him 20 minutes to make a fist in the morning, he says. When the economy tanked, his business, Carpet & Flooring Specialists, Inc., suffered greatly.

So he partially remodeled his office space and got it rezoned for food service. (A grocery store actually occupied the site in the '50s, he says.) He figures he can't keep up contracting forever, but he can certainly cook into his old age.

Plus, he's tired of folks, especially fellow contractors, complaining about the economy: "You know what: Find something else to do," he says. "Nobody's going to help you out, so get out there and do it yourself."

Now the goofy part: The Munch Box and the flooring biz currently coexist in the modestly sized building, so it's more of "a snack bar in a carpet store," in Bussiere's words.

"It's a joke right now," he offers, noting that his only seating option is currently a donated, avocado green card table.

But at the same time, the eatery — open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday (until expanded summer hours start) — is no joke. It serves Colorado Coffee Merchants coffee, locally made Anne & Mann's Gourmet Ice Cream, Chicago-style Vienna Beef hot dogs and more. And people even outside the residential area are taking notice of the gaudy bright yellow and red building: area teachers, firemen and passersby are becoming regulars and vouching for the quality, affordable flavors.

Bussiere has tentative plans to add a wall to separate the businesses. For now, just enjoy the absurdity — he certainly is.

À la carte

• In celebration of the Golden Bee's 50th anniversary, The Broadmoor's English-style pub (1 Lake Ave., broadmoor.com) is hosting the Bee's English Beer Garden tented party, which is free and open to the public from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday, May 27 and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on May 28 and 29. A commemorative ESBee beer brewed specially for the drink house by Bristol Brewing Co. will be featured, along with a cash bar, live music, and lunch ($16) and dinner ($25) buffets.

El Tesoro Restaurant & Gallery (10 N. Sierra Madre St.) has closed "due to a slow economy," according to a message on its answering machine. The 20-year-old Santa Fe-style eatery was sold at the end of 2009 to employees Sage and Jacqueline Church, who'd added lunch and expanded happy hours in hopes of reviving the spot.

  • Also: The Golden Bee's anniversary party and more.


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