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Sushi Ai, Weber Street Liquor, Golden Bee 

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Sushi Ai

6552 S. Academy Blvd., 576-8855

Around a decade before Sushi O Sushi ever unsheathed its sword on the south-side, Sushi Ai was holding down the fort (Carson, that is) in what my waitress says was the original of three locations. All were sold off to different families, she adds, which explains today's general confusion about a trio of spots with "Ai" somewhere in their names.

Here, sitting at the counter doesn't earn you any extra chef treats, but the 10-piece lunch special nigiri sushi plate ($13) gets handed over minimally and elegantly presented on an elevated, recessed woodblock — like a mini altar to some pescetarian-loving overlord. Following an included bowl of salad (whose greens could be fresher) and respectable miso soup, the chef-chosen array of fresh cuts (all safe, conventional picks — yawn) arrives, making for a light meal. Soft, buttery salmon, yellowtail, halibut, tuna varietals and the like ... you know the drill. — Matthew Schniper

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Weber Street Liquor

712 N. Weber St., 475-9533

The recently revamped Weber Street stands among the more prolific purveyors of quality Colorado craft beer locally, further evidenced by a full cooler door devoted to mix-and-match six packs ($9.99). It's a fantastic way to sample widely and affordably, plus not end up committed to a brew over which you aren't just beaming. I create a fun beer-battle among six cans, which, yes, are slowly replacing bottles for reasons of prolonged freshness and lighter-weight distribution.

All I grab are light, including four IPA renditions from outfits like the newly-distributed-to-the-Springs Telluride Brewing Co. and Pug Ryan's (from Dillon). Flying Dog's Snake Dog may win for amazing label art alone, but Aspen Brewing Company's gorgeous, quad-hopped (Palisade, Columbus, Simcoe and Cascade), 7-percent ABV Independence Pass IPA bests the bunch with wonderful citrus/floral notes and very clean, balanced flavors. — Matthew Schniper

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The Golden Bee

The Broadmoor, 1 Lake Ave., 577-5776, broadmoor.com

That happy, singing purveyor of bee stickers flung table-side is bigger and arguably better, after an expansion — part of $100 million in improvements property-wide — that kept much of the original charm, brought the entrance out of the basement, and added seating in every direction. With it came a deep cocktail menu that includes Pimm's No. 1 Cups, eight different gins for a build-your-own bar, and $75 glasses of 25-year-old Macallan whiskey. You'll also find attentive service that thinks to pull unneeded table settings, and some damn fine fish and chips ($16) with "mushy peas."

Actually, it was the former that drew me and the latter that blew me away: Fresh peas got mashed with mint and a little oil into a fresh, bizarre masterpiece. Great fish, also: two large, steaming fillets wrapped in a delicate, flaky crust that almost melted into slippery chunks of battered white fish when under pressure. Full-flavored fries on the side. — Bryce Crawford

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