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I totally understand being slammed, or dying in the weeds, or just having your ass handed to you by an unexpected rush. Like most 20-somethings, I waited tables for years, and that drowning feeling always was the worst part of the job.

But from the customer's end, there's only so much empathy that can be culled.

In the case of our visit to Adam's Mountain Café, we hit our limit. True, I later learned the restaurant was shorthanded that day, and experiencing three times the business it'd seen in previous weeks; but when we arrived, it was to a half-full dining room. Either way, a dinner-long disappearing act concluded only with a turn-and-burn payment process, ultimately punctuated with a curt "Here you go."

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Adam's Mountain Café

934 Manitou Ave., #102, Manitou Springs, 685-1430, adamsmountain.com

First, the good: The orange spice tea ($2.75) — black tea with cloves, oranges and cinnamon — was boldly spiced and fun to drink. The pan-seared Asian barramundi ($19) arrived flaky and moist, topped with fresh sliced peppers and paired with good braised greens and a honey vinaigrette over white rice.

The bad: The dish was nothing I'd leave the house for, especially at its price. The dressing was too sour, and the rice came off as filler. And as alluded to in the intro, the service was distractingly off. Our waitperson was brusque, and seemed to stiffen somewhat when we declined to order alcoholic drinks or a starter; we didn't see her again once the food was dropped off; and it was the hostess who eventually offered to bring us a to-go box. Let's hope an upcoming menu overhaul will address service points, too. — Bryce Crawford

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Los Compadres

2237 E. Platte Ave., 473-2524

For about seven years, this location has been La Costa Chica; new owner Baltazar Rosas changed the name in December. His family hails from Acapulco, but most gringos, myself included, won't notice much difference between the styles of this and other local taco trucks and taquerias. Which is to say the food is quite satisfying on the cheap.

Get three tacos, a burrito or a torta sandwich for $4.99, individual tacos for $1.75, or sopes (thick masa rounds with choice of meat under queso fresco, cotija cheese and avocado) for $1.99. Our fatty tripe tacos were tops, and the tender asada (steak) and greasy buche (stomach) perfectly good, but the carnitas stumbled with hard, dry pork. The torta adobada was a hefty, wet-bread sandwich with a cheese sauce and delicious marinated pork; a chicharrón sope sogged quickly, but otherwise rocked. — Matthew Schniper

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North End Diner

3005 N. Hancock Ave., 442-1833, northenddiner.com

While a kitchen employee enthusiastically sang out The Tubes' "She's a Beauty," we noshed on the diner's San Francisco burger ($9.75), a rich bit of lunch I'd happily get buttery with again. That's mainly because of the Ranch Foods Direct beef patty, which was thick and really juicy, despite its well-done nature (which we weren't given the option of choosing). Also, no problem with the lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles plated on the side.

And since the diner off East Fillmore Street has been kicking for 54 years, it's got a well-developed personality. Checkerboard tablecloths fill a tightly knit, almost cluttered, dining space split between two rooms; American flags dot the place; and while we were there, folks in the corner dissected each new Newt Gingrich development in detail. — Bryce Crawford

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