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Ups and downs 

Dine & Dash

No, you will not find a year-in-review recap in the column this week. It's just another day outside the office for us, sampling across town and finding both good and bad flavors, to be perfectly blunt.

But in some sense, that is a year-in-review, as the up-and-down nature of dining out yields both dishes to fawn over (see p. 22) and mediocre plates that are quickly forgotten. Our guess is that your experiences have been much like ours this year, revealing some winners and some losers. Maybe even some dishes great or awful enough to warrant writing a reader review on our website.

The truth, or trend, seems to be that most places fall somewhere in the middle, with both positive and negative elements on display simultaneously. That's the temperature of our typical review — true in a meal, and in a year.

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Arceo's Mexican Restaurant

4608 Rusina Road, 264-0143, arceos.biz

Arceo's four-year-old north location (there's also a seven-year-old location at 1605 S. Nevada Ave.) bursts with the color of fulgently painted, ornately carved wooden Mexican chairs. The Chile Colorado burrito ($6 lunch/$7.50 dinner) follows suit with a bright, semi-hot Anaheim and jalapeño red sauce contrasted with shiny, melted cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. A few hunks of flavorful stewed top sirloin adorn the burrito as a bold garnish, and a promise of what's to come under a thick flour burrito wrapping: just steak. And it's just awesome.

Unfortunately, dry chicken holds back the chicken enchiladas rancheros ($6/$9.50). Each bite needs to be paired with a dollop of sour cream and guacamole for moisture, though a rain of crumbled Parmesan cheese adds a pleasant, zesty element to the flavor profile. — Matthew Schniper

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Café Corto Coffee Gallery

115 E. Kiowa St., 577-4347, facebook.com/cafecorto

I like the laid-back feel of the new coffee spot next to the downtown bus station and across from P.B. & Jellies New York Deli. Formerly Mountain Brew Espresso, Café Corto is decked out in brown and silver, with a separate room off the main bar full of small tables, recliners and a brown leather couch. Local art decks the walls, and will do so regularly as one of owner Ben Gallegos' community-supporting ventures (along with scholarship and art programs).

In the meantime, coffee — with beans from local roaster Spanish Peaks Coffee — is the order of the day, and a small, one-shot mocha ($3.10) is only average. A mild espresso flavor starts, before peaking with a slightly burnt taste and ending with a sugar note that deepens, then lingers. Too much Ghirardelli syrup, not enough coffee. — Bryce Crawford

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Patty Jewett Bar and Grill

900 E. Española St., pattyjewettclubhouse.com

"It's all about the view," Cindy Gough told me last month, as the co-owner of The Famous took over Patty Jewett Bar and Grill. I heard the same thing from friends, some of whom have brunched at the golf clubhouse and others who've drunk there. After confirming as much with a single glance at Pikes Peak, I test the eats with the Classic Baja Fish Tacos ($7.95) and California Burger ($7.25).

The corn tortilla cod tacos, though served with one of the saddest coleslaws my Southern eyes have seen (oddly dry and caraway-dominant), are delicious; lemon mayo adds tang, and avocado salsa some texture and heat. A slice of ham on the burger is fairly mute, but avocado, jack cheese and a dab of ranch add some personality, as does a good bun; side steak fries are characteristically thick, but mealy inside. Give me crisp shoestrings over these any day. — Matthew Schniper

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