Viva El Taco
5945 N. Academy Blvd., 592-0012
Blessed be the 24-hour Mexican dives of this world and all those who keep them functioning. For in times of great and pressing need, you can always stop for a plate of carne asada fries ($7.95) to soothe your weary soul. Though the meat's marinade doesn't pop at all, thick clouds of guacamole and sour cream still make this mound of fast-food fries a Grade-A gut bomb.
A chorizo plate ($6.95) sees strong sausage flavor that stands out through the egg it's cooked into, served with beans and rice. This generously portioned plate lacks the neon red grease drip endemic to Mexi-dive chorizo dishes, so major points in favor. Also huge for the dollar, a machaca torta ($4.75) sees beef cooked into more eggs, served with lettuce, guac, cheddar, tomatoes and bell peppers. The meat-and-egg mix chews satisfyingly savory, with the guac finishing off the flavor. Wash it down with a creamy horchata or crisp jamaica ($1.50/large), neither of them too sweet. — GS
Southern Maid Donuts
5865 Stetson Hills Blvd., 313-9868, southernmaidcolorado.com
This extension of the Texas-based chain has been in town for about a year. But current owner Cody Robinson only purchased the business at February's end. Generally, the place falls more Dunkin' than Voodoo, so while they do offer a few options covered in breakfast cereal, things stay pretty simple and affordable.
With a dozen mixed donuts ($8.99) in hand, we found favorites quickly. The apple fritter has substance, a little texture and decent apple and cinnamon flavors. The blueberry old fashioned donut comes moist and flavorful, though crumbly. We skip sugar-only cookies & cream and Twix-themed donuts, opting for the Bavarian cream-filled donut, which evokes from-the-box vanilla pudding. If you're really gunning for sugar, try a cake-frosting-filled buttercream long john; it's too much for us. Dip whatever you pick in Farmer Brothers coffee, available as a thin cappuccino ($3.50/12-ounce) or a serviceable red eye ($2/12-ounce). — GS
Cockpit Craft Distillery
4893 Galley Road, 720/299-0071, cockpitdistillery.com
Yes, you can dine in an old KC-97 tanker at the longstanding Airplane Restaurant, but now you can drink atop the tail wing of a WWII-era C-45 transport plane — the showpiece at Cockpit Craft. Mind your drink, as it can easily slide down the sloped bar-top, designed by owner/distiller and Air Force reservist Calder Curtis, who also fabricated his own impressive column still.
Sample sips of his FG-1D Rum, flavored Corsair Sweet Peach Tea Rum, and bourbon-mash P-51 Whiskey are more impressive than the $6 house cocktails made from them — the mixology needs refinement. Elixer G mixer adds a synthetic edge to Vernors ginger soda in the forwardly boozy Clear and Cloudy. Orange juice buries the whiskey's specialty-malt nuance in an Old Fashioned sadly gone toward a Screwdriver. And unbalanced bitters batter the tongue in a botched Manhattan. Finely crushed quickly melting ice helps nothing. For now, buy a bottle to play with at home. — MS