A local tour of one hundred essential bites 

Bites 2013

Berry Salad at The Keg Lounge •

730 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-9531

A bar with a badass, bestselling salad? Whodathunkit? But it's true, fruit makes the fresh greens go down extra easy here. The season dictates what mix among strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries you'll get on a given day. And you'll have to choose between salmon or teriyaki chicken as your optional topper, though the cabbage, onions, walnuts and bleu cheese are mainstays. And any combination of all of the above is crunchy, sweet and memorable. ($10.95/$13.95 with protein additions)

Thai Crêpe at Paris Crepe

218 N. Tejon St., 444-0110

Puritan Frenchies need not order me. I'm an international spin with global appeal. Inside my fold, juicy steak hunks meet pear slices, cilantro and peanut crumbles while a rich peanut sauce coats all for starchy bliss. ($7.99 on wheat crêpe or $8.49 for gluten-free buckwheat or garbanzo batter)

Manicotti at Luigi's

947 S. Tejon St., 632-7339, luigiscoloradosprings.com

The key to Luigi's manicotti is the delicate, homemade pasta, whose thinness somehow manages to contain a rich ricotta stuffing. But then there's the blend of white and red house sauces: a béchamel and an herbaceous tomato sauce, rendered mellow from seven hours stewing but bearing both ground meatballs and Italian sausage bits. A choice between a full meatball or anise-seasoned sausage link, both homemade, completes the affair. ($16.25 includes a salad or house minestrone soup/$13.50 as a special on Friday and Saturday nights)

Cantina Burger at Crystal Park Cantina

178 Crystal Park Road, Manitou Springs, 685-5999, crystalparkcantina.com

We don't necessarily gravitate to burgers, especially at a Mexican joint. But then we met the Cantina Burger and freaked the eff out and now sometimes we write haikus in its honor. Its custom-made Great Harvest Bread Co. corn bun, lathered with chipotle mayo, embraces a 6-ounce patty covered in gooey Manchego cheese. Then cabbage slaw enters the equation, with cilantro and sautéed onions and jalapeños. ($11)

Margherita Pizza at Pizzeria Rustica

2527 W. Colorado Ave., 632-8121, pizzeriarustica.com

Hotdogs, macaroni, Buffalo wings ... all things arguably disgracefully placed upon pizza in modern times. All of which makes the existence of a true, traditional classic pizza even more important. A retreat. A refuge. Something so perfect, in the case of the Margherita, that it need not ever have been built upon. Thin wood-oven pizza, lauded San Marzano tomatoes, fragrant basil, house-made mozzarella. Done, done and done. Don't talk to me, I'm eating over here. ($11.95)

Beignets and Café Au Lait at Springs Orleans

123 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-0123, springsorleans.com

It's as close as you're going to get to Café Du Monde locally, especially if it's summertime and you're sitting in the alleyway between the Mining Exchange and Springs Orleans. You accept that you're going to walk away with powdered sugar either on your face or clothes, but it's worth it for that sweet fried dough. In between bites you sip your creamy coffee — One free refill? Be still my heart! — and you ponder other perfect marriages in the food and drink world, losing your train of thought sometime around the next bite. ($2.49 each)

Korean Pork Belly at Zen Fusion Sushi & Bistro

4359 Integrity Center Point, 375-3288, zenfusionsushi.com

Not that anything that begins with stir-fried pork belly can fail — You can't derail the swine train, sucka! — but this dish really hits the high points of fatty delight. Seared onions and a fantastic Korean hot chili sauce flavor the meat, which, ordered as a wrap, lets you roll it with fresh lettuce leaves, raw garlic slices (hell, yes!) and jalapeño slivers. ($13.99; $5 extra for wrap ingredients)

Homemade Coconut Ice Cream at Taste of Thai Spice

1609 Lashelle Way, 226-1999

Synthetic coconut taste has to be one of the worst, when you feel like you're imbibing sunblock or bronzing oil, flashes of Miami Vice episodes or that one grotesquely hairy man at the beach. Well, this ain't that. Picture a creamy coconut milk base, not too sweet, with peanut crumbles the perfect salty counterbalance. You scream because I just stole your ice cream. ($3.95)

Spicy Bison Sandwich at Nosh

121 S. Tejon St., 635-6674, nosh121.com

If ever a better way to eat bison tongue has existed, we know it not. Nosh's chefs braise the meat stupid-tender with tomato paste and red wine over the course of 24-plus hours at 200 degrees. They then cook it with caramelized onions, jalapeños and Anaheims, receiving more kick from cayenne mayo and pepper jack cheese, melted onto Old School Bakery bread. Dunk that in a sweet jus constructed of the braising liquid refortified with extra carrots to draw out natural sugars. Tatonka! ($9.50 includes a side, lunch only)

Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup at Shuga's

702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412, shugas.com

As prawn baths go, this one's epic. It's got peanut buttery, starchy sweetness, coconut milk smoothness, a mild ginger bite, medium jalapeño burn and a touch of cilantro influence. It's almost like a Thai dish doing a sexy samba dance. But it's more like the best damn thing in the world at that moment you're mopping it up with fat bread wedges, eyes rolled back, groaning like a mad fool. ($4 cup/$7 bowl)

Ajiaco at Café Corto Coffee Gallery

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

Colombian flavors abound at Café Corto, perhaps most beautifully in this potato and chicken soup thickened by crema Mexicana and flavored with garden herbs including guasca, a potato weed. In go avocado and capers, a corn-on-the-cob segment and an addictive arepa — a sweet, creamy corn cake — for dipping. Ask for a side ramekin of aji, a spicy oil-and-vinegar-based pepper sauce. Eat, repeat. ($6, seasonal specialty)

Colorado Lamb at The Cliff House at Pikes Peak

306 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-3000, thecliffhouse.com

Though the lamb presentation changes a few times a year, the Centennial State's most underrated game meat will always be on the Cliff House's menu. And these folks consistently treat it right. I've seen it as strips inside a phyllo purse under a mint-apricot-apple purée with sweet balsamic spinach (schwing!); under a merlot demi-glace; and, most recently, with a huckleberry jus and port foam next to sweet potatoes duchesse. (Around $26 to $30)

Maine Lobster Bisque at Walter's Bistro

146 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 630-0201, waltersbistro.com

In today's economy especially, it's amazing to ponder that back in colonial days, lobsters were fed to prisoners. But chances are quite great (certain, really) that those naughty boys never had it this good. Walter's bisque starts with the finest pinchers, whose shells give up the ghost for a rich stock flavor incorporated beautifully into a velvety, creamy body that begs for your French dinner roll's dip. Trust us, you'll want the bowl. ($7.50/cup, $10/bowl)

Christmas Mountain Falls at Adam's Mountain Café

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

Yeah, the menu says Green or Red Mountain Falls, but locals know you can mix them to dramatic effect. Onto a bed of toasted polenta (yup — 'dem ITALian corn grits) capped in cheddar cheese come the vegetarian chilies garnished with scallions and tomatoes and cooled slightly by a dollop of sour cream. Get the added eggs your style (over medium, perhaps?) because the yolk adds another pleasing dimension. There you have it: Christmas year-round. ($7/$10.25 with two eggs).

Fred's Hawaiian Pancakes at Over Easy, a daytime eatery

28-A S. Tejon St., 471-2311, rockymtnrg.com

As cramp-your-glutes-sweet breakfast options go, this tropical tribute will spike your blood sugar just fine. Juicy pineapple cubes are caramelized, coconut flakes are lightly toasted, and then both are incorporated into the batter. Come plate-up time, cinnamon butter gets its melt on while a crème Anglaise drags a vanilla-laden drizzle across the flapjacks. Thankfully, no spam appears. ($7.99)

Pad Thai Woon Sen at Arharn Thai

3739 Bloomington St., 596-6559, arharnthai.net

Here's a superstar plate for the gluten-free crowd, still a treat to non-restricted eaters. Rather than the wide rice noodles you're used to on standard Pad Thai, the Woon Sen is built on a base of thin "bean thread" noodles. They get the same stir-fry treatment with a rich peanut flavor, and though egg adds some protein, it's well worth the upcharge for soft prawns to contrast the bean sprouts' crunch. Heat level's up to your better judgment. ($6.80/$2.50 extra for shrimp)

La Belle Salad at La Creperie

204 N. Tejon St., 632-0984, lacreperiedowntown.com

It's a model entrée salad, alive with crunch and color. Over a bed of organic spring mix, ingredients are compartmentalized for mixing as you please. Among them: grated carrots, red onion slivers, cucumber rounds, halved baby tomatoes, avocado segments and a small log pile of semi-crisp asparagus spears. Shredded white cheddar adds richness, followed by a formidable tang from the creamy house Dijon vinaigrette. ($12/$2 extra for ham and chicken topping)

Riblet Plate at Front Range Barbeque

2330 W. Colorado Ave., 632-2596, frbbq.com

Think of Front Range's riblet offering simply as a big-ass plate of Southern goodness. Tender, slow-cooked St. Louis rack ends sport a light char but copious hickory and mesquite flavor. They're served naked (got your attention) so you can choose your own house sauce tableside: Mustard Wine, Sweet n' Spicy or our favorite, the Original Tangy. ($16 includes choice of two sides)

Lamb Shish Kebab Sandwich at Taste of Jerusalem Café

15 E. Bijou St., 477-1777; 2810 S. Academy Blvd., #150, 391-1777 tasteofjerusalemcafe.com

A fluffy warm pita wraps around lettuce, tomatoes, tangy pepperoncinis and big lamb kabab hunks, pink-in-the-middle and juicy. There's some hummus for sesame smack, but a creamy Italian-esque sauce provides the real zesty element that's perfect with the lamb's gaminess. ($6.99)

Beef Bourguignon at Marigold Café and Bakery

4605 Centennial Blvd., 599-4776, marigoldcoloradosprings.com

When it comes to hitting the venerable Marigold Café for a rich, dark-brown pool of slow-cooked, mashable beef cuts and deeply rich gravy, here's the best advice: Leave your grandma at home. One bite of this, and she'll only get depressed and stop cooking. ($20)

Orange and Saffron Caramel Cream at Caspian Cafe

4375 Sinton Road, 528-1155, caspiancafe.com

Oh, the love poems we've written to this one over the years ... a perfectly textured and executed cream-and-egg-based vanilla bean flan that's sent over the top by ample orange zest and a lovely Iranian saffron infusion. Enter house-made caramel sauce plus berries and a dollop of whipped cream for garnish, and you have yourself one hell of a belly dance, mister. ($5.95)

Moscato and Ginger Mousse at 2South Food + Wine Bar

2 S. 25th St., 351-2806, 2southwinebar.com

This dessert is hella sexy, but in a refined, classy way — like an attractive person at the Broadmoor's swimming pool. It's light and airy, with a ginger simple syrup adding a pleasantly biting zing to the creaminess. Then comes a garnish of salted peanut praline for caramelized contrast and a side of Moscato-ginger honey infused with both lemon and vanilla ... so many lovely flavors hitting in harmony. Genius. Pure genius. ($6)

Broasted Chicken at Johnny's Navajo Hogan

2817 N. Nevada Ave., 344-9593, johnnyshogan.com

Call it a culinary parlor trick if you must, Johnny's use of a Broaster pressure cooker as glorified on broaster.com. But nobody rational will dispute how damn good this fried chicken is. (Especially no right-minded Dixie boy.) Brining it for half a day leads to super-juicy, tender meat encapsulated by beautifully crunchy skin. Choose from light or dark meat plates, all with two sides. ($8.95 to $10.95)

Po Po Platter at Ivy's Chinese Cafe

11550 Ridgeline Drive, #120, 487-8088, ivyschinesecafe.com

It's the answer for the indecisive: a little bit of everything as a tasting platter, artfully displayed on a Lazy Susan complete with a Sterno-warmed, cast-iron grill for toasting at the table. The shrimp are lightly coconut-flake-battered; teriyaki beef and chicken skewers are moist and slightly sweet; wings and egg rolls are quite pleasing. And does anyone really need us to describe the ecstasy of crunching through a hot cheese wonton? ($5.75 a head, minimum two people)

Croque Madame at La Baguette French Bistro

4440 N. Chestnut St., 599-0686, labaguettefrenchbistro.com

The Monte Cristo has nothing on the Croque Madame. It's the most gourmet ham-and-cheese you'll probably ever eat. Thick, buttered, grilled bread lathered in Dijon mustard holds pan-warmed ham and melted Swiss cheese, plus a cap of gooey Gruyère. Then comes the fried egg, ready to ooze its yolk downward, eventually to merge with an underlying puddle of Béchamel sauce. It's Parisian comfort food, perfected. ($9.95)

Açaí Bowl at Cafe Velo

11550 Ridgeline Drive, #102, 772-6101, cafevelobikes.com

Think sorbet dressed to impress, in terms of texture and accoutrements. This Hawaii-popularized, high-antioxidant health treat starts with puréed frozen açaí and guarana berries, to which fresh sliced strawberries and bananas are added. Then comes crunch from granola and tasty hippie credibility from hemp seeds. (You won't get high.) It's easily breakfast or dessert. ($4.50 cup/$7.50 bowl)

Fried Cheese Curds at Tony's Bar

311 N. Tejon St., 228-6566, tonysdowntownbar.com

Until Springside Cheese Shop opened in Pueblo last year, ushering real Wisconsin cheese curds into the region's retail marketplace, Tony's was the go-to spot when your gut told you it was time to lay a happy clogging on those uppity arteries. It remains the place to have them fried for you and served with either a ranch or bleu cheese dip, or even jelly. There's greasy crunch, tooth-tickling curd-squeak and the certain sense that though this food is not good for you, it's somehow good for you — especially with beer. ($7.30)

Pepperoni Pizza at Joey's Pizza

1829 Briargate Blvd., 265-6922, joeysnypizza.net

Let's just say slices of pepperoni pizza from Joey's are so damn good — those wide, thin bites so fresh, so steaming hot with lava cheese and delicious grease from the 600-degree oven — we can barely believe it when they tell us the sauce, though modified to their own custom recipe, starts in a can. ($2.19 per slice/$15.03 per pie)

Butter Chicken at Taste of India

4820 Flintridge Drive, 598-3428, tasteofindiacoloradosprings.com

You'd swear the golden pool full of cubed chicken chunks, easily splitting into pink shreds, was 90-percent sweet cream. But ginger zings, then garlic sings, then yogurt and tomatoes vibrate with biting tang. Then you're taking another bite, then you're out of steaming, grilled naan to pile it onto, then you're out of room to eat, so you roll to the car. ($12.95)

Sauerbraten at Edelweiss Restaurant

34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220, edelweissrest.com

This baby's about as similar to your mother's pot roast as an abacus is to an iPhone. Chuck roast gets marinated for three days in vinegar, sugar, salt, pickling spices, peppercorns and a host of other flavors that'll make your tongue swell so hard it'll reach around to hug you. Slop up the gravy, slurp up the shreds, and praise be the saints for sauerbraten. ($9.50 lunch/$16.25 dinner)

Lamb Stew  at McCabe's Tavern

520 S. Tejon St., 633-3300, mccabestavern.com

It's snowing outside, quiet little flakes, so you stop at the pub for some bites and a beer. You do a bowl of lamb stew, a mahogany concoction flecked with red chunks of tomato and scallions. You're enveloped in hot steam, you taste rosemary, Guinness and soft potatoes, and you sop with crumbly bites of soda bread. ($7.95 lunch/$12.95 dinner)

Torta Cochinita Pibil at Quijote's Mexican Grill

208 N. Union Blvd., 313-9127

As reverently described by a dining "bromigo": a small, crusty, square sandwich filled with slow-roasted marinated pork, pickled onions and beans — not to mention a little savory grit — that comes with a side of bright-orange-and-addicting habañero sauce. It's got Mayan roots, but the sky's the limit. ($5.50)

Three-Meat Sampler at Kasey's Bar & Grill

1919 E. Boulder St., 635-8128

Why limit yourself to a single meat when you can taste three: ribs, brisket and pulled pork. Apple-wood smoked infuses all generously and the grill leaves a hearty char on the ribs in particular, which are lathered with an excellent homemade brown sugar and black pepper barbecue sauce. The pulled pork is slightly gamey and super tender after 12 hours in the smoker and the brisket's equally soft. ($10.99 with two sides and a roll)

Blonde Ale & Smoked Gouda Soup at Phantom Canyon Brewing Co.

2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800, phantomcanyon.com

Like the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones or one of those geek-ass elven blades from The Lord of the Rings, this soup is legend. It's not so much that wars have been fought over it (aside from the personal mental battle of resisting eating it all the time) as the fact that it's pretty much the greatest beer-cheese soup in the known realm. With its Queen's Blonde Ale base and thick cheese, it's so rich it's royal. ($3.25 cup/$5 bowl)

Fondue for Two at The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant

733 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-0277, monalisafondue.com

Customize your own four courses, but here's how we'd roll: the Caesar salad first, then the Old World cheese option for the bread-veggie-and-fruit round. The Wild Game Entrée Platter for the main affair, featuring buffalo, trout, boar and more. And then a dark chocolate dessert fondue at meal's end, with a liqueur shot of your choice — Amaretto perhaps? — for a buck more per head. ($49 per person)

Blood Orange Froyo at Buttercup's Frozen Yogurt

27 S. Tejon St., #110, 635-6666, buttercupsfroyo.com

Dual credit here: to Buttercup's for carrying it and providing the tantalizing toppings, and to Boulder-based Yoki Bliss for making it. We're talking hormone-free, local-milk-sourced, artificial-junk-free, probiotic-rich frozen yogurt, in this case infused with real blood orange juice and sweetened with beet sugar. It's a nearly year-round bestseller, so no whining if it's out; there's always the cheesecake flavor. (43 cents per ounce)

Grilled Beef Ribs at Lemongrass Bistro

6840 N. Academy Blvd., 592-1391, restauranteur.com/lemongrassbistro

It's a beautiful plate, this one full of mounded rice in one corner, some sliced tomatoes and cucumbers in another, and a side of clear, thin, tangy lemon sauce in the middle. And completing the picture? Two long squares of deeply charred meat topped with little curls of scallions and floral juices. ($10.95)

Jerk Chicken at Spice Island Grill

10 N. Sierra Madre St., 473-8280, spiceislandgrill.com

It's all about the sauce on this one: a house-made jerk sauce — sold by the bottle and also amazing on the crispy tofu fries for you vegans — that incorporates fermented scotch bonnet peppers for some serious heat. The bone-in chicken is also marinated in spices and herbs and then grilled crisp, with a thick spice paste still hugging the skin, which reveals perfectly moist meat. ($6.99 lunch/$13 dinner)

Breakfast Burrito at King's Chef Diner

110 E. Costilla St., 634-9135; 131 E. Bijou St., 636-5010, kingschefdiner.com

Fit for the Food Network, this is Colorado in a bite. Why? Because green chili pumps through our veins, and King's Chef's is undisputedly badass. Even heat-freaks get it on the side to measure the madness. The fire-roasted green god-sauce, made with Pueblo green chiles and California habañeros, is gluten-free and vegan. You can keep the burrito vegetarian by subbing in MorningStar Farms veggie sausage in place of the real deal for no charge. Along with either of those sausages, bacon or ham, the flour wrap gets two eggs, onions, filling hash browns and some shredded cheese. If the whole thing were made into a movie, it'd be called, There Will Be Burn. And it'd win an Oscar. ($8.95 full/$6.50 half)

Avocado Pork Taco at El Taco Rey

330 E. Colorado Ave., 475-9722, eltacorey.com

The avocado pork burrito here might be legend, but this double-layer soft corn tortilla version deserves your fealty too. Scarlet-hued, marinated shredded pork is met with a thick layer of mashed avocado then topped with tomatoes, a pinch of shredded cheese and ample crispy lettuce. Eat two and call us in the morning. ($3.65 each)

S'more Please Cupcake at Cupcake Girls

302 E. Platte Ave., 650-2495, cupcakegirls.co

Knock knock. Who's there? A cupcake. A cupcake who? A cupcake that tastes like a S'more, mofo! That's right: graham-cracker crumble under chocolate cake with a marshmallow cream-cheese frosting. No campfire needed. This cake's plenty hot on its own. ($1.25 mini/$2.75 regular)

Grill-Your-Own Steak at O'Malley's Steak Pub

104 S. Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, 488-0321, omalleys.biz

You're in the driver's seat on this one, so watch the grill — and no whining if your house-cut New York Strip or Rib Eye heads past your desired medium-rare into the well-done territory of shame. Choose between steak cuts ranging from 8 to 26 ounces; you can go bigger, too, paying an extra $1 for every ounce thereafter. Up to you on adding onion and/or garlic powder, salt, pepper, soy or Worcestershire sauce grill-side and A.1. at the table. Don't let us down. ($9.99 to $18.99 and beyond, includes salad bar and a baked potato)

Wild-Style Double Cheeseburger at Drifter's Hamburgers

4455 Mark Dabling Blvd., 548-8163; 1485 Jamboree Drive, 264-1512; driftershamburgers.com

This monster starts life as a series of beef patties from Ranch Foods Direct. Mustard's cooked directly in, before Stage 2 is completed with toppings of lettuce, tomato, house Thousand Island dressing, pickles and a dash of brightening ketchup. Stage 3 is Austin Powers' crucial "warm, liquid goo phase": melted cheese running through a greasy pile of sweet grilled onions. ($4.19)

Spicy Cucumber Sandwich at The Corner Café

7 E. Vermijo Ave., 520-1843, cornercafecs.com

It's a little thin, so you think maybe its flavor will be a little thin, but it's not — it's really, really not. So you keep biting away at the hot-and-cool, wheat-bread-bound package of applewood-smoked bacon, cucumbers, red onion, pepper jack cheese and burly jalapeño ranch, and you realize the only thin thing here is what's left of your doubt. ($7.95)

Fried Chicken at Barney's Diner

129 W. Las Animas St., 632-1756

We will not insult your intellect by describing the comfort-food superiority of fried chicken. You know, the soul-satisfying, unctuous crunch that gives way to moist meat — 'nuff said. Just know that here, lines lead out of the building when it's served on first and third Wednesdays of the month, always two days after the poultry began marinating. ($6.90 includes three chicken pieces, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies, and soup or salad)

Beef Bulgogi at San Chang House

3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707

Bulgogi is the poster child of marinated meat, which is to say it's one of the finest expressions of thin beef cuts patiently tenderized and seasoned to a palate-pleasing perfection. Due to language barriers, we couldn't tell you exactly what's in San Chang's rendition — likely it includes the classic soy, sugar, sesame and garlic and onion inputs — but we can say theirs is as good as the dish gets around here. Semi-sweet, salty and umami at once. ($8.99 lunch/$12.99 dinner)

Veggie Eggs Benedict at Mucky Duck

10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-2008, muckyduckco.com

First off, you've got Hollandaise, which is like bacon in the way that almost everything it touches becomes more amazing. Velvety, rich, buttery, yolky goodness, in this case bleeding over avocado and tomato wedges, plus sautéed spinach, atop ye olde English muffin. Sure, Mucky Duck sells 10 Benedict varieties, including crab, duck and bacon plates, but some Sunday Brunch moods call for the greens. ($10.95)

Collard Greens at Three Delights Caribbean Grill

4747 Flintridge Drive, 599-5375, threedelights.com

Are there actually any collard greens in that giant mound? Oh yes, there they are — under all that pulled smoked turkey. It's like half-and-half, flesh and leaf. Forget that sad little ham hock your ancestors boiled their green beans with: There's like half a bird in this spectacular roughage. Gobble gobble! ($2.50 as a side)

Rouladen at Uwe's German Restaurant

31 Iowa Ave., 475-1611

Think about a Middle Eastern dolma, but instead of grape leaves, thin cuts of frozen beef wrap around more chopped beef and bacon slices seasoned in spices and mustard. Pickle and onion provide a tangy, piquant edge, as does vinegary red cabbage on the plate, which is skimmed with a small lake of thin gravy. ($14.50 includes soup and salad)

Panang Curry at Thai Satay

821 Cheyenne Meadows Road, 540-8288

Oh the things that one can do to coconut milk to make it sing ... like spiking it with fish sauce, lime leaf, galangal, chilies, garlic, shallots and honey. Into said bath of glory, Thai Satay plops hunks of sweet yam and tender chicken, plus onions and colorful bell peppers. Peanut crumbles for garnish. Voilà! ($6.75/$8.50)

Doro Wat at Uchenna

2501 W. Colorado Ave., #108, 634-5070, uchennalive.com

The chicken and egg come at the same time here (get it?), whole ovals and super tender legs drowned in a heavy, mole-esque red wine and butter sauce that's spiked with a berbere spice mix, more undisclosed spices, ginger, garlic and onions. It's poultry perfected. ... "If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved." ($13)

Strawberry Chicken at Silver Pond Chinese

5670 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343, bestsilverpondchinese.com

Yes it's unconventional, even borderline weird, but sweet pig is it delicious. You've got your poultry pieces, plus water chestnuts, zucchini strips and baby corn. But then along come halved and quartered strawberry wedges and a thick-textured, puréed strawberry-soy sauce. (Smack! Zonk! Insert other antiquated comic-book punch-sound here!) Surprisingly non-cloying, it's bucolic strawberry fields all the way. ($8.50 lunch/$12.95 dinner)

Heart of Jerusalem Sandwich at Heart of Jerusalem Cafe

718 Manitou Ave., 685-1325; 4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554, heartofjerusalemcafe.com

The titular grilled pita sandwich makes for a kitchen sink of meaty delight. You've got Middle Eastern-spice-marinated chicken, lamb and beef, all hugged together with tomatoes, vinegary pickled turnips and hot banana peppers. Garlicky hummus and bright "Gazaziki" sauce lubes the joints. Welcome to the Holy City. ($7.99)

Hot Man Sandwich at Spice of Life

727 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-5284, manitouspiceoflife.com

The name is apt and you will relish the sexy, peppery, oily heat of jalapeños meeting a creamy chipotle aioli over layered capicolla, mortadella and Genoa salami. (Ham trio unite.) Romaine, tomatoes and red onion provide the fresh counterbalance on soft sourdough. ($8.90)

Tortas de Pierna at La Perla Tapatía

4737 N. Academy Blvd., 228-6006, laperlatapatiacs.com

The mouth-gasm commences as a chewy, grilled, hoagie-like telera roll relents quickly, revealing salsa fresca and tender shredded pork shoulder marinated to a divine heat in chipotle peppers, tomato sauce and garlic. There's smoke and a pleasant back-of-the-throat burn, moderated only by a little shredded lettuce and the cooling dairy elements of crema espesa (Mexican sour cream) and Monterey jack cheese. ($8.49)

Burger at Coquette's Bistro & Bakery

915 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-2420, coquettesbistroandbakery.com

If a bun that comes off like a biscuit butters your bread, Coquette's has a burger for you. The texture's due to its gluten-free nature, but it does nothing to hurt the smokiness running through the Ranch Foods Direct beef. Meanwhile, a creamy garlic-basil aioli does its thing, while slices of Brie melt down the sides. ($10)

Mole Chicken Plate at Ramon Q's Cantina

1005 W. Colorado Ave., 434-2741

Finally! A mole sauce that's truly chocolaty — like damn near dessert. It starts with a dark enchilada sauce bearing spices like cumin and the smoky, earthy flavor of house-ground chile de árbol powder. To that, Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips are rained in, to-order, so there's no separation under a heat lamp. The thick, dark goodness coats a trio of nicely charred, juicy boneless breasts, served with good, cheese-laced refried beans and a bright tomato-onion-jalapeño relish. ($12)

Chile Colorado Burrito at Arceo's Mexican Family Restaurant

4608 Rusina Road, 264-0143; 1605 S. Nevada Ave., 442-2626; arceos.biz

When chunks of stewed top sirloin act as garnish (as opposed to a pat of sour cream or sprinkle of chopped cilantro or something), you know you're in for a bold treat. And that treat is a thick flour burrito entirely comprised of that steak — no filler. Cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses are melted on top with that "garnish" and a delightful, semi-hot Anaheim-and-jalapeño red sauce puddles underneath. ($6 lunch/$8 dinner)

The Inferno Burger at Stadium Bar and Grill

6120 Barnes Road, 302-0969, barandgrillcolorado.com

Lily-livered eaters with low heat tolerances need not apply. (Welcome to the jungle, baby!) The beer-batter-fried jalapeños will hit hardest, amplifying the spicy pepper jack's modest burn, followed up with a little chipotle character to the mayo. Yes on the lettuce and tomato, maybe on the bacon addition. The better-than brioche bun will handle it all, including the half-pound beef patty. Burn, baby, burn. ($9.99)

Chorizo & Figs at TAPAteria

2607 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8272, tapateria.com

No, those are not Vienna sausages, they're cured Cantimpalo-style Spanish sausages. Think piquant and smoky chorizo. And they're paired with tart California Conadria figs, which are stewed in sherry and balsalmic vinegar with spices that include cloves, which your nose will immediately sniff out. It's all a meaty, sweet-and-sour affair true to authentic Spanish flavors. As tapas go, luscious and addictive. ($6)

Mixed Mezze at Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna

2616 W. Colorado Ave., 633-0406, jakeandtellys.com

Another ode to the indecisive: the all-encompassing platter that lets one sample widely. A meat version features Keftethes (zesty Greek meatballs) and gyro meat while a vegetarian rendition subs in grilled veggies and gigantes (big-ass seasoned white beans). Both get the feta, olives, hummus, spanakopita, dolmadakia, pita and tzatziki that collectively whisper the finest essence of the Mediterranean in tones of salt, garlic, yogurt tang, grape-leaf bitterness and phyllo dough crunch. ($16 each)

Tiramisu at Paravicini's Italian Bistro

2802 W. Colorado Ave., 471-8200, paravicinis.com

A good tiramisu is like a classic painting in that all the culinary brushstrokes are authentic, you know when you're seeing the real deal, and a lame knockoff simply will never capture the original's spirit. Paravicini's tiramisu is the equivalent of a primo museum piece, with the ideal creamy texture plus balanced coffee and chocolate notes. A masterpiece. ($6)

Vegetarian Bun at Saigon Cafe

20 E. Colorado Ave., 633-2888, coloradosaigoncafe.com

When you want it light, the bún chá giò is your choice. Soft rice noodles in a hearty broth and the essence of freshness with mint leaves, bean sprouts and cucumber pieces. Toss in some crisp onions and peanut crumbles for garnish and flavor enhancement. Oh, and there's a crunchy veggie egg roll on the side, too. ($8.45 lunch/$10.75 dinner)

Half & Half Pita Sandwich at Mediterranean Cafe

118 E. Kiowa St., 633-0115, medcafe-co.com

An ode to the indecisive: chewy lamb-and-beef gyro meat and crispy falafel pieces served inside a single pita. All the fixins are there, too: salty feta cheese crumbles, tomato, cucumber, giardiniera (pickled veggie mix). Plus three different sauces: semi-bitter tahini, zippy tzatziki and harissa hot chili sauce. It covers every flavor perception as a catch-all kingpin — and yes, we did just say "zippy" while employing three colons. ($6.50)

Tortellacci at Roman Villa

3005 N. Nevada Ave., 635-1806

Homemade pasta at a restaurant being a dying art, Roman Villa's tortellacci is a prime example of why old methods are generally superior. A soft doughy pocket, not a far cry from ravioli, contains Romano, asiago, ricotta and cream cheeses, plus spinach. A thick, cream-fortified tomato sauce lightly sweetened by caramelized onions and sporting a black pepper bite oozes like bright orange lava over the top. ($12)

Mango Curry at The Curry Leaf Restaurant

321 N. Tejon St., 447-0608, curryleafrestaurant.com

Welcome back to the latest episode of When Fruit Stars as a Main Course. Our special guest today is mango, sautéed in coconut milk with caramelized onions, mustard seed and an undisclosed array of Sri Lankan spices. Key word there: spices. This one's a hottie. And it's vegan, marrying sugary and savory beautifully. Sweet heat! ($7.95 lunch/$8.95 dinner)

Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream at Josh & John's

111 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0299, joshandjohns.com

From a wide array, this is the money flavor, as simple to achieve apparently as adding crumbled oatmeal cookies to a vanilla base. (Not so creative as making the shot version out of Baileys, Goldschläger and butterscotch schnapps — but we digress, and who cares?) It's delicious, with a slight cinnamon hint and granular element — as clean and straightforward as ice cream flavors come. (Cups and cones from $3.95 to $5.05)

Shabu-Shabu at Jun Japanese Restaurant

1760 Dublin Blvd., 531-9368; 3276 Centennial Blvd., 227-8690, coloradoeats.com/jun

Jun is the only place in the city you can find Shabu-Shabu, commonly called "Japanese fondue." You take carpaccio-thin steak cuts of your choice and quickly boil them in dashi water (dried kelp and fermented tuna flake) with optional spicy sauce and miso paste enhancement. In goes cabbage, onions and other veggies, all of which is spooned out over rice or plonked in bright, house-made Ponzu, Yuzu or sesame dips. (New York strip/$39.50, filet/$47.50, Kobe filet /$89.50)

Tortellini Jamaica Mon at Rasta Pasta

405 N. Tejon St., 481-6888, rastapastacs.com

The mark of a great vegetarian dish is that a carnivore can enjoy it the same, not missing any meatiness because the veggie power is so, um, powerful. And such is the case with this dish, plenty protein-packed from the rich, ricotta-stuffed tortellini that's sexified (it's a word as much as "mon" is, mon) by an onion white wine sauce. But then things get real crazy with the addition of grapes, banana and pineapple. (Say what!? We know.) Creamy, starchy, sweet goodness. ($8.95 lunch/$13.95 dinner)

Red Curry and Roasted Duck at Thai Guy

6821 Space Village Ave., 573-8054

The culinary keystone here is the pineapple, lending its sweetness to a velvety coconut-milk broth that's also rich with the floral aroma and flavor of kaffir lime leaves. But the pineapple's inherent bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, also tenderizes the game meat, leaving it soft and super delicious inside the mix. Prepare yourself for the mouth hammer. ($8.50)

Leadville Latte Gelato at Dogtooth Coffee Company

505 E. Columbia St., 632-0125, dogtoothcoffee.com

Dogtooth's gelato is homemade on Italian equipment and known for its lower fat and sugar content, plus airier texture than ice cream. Plenty of flavors, like salted caramel or birthday cake, will compete for your attention. But many a Dogtooth junkie would steer you toward the Leadville Latte, concocted with house espresso and ground-espresso-bean garnish for crunchy texture. ($3.30/5-ounce, $4.05/8-ounce, $5.55/12-ounce)

Vitello Marsala at Fratelli Ristorante Italiano

124 N. Nevada Ave., 575-9571, fratelliristorante.com

Putting aside the whole tortured baby cow thing — yeah ... — if you are going to chow on veal, you may as well do it justice by doing it right. Fratelli easily handles that with a classic preparation executed masterfully. The unmistakable sweet signature of Marsala wine reduced to even more poignancy, plus butter and sautéed mushrooms for an earthy element. Sorry PETA. But, yum. ($18)

Almond Rosemary Crusted Salmon at The Blue Star

1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086, thebluestar.net

From the "rooted entrees" section of the cocktail lounge menu comes this favorite dish, which places a focus on simple ingredients in less-is-more fashion. Almonds are crushed and mixed with rosemary leaves for a gluten-free salmon coating, which sees a browning during a pan sear. A honey Worcestershire hits umami notes while rice pilaf gets a paprika dusting and salt-and-pepper rain over haricot verts. ($16)

Craftwood Inn Tapas at Craftwood Inn

404 El Paso Blvd., Manitou Springs, 685-9000, craftwood.com

You go to Craftwood to eat game meats, expertly treated. Seasonal menus switch up the preparations, and it's often difficult to choose between all the allure. Enter the tapas sampler, currently featuring house-made duck sausage under pomegranate syrup; Arancini (fried risotto balls) stuffed with Fontina and pheasant confit; and elk-antelope-deer meatballs coated in a sexy black-garlic sauce. ($18)

Reuben Sandwich at Swiss Chalet

19263 E. U.S. Hwy. 24, Woodland Park, 687-2001, swisschaletofwoodlandpark.com

Executed here by a self-described old Jewish guy who grew up around true New York delis, this Reuben's the real deal, leading off with Colorado Bread Company thick-cut marble rye. Then comes 8 ounces of thin-sliced corned beef, gooey Swiss cheese and tangy house sauerkraut (bearing smoky bacon bits), plus a rich, house Thousand Island rendition. ($12.75, lunch only)

Grinder Sandwich at Mollica's Italian Market & Deli

985-A Garden of the Gods Road, 598-1088, mollicas.com

"Hoagies and grinders, hoagies and grinders, navy beans, navy beans ..." Sorry. But get that reference and you've earned a grinder at Mollica's. (You're still paying for it.) Anyhoo, fennel-forward house-made Italian sausage lays down on a La Baguette French Bakery roll before its smothered with sautéed bell peppers, gooey provolone and chunky house tomato sauce. ($7.89)

Rib Eye at Carlos' Bistro

1025 S. 21st St., 471-2905

It all comes down to the USDA Prime beef on the menu, raised in Nebraska. Less than 2 percent of American cattle will earn the rating, meaning the good stuff goes to the finest eateries. High marbling equals super tender, flavorful flesh. The preparation at Carlos' changes often, but you'll likely see something classically swanky like a peppercorn brandy sauce next to garlic mashers and veggies. ($46, half-off during 5 to 5:30 p.m. early bird hours)

Smoked Salmon Cakes at Margarita at PineCreek

7350 Pine Creek Road, 598-8667, coloradoeats.com/margarita

Precious few items remain fixed on Margarita's ever-changing menu, but this is one that's earned its spot by popular demand. The salmon's rubbed with brown sugar, salt and pepper and hickory smoked on the stove-top. Insert a bed of spinach salad, caper cream cheese and either a horseradish crema or lemon-dill tarter sauce. And son, you're in happytown. ($10 on the lounge menu/$13 at brunch)

Green Curry at Wild Ginger

27 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 634-5025

So much depends upon a red wheel barrow ... we mean, um, the green curry — at Wild Ginger. Of course it depends on the heat level you order, and whether you prefer tofu, chicken, beef, pork or shrimp as your protein. But however you construct it, the kitchen won't let you down when it comes to spiking the velvety coconut milk sauce with all the usual suspects like fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and basil. Flavorful, floral, essential. ($10.95)

Oysters Rockefeller at The Famous

31 N. Tejon St., 227-7333, thefamoussteakhouse.net

These are the closest thing to fatty, charred bone marrow that's not, you know, actually bone marrow: A light crust of baked hollandaise sits over molten cheese swirled with spinach, bits of bacon and the licorice bite of Pernod. That there are also oysters at the bottom speaks to God's grace. ($15)

White Fish Volcano Nigiri at Sushi Rakkyo

9205 N. Union Blvd., 645-8754, sushirakkyo.com

Because you went for the all-you-can-eat dining option, you're attention is scattered all over the menu, understandably. But save gut real estate, breath and focus for a moment on the White Fish Volcano nigiri. Toasted rice, red snapper and a creamy white sauce topped with minced cucumber, daikon and mango. Order it. Repeat until full. ($4.95 à la carte for two pieces/$14.95 lunch/$24.95 dinner, all-you-can-eat dining)

Alligator Po-Boy at Culpepper's Cajun Kitchen

6502 S. Academy Blvd., 282-8479, culpeppers.net

Texturally speaking, eating 'gator is like a cross between eating chicken and shrimp; it's a bit fibrous, but with a touch of some seafood's plump loft. Battered in flour and spices and fried crisp, then thrown on a locally made Lousiana-style French bread roll lathered with house remoulade and garnished with pickles, lettuce and tomato, alligator is simply awesome. ($12.99 includes chips or fries)

Oysters at Oscar's Tejon Street

333 S. Tejon St., 471-8070, oscarsoysterbar.com

When people think oysters, they think Oscar's — the bar that moves more of them than anyone in town. Fresh Chesapeake Bay oysters come in three times a week. Eat 'em raw with a squeeze of lemon juice, and a dollop of cocktail sauce and/or horseradish to add bite to your brine. Or get the flash-fried Oysters Oscar's plate wherein the gooey delights benefit from a Cajun cream sauce then a garnish of spinach, bacon, shrimp and crawfish bits. (market price, currently $14.95 half dozen)

Green Chili Skillet at The Omelette Parlor

900 E. Fillmore St., 633-7770, co-spgs-omeletteparlor.com

Of course they had us at the mere mention of our favorite green sauce, but since eating it by the spoonful can get hard on the gut, it's probably for the best that this dish buffers the spice with diced cheddar cheese potatoes, a couple huevos (I'd go over easy) and an English muffin for some semblance of propriety. ($6.99)

Alaskan Burger at Cy's Drive-In

1833 W. Uintah St., 630-7008

Big Mac-esque but better because A) it's not Ronald's monstrosity from a mega-chain B) it features quality Ranch Foods Direct beef C) locals say so. A middle bun and layers of chopped lettuce split two quarter-pound patties cloaked in melted American cheese. A house Thousand Island dressing wets the buns and your chin. ($6.35/$8.85 with fries and a drink)

Carrot Cake at The Wines of Colorado

8045 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Cascade, 684-0900, winesofcolorado.com

Though it comes in the shape of a slice, this huge monolith of dessert has more layers than Shrek, feeds up to four people, and fits just fine in a completely empty, jumbo-sized freezer (because you're not eating this whole thing at once). It's a symphony of creamy frosting, soft layers of cake and all the caloric guilt you can muster. ($9.95)

Crab Cakes at English Dockside Seafood and Grill

2220 Academy Place, 380-7732, englishdockside.com

The essence of a great crab cake is, of course, a lack of filler beyond its seasoning. The blue-lump-crab-to-binder-ingredient ratio here is spot-on, and then comes the double-down with a killer creamy crab and crawfish tail gravy, oozing over the cake and marrying with a bed of garlicky rice. ($12 for one/$17 for two)

Harvest Ravioli at Dale Street Cafe

115 E. Dale St., 578-9898, mydalestreetcafe.com

Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg inside the homemade squash ravioli provide the first layer of nuanced beauty. Ideal, nutty basil flavors in the accompanying pesto cream sauce add a second delightful dimension. Think: starchy, creamy, mildly sweet and super-rich overall — the smallish-looking portion will fill you up. ($11.95 lunch/$13.95 dinner)

Homemade Granola at Olive Branch Restaurant

23 S. Tejon St., 475-1199, theolivebranchrest.com

Olive Branch only recently adapted its 20-plus-year-old granola recipe to fulfill gluten-free and vegan needs. So option one: the original, sportin' bran, oats, sunflowers, cashews, raisins, walnuts, coconut, cinnamon, honey and butter. Option two: sub in special GF oats and rice bran, ditch the butter for oil and honey for agave. Pair with yogurt, milk or soy milk and add fruit slices because it's the right thing to do. ($5.95/$8.95 with fresh fruit)

McDonough's Friday Fish & Chips at McGinty's Wood Oven Pub

11115 W. U.S. Hwy. 24, Divide, 686-7703, mcgintyswoodovenpub.com

As the name implies, you can only get this dish on Rebecca Black's favorite day. But we swear on the sacredness of all things fried that you'll be glad you braved the crowd. Gorgeously fluffy beer-battered haddock hit with a lemon squeeze heads into creamy tartar sauce. The chowder's smoky and rich. Thick fries are beautifully crisp. Even coleslaw is done-up with red onion bite and orangey citrus notes ... "'cause it's Friday; you ain't got no job ... and you ain't got shit to do." ($13.95 large with soup/$8.95 small)

Potato Fritters at Vietnamese Garden

7607 N. Union Blvd., 520-9299, vietnamesegarden.net

It's like Hanukkah's golden latkes went to Vietnam for a makeover. Rough-grated carrots and yams are battered in Vietnamese beer and gluten-free rice flour, then deep-fried crisp. Great, right? But it's what comes next that pushes it off the charts: fresh mint, basil and cilantro served with crisp lettuce leaves for wrapping, then dunking into a sweet house sauce. Epic. ($7.45)

Gluten-Free Vegan Pizza at Poor Richard's

324 1/2 N. Tejon St., 632-7721, poorrichardsdowntown.com

Poor Richard's customizable pizzas set the gourmet standard locally. What's extra nice is how the outfit has always been conscious of dietary restrictions. So this pick goes out to our restricted brothers and sisters: Out of the Breadbox supplies the GF crust (smaller than the regular pies) and Daiya vegan cheese subs in for the standard mozzarella. The lovely house Campari tomato sauce remains as is, ready to receive your choice of toppings from a house list of nearly 30. ($11.79 per pie/additional toppings 95 cents/$4.95 per slice)

Voodita Salad at Ritz Grill

15 S. Tejon St., 635-8484, ritzgrill.com

Pretty much anywhere on Ritz's menu where you see the word "Voodoo" in any form, you can't go wrong. The Voodoo chicken tenders, sandwich and burger all benefit from the spicy sauce, but this Voodoo Chicken-enhanced salad also sees heat from poblanos and jack cheese, plus crunch from red onions, bell peppers and fried tortilla strips. Some ranch dressing cools it down, but not before the magic's done its work. ($9.50 lunch, $11 dinner)

Biscuits and Gravy at The Donut Mill

310 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 687-9793, thedonutmill.com

First off, these aren't your crappy store-bought biscuits that come from a tube that explodes when you twist it. (Though as kids, we loved watching the cats jump and run from the kitchen post-"Pop!") They're excellent, altitude-lightened, house-made sourdough buttermilk biscuits. But they're really sponges for a killer 14-spice sausage gravy. You have the option to change up for a bacon gravy, for which we wouldn't fault you. ($4.99 large/$2.99 half order)

Mussels at Summit at The Broadmoor

19 Lake Circle, 577-5896, broadmoor.com/summit

If Sisyphus' punishment could have been to endlessly dunk superb Broadmoor house-baked bread into these mussels' magic white broth and devour it, rather than roll that big-ass boulder up a hill for eternity, then A) it wouldn't have been much of a punishment, but rather a nirvana-like gift B) it would break the barriers of myth and reality, not to mention time and space, which would rock (no pun intended). My point is that the steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels are epic and excellently prepared on their own, but the classic broth — white wine, butter, garlic, shallots, Italian parsley and tomato concasse — is simply divine. ($13 at dinner/$16 with fries at brunch)

North Dakota Bison at The Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery

25 W. Cimarron St., 475-8880, thewarehouserestaurant.com

Two options here, paleo-migos: the burger or the strip loin. The burger starts with the regular fixings on a brioche bun, to which you can add everything from green chilies to a fried egg or blue crab meat. The Maple Shellacked Plains Bison sees a sear with shallots and peppercorns, then a slathering of maple syrup and Stranahan's Whiskey demiglace. ($13 burger, $1 to $4 for extras/$39 strip loin)

Drunken Noodles at Pho-N-Thai

125 N. Spruce St., 329-0705, yourhoodz.com/phonthai

As compared to the blunt warmth of pho, or the clean zing of pad Thai, drunken noodles, despite their name, are an elegant dish for a more civilized age. Flat, wide rice noodles are bathed in salty oyster sauce, laced with crushed red chilies and the ever-compelling anise, and flash-fired with basil, onions, bean sprouts and green onions. Throw in some plump, poppin' shrimp and this is the dish you've been looking for. ($6.95 to $8.95, depending on meat and lunch or dinner hours)

Shepherd's Pie at Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub

21 S. Tejon St., 385-0766, jackquinnspub.com

Must. Get. Through. Description. Without. Mentioning. Guinness. ... D'oh! Quinn's and the famous stout are inextricable. And seeing as how heavy beers call for heavy food, the shepherd's pie is a natural choice from the Irish selections. A custom bread boule (yeah, not bowl, ya' eegit!) from Colorado Bread Company holds the mashed potatoes, molten cheddar and ground sirloin and veggies (mushrooms, onions, carrot, peas) seasoned simply with salt, pepper and thyme. ($10.95)

Buffalo Chicken Panino at Panino's

604 N. Tejon St., 635-7452, paninos.com

The pale-yellow side of potato salad is damn good, creamy and bright, but the panino, an ode to simplicity, is the star. Slices of grilled chicken, celery and Swiss cheese are wrapped in dense layers of pizza dough, then baked and topped with mouth-puckering Buffalo-wing sauce. Combine it with ranch for a completed gut bomb. ($8.79)

Lox and Cream Cheese Bagel at Lofty's

287 E. Fountain Blvd., #100, 520-0024

The Jew in one of us can't resist, but the gentile in the other loves it too. It's a bagel classic done right, stacked nearly 4 inches thick on your choice of excellently made Olde World bagels — Everything or Plain both wise options. Boom goes the smoked salmon, perched above biting red onion slivers, fresh tomato rounds and a bed of caper-flecked cream cheese. NYC in the Springs, baby. ($6.99)

Ten essential coffee cups

The Springs boasts no shortage of roasters or quality coffee shops. This batch reflects a fun diversity of what's out there in terms of locals' favorites, staff picks and a few of our most memorable samplings.

Because we didn't care to bludgeon you with ounce-counts and all the cute ways to say "large," we'll instead say the obvious, which is that prices will vary according to size, but generally range from $2.50 to $4.75.

• Red Sea Blend Pour-Over (a slow, controlled hand-pouring of coffee) at Urban Steam Coffee Bar and Cafe

1025 S. Sierra Madre St., urbansteamcoffee.com

• Entrapmint (white mocha with peppermint syrup) at Speedtrap

84 State Hwy. 105, Palmer Lake, speedtrapcafe.com

• Traditional Cappuccino at Colorado Coffee Merchants

302 E. Fillmore St., coloradocoffeemerchants.com

• Toasted Caramel Mocha Latte at Nemo's Coffee

2114 E. Pikes Peak Ave., nemoscoffee.com

• White Chocolate Peppermint Hot Cocoa at Stir

2330 N. Wahsatch Ave., 418-6188

• Forest Mist Blend Pour-Over at R&R Coffee Café

11425 Black Forest Road, rnrcoffeecafe.com

• Mexican Mocha (made with cinnamon and nutmeg) at Kangaroo Coffee

434 W. Fillmore St., roocoffee.com

• White Lightening (white espresso and white chocolate) at Higher Grounds Coffee

1807 N. Union Blvd., 465-7629

• Pumpkin Spice Latte at Marika's Coffeehouse

739 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, marikascoffeehouse.com

• Zebra Mocha (dark and white chocolate) at Jives Coffee Lounge

16 Colbrunn Court, jivescoffeelounge.com

Five essential tappers

Old Chicago rightfully earned Best Of 2012 recognition for its exhaustive tap beer selection. But the following drink spots tend to carry unique Colorado beers, rare and hard-to-find special releases, and many offerings generally not found elsewhere. Think: highly sought-after Dogfish Head brewery seasonals; one-offs from the likes of Odell Brewing Co. and Avery Brewing Co.; and a very limited Lavender Plum Bock collaboration between New Belgium Brewing Co. and participants in Focus on the Beer's Beers Made By Walking series.

• Another Pint

13860 Gleneagle Drive, anotherpint.net

• Brewer's Republic

112 N. Nevada Ave., brewersrepublic.com

• Colorado Mountain Brewery at the Roundhouse

600 S. 21st St., cmbrew.com

• Front Range Barbeque

2330 W. Colorado Ave., frbbq.com

• Trinity Brewing Company

1466 W. Garden of the Gods Road, #184, trinitybrew.com

Ten essential hooch hits

Many, many places around town will pour you a competent drink. These just happen to be a standout batch of either locally made or locally mixed flavors. And you'll find some of them, such as the beers, at multiple destinations, where prices may vary.

• Maker's 46 Mint Julep ($9) at Black Bear Restaurant and Bourbon Bar

10375 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, blackbearrestaurant.com

• Red Rocket Pale Ale ($4) at Bristol Brewing Company

1647 S. Tejon St., bristolbrewing.com

• Corzo Silver Margarita ($8) at Estela's Mexican Restaurant

925 S. Eighth St., estelasmex.com

• Crème Brûlée Martini ($12) at Motif

2432 W. Cucharras St., motifwest.com

• Cask IPA ($6) at Trinity Brewing Company

1466 W. Garden of the Gods Road, #184, trinitybrew.com

• Smashed Pumpkin Martini ($9) at Swirl Wine Bar

717 Manitou Ave., #102, Manitou Springs, swirlismybar.com

• Manitou Springs Water Pale Ale ($4.50) at BierWerks Brewery

121 E. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, bierwerks.com

• Distillery 291 Colorado Rye Whiskey ($7) at The Rabbit Hole

101 N. Tejon St., rabbitholedinner.com

• Skinny Margarita ($9.50) at The Loop

965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, theloopatmanitou.com

• Devils Head Red ($4.50) at Pikes Peak Brewing Co.

1756 Lake Woodmoor Drive, Monument, pikespeakbrewing.com


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