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El Taco Rey

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

You can smell El Taco Rey about 10 feet before you hit the screen door, making it a long 10 feet. Inside, cramped diners quickly emptying foam containers full of beans and rice fill red benches running along both walls, while those waiting to order form a patient line down the middle.

People have long braved the aisle in search of a host of standard goodies, namely the avocado pork burrito smothered in green chili. But we went crazy for its cousin, the avocado pork soft taco ($3.65). Imagine a double-layered corn tortilla bulging with marinated shredded pork colored a ruddy scarlet, a half-inch-thick layer of mashed avocado, and — superfluously — lettuce, cheese and tomatoes. A dark-red warmth washes over your tongue on the first bite, mellowed immediately by the green. Two is plenty; three, a feat attempted by only the most committed glutton. — Bryce Crawford

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Rogue Ales

2320 OSU Drive, Newport, Ore., 541/867-3664, rogue.com

Loving bacon, maple syrup and beer has never been so easy as when sipping on Rogue's Bacon Maple Ale ($13.99/22-ounce bomber). This hazy brown 5.6 percent ABV brew smells like rich maple syrup and tastes like a great slice of bacon — which admittedly does not sound so appealing. But believe it or not, this limited-release brew pulls it off in spades.

Concocted in tribute to Portland, Ore.'s world-famous Voodoo Doughnut shop, where it's just as easy to get married as it is to grab a bacon-maple donut, this beer does an amazing job of emulating the greasy goodness of a truly absurd (and many times since copied) pastry creation. If you can't find one locally, the limited-release, donut-frosting-pink bottles, decorated with Voodoo's creepy logo plus maple leafs and porker profiles, are also available via the brewery's website. This is one sweet pig I urge you to tackle — it's that interesting. — Steve Hitchcock

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Ski Barista

124 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 576-7542

Just more than a year old, this relaxed-casual coffee house, a perfect fit for its neighborhood, continues to tweak and dial in its menu of house-baked treats and fine purveyed items. Some sweets and the coffee beans (Italy's Lavazza) come via Denver distributor Italco. Sandwiches, muffins and more come from a back prep kitchen.

My tomato-basil goat cheese quiche ($4.95) with a house vinaigrette salad side ($2 extra) sported a nice, doughy, flaky crust and a simple homemade charm, though it needed a hearty salt-and-pepper dusting. A chicken caprese sandwich ($9.95, including a side) brandished a stout stack of ingredients, including pesto, buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes, which squirted messily from the sides as we toothed through the firm ciabatta roll. A 20-ounce latte ($3.85) was totally fine but not fabulous, a description that also applies to the chewy apple-walnut-raisin strudel ($3.50). — Matthew Schniper


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