Best Of 2018


2018 Best Of Colorado Springs Food, Drink and Nightlife 

Indy Best Of

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Adam's Mountain Café

When Adam's Mountain Café launched in 1985, the decision to offer a menu with a strong vegetarian and vegan bent was pretty risky. The veggie-only set has often been viewed with suspicion by their meat-consuming counterparts and all but ignored by restaurants until recent years. Such opinions usually relegate herbivores to consuming halfheartedly prepared "meals" that usually consist of lame salads and a large side of fries. Fortunately, Adam's was having none of that nonsense. The bold introduction of hearty veggie entrées as a dominant menu focus, coupled with tasty options for their carnivore chums, has made it an ideal place for foodies of all sorts to sup in harmony without sacrificing satiation. Star dishes include creamy vegan pasta, award-winning huevos rancheros and spicy blackened chicken. The beverage options also shine with fresh-made smoothies and juices, elegant cocktails or fancy coffees. No matter your selection, everyone will leave happy.

Gluten-Free Friendly

Coquette's Bistro & Bakery

Go for a "Komboozie" cocktail concocted from locally made kombucha — perhaps the Honey Mule with ginger booch?

For the gluten intolerant, Coquette's makes for a meaningful (and damn delicious) meal out without allergen worries.

Check out the wide GF bakery menu, serving everything from cake pops to sticky buns and brownies. But just try to wrestle us away from our salted caramel cupcake.

Difficult choice: biscuits and gravy or the Coquette crêpe for breakfast?

The diverse lunch/dinner menu ushers in items ranging from buttermilk fried chicken to pot pie, a Cuban sandwich and burgers.

Neighborhood Restaurant/South

The Burrowing Owl

One of our top dive bars to frequent, that makes us feel like we found an escapist lounge among industry folks inside the quiet city limits.

It's a rite of passage to "roll the dice" and see what canned beer your lucky (or not-so-lucky) numbers earn you. (Bonus: You get to take home the koozie it comes in.)

Oversized jars of homemade mixtures lend to superb and inexpensive cocktails like the Coconut Sap for a mere $6.

We typically get a tad rowdy and order a few rounds of Pickled Whiskers, shots with Benchmark Bourbon and a pickle juice back.

The menu revolves around traditional bar food with a vegan twist; get the tried-and-true Serious Nachos.

Irish, Running Club

Jack Quinn's Irish Pub and Restaurant

First, foremost, and perhaps most important, they offer a variety of Irish beers like Guinness, Smithwick's, Kilkenny and Harp, and from 8 p.m. to close on Wednesdays, whiskeys and scotches are half-price.

The traditional Irish and Irish-American dishes range from more familiar offerings like fish and chips or corned beef and cabbage, to more authentic fare like lamb curry and boxty.

Their running club pulls huge numbers and is perhaps the only thing in the city that can get 300 locals out of the house on a Tuesday in winter.

Four nights a week, Quinn's hosts live music, and there's a traditional Irish music session every Sunday afternoon, to name just a few regular events.


Little Nepal

Tough call: Chicken masala or chicken biryani or korma? Each rewards in its own special way.

Go with a side of garlic naan, whatever you choose.

Plenty of vegetarian options like rich eggplant, spinach and mushroom dishes make it easy to accommodate dietary preferences.

The obvious choice: buffet. Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; weekends 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday and Sunday dinner buffet, 4:30-9 p.m.

  • Robert Mitchell/Sleepless Art Photography
Food Truck, Latin American, Neighborhood Restaurant/North, New Restaurant

Piglatin Cocina/Piglatin Food Truck

Thanks to owners Andres and Tricia Velez, the year of the pig has started early. Four years on the Piglatin Food Truck paid off in January of 2018, when the couple opened their brick-and-mortar spot, expanding on the beloved truck's tried-and-true menu with seafood and chicken dishes, plus a full bar — heavy on rum and tequila drinks, of course — all while keeping things affordable. Their mantra is "food for the people," after all. Andres calls the menu "Latin American fusion," incorporating Caribbean and Asian flavors into tacos, arepas and many other offerings. One dark horse standout is the kimchi quesadilla, which features Korean barbecue pork and a mix of mushrooms; each bite travels through flavor note after flavor note, best experienced with a palate-refreshing beverage. Most recently, the truck's helped to anchor a new food truck meeting space, Boulder Street Bites, located next to Ohana Kava Bar downtown.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz


Weekday lunches, you'll almost certainly find a member of the Indy staff among the crowds taking advantage of the half-off sushi rolls.

More specials throughout the week, including half-off everything Monday nights and two-for-one wine Friday evenings.

Presentation isn't everything, but they know how to dress a plate. The Lion King, a personal favorite, comes with a mane of shredded crab.

Clever names for delicious sushi rolls like "When Tuna Met Salmon" and the very aptly named "Oh My God."


Thai Basil

Veg out. Thai Basil is known for having a broad selection of vegetarian-friendly menu items and we appreciate the satiating, hearty textures in the Szechuan Asian Eggplant dish.

Some like it hot! Go for the Basil's best-selling menu item, Thai Basil Chicken, or any of their tongue-tingling variations with shrimp or veggies with tofu.

Fast and friendly service with dine-in, delivery or take-out options makes Thai Basil a well-received staple on Academy Boulevard.

From fragile to fiery, their popular curries come in delicate pineapple, spicy green with peppers and jalapeños or creamy Panang with coconut milk and crushed peanuts.


Brother Luck, Four by Brother Luck

It's hard not to think of Brother Luck when one thinks of culinary luminaries in Colorado Springs. Thanks to repeated network TV appearances, he's become one of the city's more recognizable culinary faces. Still, when told he's a finalist for Best Chef, he stays humble. "It's such a huge compliment to even be considered in that category," he says. And since we last spoke, he's been working on developing his team in the kitchen of his restaurant, Four by Brother Luck. "I'm always a cook at heart... but cooks make food, and chefs make cooks... You have to embrace that role even more as an owner." He offers particular praise to Chef de Cuisine Hannah Cupples, who's been working at Four for the last year and a half. "It's always amazing to watch her cook," Luck says. He also hints at unannounced business he's been doing out of town, but he won't share specifics. "Just trying to bring recognition to Colorado Springs and show what we're doing here."


Tong Tong

Tong Tong stands out for its jjigae, or Korean-style stews, ranging from sundubu jjigae (soft tofu stew) with seafood, pork and veggies, to doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean paste stew) with shrimp and potato.

Fans of Korean barbecue will find many of their favorites, all served with an array of banchan — small side dishes.

In past reviews, we've found particular joy in Tong Tong's kimchi pancakes, a highlight in a menu packed with authentic eats.

Affordable lunch specials keep things accessible for daytime diners.


Coal Mine Dragon

Two separately owned restaurants, one on Eighth Street, the other on Uintah Street, share the name Coal Mine Dragon.

The Eighth Street location's lunch buffet and family dinner options make for an easy choice to quell multiple appetites at once.

Meanwhile, Uintah Street's rendition hosts an affordable menu (with "chef suggestions" topping out under $15) chock full of familiar favorites and a bully soup selection.

Based on more definitive Best Of votes in the past (and personal experience), both locations are neighborhood go-tos for dine-in, carryout and delivery service. Meaning you can't really go wrong either way.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Lunch, Mexican

El Taco Rey

In a world of self-proclaimed Mexican food royalty, there is only one true "King." El Taco Rey has been a landmark of the downtown Mexican food scene since 1976, owned and operated by the Aguilar family since the beginning. We don't have the space to laud each and every menu item — though the green chile and avocado pork burrito remain among our staff favorites — but they regularly post specials on Facebook to give you a reason to try something new. "These are our family recipes," says Judy Allen, daughter of the Aguilars. "If you came to our house for dinner this is exactly how we do it — everything from scratch." Dine-in seating is always at a premium and it's not unheard of to find the lunch line stretching down the sidewalk, and rightfully so. Pick-up orders are a safe bet, or get your favorites delivered via Doordash.


Edelweiss German Restaurant

What's better than comforting German cuisine during chilly Colorado weather? Warm up with our favorite entrées, the rahmschnitzel with a creamy mushroom gravy, housemade spätzle and seasonal vegetables or the impressive Bayrische Schweinshaxe, a 22-ounce ham shank with the skin on — marinated in German beer and slow-roasted.

Keep that Oktoberfest feeling alive year-round with a wide selection of German imports, like beers from Weihenstephaner — the world's oldest brewery, dating back to 1040.

Edelweiss focuses on the Heidelberg region, but also serves up a variety of European-inspired dishes with a section of gluten-free options. (Although we couldn't imagine passing up the pretzel rolls.)

"We try to keep if fresh and new while keeping to our roots," says Dieter Schnakenberg, owner/manager of the 50-year-old family business. "Sticking with traditional recipes and also coming up with newer ideas to make it modern and fun for the younger crowd."

Mediterranean/Middle Eastern

Jake & Telly's Greek Taverna

Now in its 21st year, this Old Colorado City spot has withstood the test of time thanks to its regulars, says general manager Christine Guerin. "I think that a lot of our guests feel like they're part of our family. It's more than just going out to dinner," she says. Of course, it helps that Greek classics like gyro meat, meatballs, lamb and more are made fresh in-house — very little comes out of the kitchen that was made elsewhere, she says. Over the last year, the kitchen's had a change in leadership. After executive chef Alex Plambeck left the company, owner/co-founder Jake Topakas empowered three of his current chefs to run the kitchen as a team, promoting Cody Herrin and Benji DeKrey to kitchen manager positions. They're partnered with pastry chef/kitchen manager Ruth Henson, who makes all of the spot's spanakopita and desserts, including beloved baklava cheesecake and seasonal specials, like a recent Palisade peach upside-down cake that we're told was superlative.


Saigon Café

The white tablecloths, attentive service and careful place settings create an elegant ambiance as you dine.

For those who prefer to munch on the couch in jammies, they also offer takeout.

Each dish is filled with fresh vegetables and aromatic seasonings, creating meals that are somehow light and filling at the same time.

Their chicken and shrimp saté dishes use sauce flavored with the rich taste of coconut milk and peanuts that just begs to be sopped up with heavy forkfuls of rice.


Springs Orleans

Sunday brunches are sumptuous affairs packed with Cajun entrées and the option to add bottomless mimosas. (Like that's even a question.)

Their classic beignets are a cloud-like, sugar-dusted delight that costs a mere $3 for three. Order five plates to ensure you have enough.

Check out the monthly chef's table with executive chef Jason Miller. You'll get multiple courses and can pay a little extra and get beer and wine pairings.

Two words: gator bites.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Louie's Pizza

Surprise! Louie's just bested the city's gourmet pizza joints. They've been dishing award-winning pies in the Springs since 1985.

Catch gluten-free, take-and-bake and dessert pizza options, but also subs, salads and pasta dishes. Louie's is an easy option for any Italian craving.

North, south, east, west; LP's five locations have the Springs surrounded by pizza (and we like the sound of that).

You haven't really lived until you've tasted Louie's famous cheesy bread. Oven-kissed crust, gooey cheese, garlic butter and dipping sauce — who knew true happiness costs less than $5.25 and comes in a foam box?

Pro tips from a native: Order your pie "well done" for a toothier crust and customize your cheese bread (I go for bacon jalapeño). Thank me later.

click to enlarge SARAH MOSQUERA
  • Sarah Mosquera

Garden of the Gods Catering and Events

GOG specializes in such catered events as weddings, corporate gatherings and social affairs in a string of local settings.

Whatever the celebration may be and no matter the time of day, there are extensive menus for breakfast, lunch, a la carte, buffet-style, dessert, hors d'oeuvres, reception stations, snacks and beverages.

Operating as a full-scale event production company, GOG provides floral and design concepts, entertainment and, of course, coveted cakes and pastries for a very happy evening's end.

Customizable plans can accommodate any dietary needs and/or restrictions for vegan, vegetarian, dairy and gluten-free requirements.


Buffalo Wild Wings

B-Dubs has been carrying on the Buffalo-style wings tradition for decades, now the official corporate torch-wielder with two Springs locations.

As America's working its way out of the great chicken wing shortage of 2017 (very dark times), B-Dubs continues to offer its signature sauces for bone-in and boneless wings, burgers, sandwiches and more to satiate any game-day craving.

Its tag line couldn't be "Wings. Beer. Sports." without beer and sports, so expect to find more TVs than a sports-lover could ask for and a good variety of tap beers.

Fun fact: Buffalo Wild Wings (as in Buffalo, New York) began as Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck (as in NY-style beef on weck sandwiches), with the original location in Ohio. Go figure.


Rasta Pasta

Go for three arrows. We dare you. (It's a spice thing.)

Sub as you need with gluten-free pasta or colorful "vegetti" noodles.

Brighten your day with one of our favorites, the truly unique Tortellini Jamaica Mon, made with grapes, bananas and pineapple in a lovely white wine sauce.

Catch daily 4-6 p.m. happy hours for $2.50 Red Stripe beers, $4 rum specials and other worthwhile deals.

Sources local and truly natural ingredients, and follows through with back-end sustainability like commercial composting and recycling.

Barbecue, Neighborhood Restaurant/West

Front Range Barbeque

Fans of down-home Southern cooking and twangy Americana music will have even more to love in coming years as Front Range expands into the lot next door. Look for a groundbreaking ceremony within the next six months.

Next summer will also find Front Range revamping its tented music patio. "It'll be more like a venue versus a dining hall with a stage in it," says owner Brian Fortinberry. "We're going to put more love into the music side of what we do."

Music fans can also expect to see a lot more Woodshed Red shows in the months ahead. The Indy Best Of winners were Front Range Barbeque's biggest local draw this year, while Bozeman, Montana's Hawthorne Roots were the most popular out-of-town act.

Fortinberry is also planning to add more Cajun and Creole-style offerings to the menu. "I was born in New Orleans" he says, "and I still have a huge affinity for it."

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Breakfast, Brunch, Local/Regional Chain

Over Easy, A Daytime Eatery

Last time my spouse and I went to Sunday brunch at Over Easy, the long wait didn't deter us. It never does; it's 100 percent worth it. On Sunday mornings (and really, most mornings) you're likely to find Over Easy's three Colorado Springs locations packed with enthusiastic diners. Maybe they caught wind of the consistent quality of rotating pancake flavors, or came to customize a drink at the Bloody Mary bar, or simply heard that Over Easy's sustainability-minded and largely local ingredients make for a good breakfast no matter what you order. Everything on the menu satisfies, from on-the-light-side quinoa bowls to indulgent Blue Lump Crab Cakes Benedict. Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group, to which Over Easy belongs, also includes Salsa Brava Fresh Mexican Grill and Sonterra Innovative Southwest Grill, so quality seems to run in the family.

Dessert, Frozen Treat

Josh & John's

Co-founder John Krakauer says this year's most popular flavors were Purple Mountain Majesty (taro ice cream loaded with raspberry truffles), followed by Whiskey'd Butter Beer, Salted Peanut Butter Cup and Mocha Java Jolt.

Josh & John's still hand-churns their ice cream in modified turn-of-the-20th-century freezers, purchased from a company back east that had gone out of business. (A local machinist fixes them when they break.)

Is there some mysterious correlation between ice cream and academia? Founders Josh Paris and Krakauer both have teaching credentials, as does co-owner Lindsay Keller. "There is a mysterious correlation," confirms John. "However, if I told you what it was, then it would no longer be mysterious."

Next up: bourbon-infused burnt caramel with candied pecans.

Restaurant for Tourists

Phantom Canyon

What do the tourists love? Phantom captures something uniquely Coloradan with its atmosphere, anchored by great beer.

Phantom Canyon was one of the town's pioneering breweries, but hasn't become dated. They sling sours, IPAs, and barrel-aged beauties to match anyone's, plus quality year-round flagships.

Pool tables everywhere upstairs. See you there. (You'll win.)

The pub fare's plenty approachable but amply gourmet and elevated.

Three words: beer cheese soup.

Neighborhood Restaurant/Downtown


In 2017, Shuga's won gold for best Neighborhood Bar downtown. This year it's for Neighborhood Restaurant. Well — which is it, people? Do you like to eat there or drink there more? Geez!

^This is both true, and clearly a joke. We're aware you go for both bangin' bites and super sips.

New to town? Let's get you caught up: Shuga's rates legendary for its Spicy Brazilian Shrimp Soup and Lavender Blossom Martini. Those should just be starting points. Go forth and be merry.

Shuga's intimacy and warmth attracts such a diversity of clientele, such that businesspeople, ladies who lunch, punks, hipsters and normies all appear as the best of pals under the paper crane origami.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Amy's Donuts

Ours is the original, but Amy's has expanded to four other locations in the U.S. in five short years.

Open 5 a.m. to midnight daily, leaving only a small window where you can't get your immediate sugar fix. (Plan ahead.)

Discover more than 200 different flavors, many fixtures, some seasonals — it's easy to be indecisive. Pre-order online from a limited menu.

Manager Michelle Shammel says the best-sellers are "maple bacon, maple bacon fudge — anything with bacon, really."

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  • Brienne Boortz

Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery

Between pies, cakes, cookies, pastries, breads and other items, there are more than 100 products available, with the menu constantly changing, including seasonal specials.

Drop in to let your eyes and nose guide your decision, or order online for pickup if you already know what you can't live without.

Assistant manager/chef Amber Bradshaw says best-sellers include "super big" cinnamon rolls, éclairs and Mountain Peaks: puff pastry under Bavarian cream with raspberry preserves and pâte à choux.

Her personal favorite? Cheesecake with a fresh bitter cherry topping.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Smoothie/Juice Bar

Pikes Peak Lemonade

Serving house-made lemonades and limeades, plus house-made concentrates; the jalapeño limeade makes a wicked-good margarita.

Lisa DiDonato, co-owner, says they're pretty new to the area. "Some of our favorite places that we frequent, we've noticed their [Best Of winner] signs up... We were pretty honored [to be finalists]."

Though this category usually goes to health-centric juice bars, DiDonato says their organic ingredients, down to cane sugar, makes them not so much of an outsider. "It's nice to be in that category and recognized as a healthful product as well as a fun one."

This summer, they added homemade root beer to their offerings and are working on a ginger beer. Over the winter, they'll also offer dairy-free hot chocolate and warm lemonade — DiDonato says their lavender and elderberry lemonade do particularly well warm.

Barista, Coffee Roaster

Seth Fuller, Loyal Coffee

Loyal Coffee, the cool spot forged by the baristas, for the people (their ownership team consists of some of the town's most seasoned coffee pourers, latte artists and roasters, including Seth Fuller) shows excellence at nearly every step. The house Double Zero Blend, typically with Latin/South American beans, informs superlative espresso concoctions. We binge-drink the perfectly balanced, seasonal flavored lattes, like the aromatic cranberry-lavender, or a smooth vanilla, if we aren't off-menu ordering iced coffee with Loyal's housemade tonic (usually they pair it with cold brew). These details relate to Loyal's coffee shop experience (don't forget the toast), but you've awarded them gold here as a roastery (located in the Ivywild School) and for co-owner/roaster/barista Seth Fuller. For that first award, a quick perusal of Loyal's website speaks volumes, as you can read all about the origins, processing methods and tasting notes of each bean. Note the meticulous attention to detail, which is exactly how Loyal roasts to produce roundly excellent products. Regarding the talented Mr. Fuller, a longtime local barista who grew up in area coffee shops like The Coffee Exchange, Urban Steam and The Principal's Office — well, the truth is he's more a roaster than barista these days, though he is in charge of Loyal's barista training. Like the earned title of "chef" in kitchens, once a barista always a barista, we suppose, even if someone's not currently pulling as many shots. Fuller's definitely put in his time in the industry to deserve respect and accolades, so kudos to him, wherever he stands in the process of making you an amazing coffee.

click to enlarge GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
Drive-Thru Coffee

Dutch Bros

This beloved drive-thru coffee chain has six Colorado Springs locations, the newest of which is on Austin Bluffs Parkway east of Academy Boulevard.

Featured drinks change frequently, but perpetually smiling "broistas" are happy to make your favorite coffee or lend flavor advice.

Matthew Hutchins, who works at the Colorado Avenue location downtown, says his favorite is the white coffee Annihilator, which features super-lightly roasted beans with super-high caffeine content.

The company is well known for its philanthropic work. Its annual Buck for Kids day raised $10,200 this year for the Boys and Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region.

Local Coffee Shop

Pikes Perk Coffee and Tea House

This cozy spot on North Academy Boulevard roasts their own beans off-site.

Owners Marc and Elary Johnson just added another location in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, off Centennial Boulevard and Vindicator Drive. (The Perk Downtown on Tejon Street is under different ownership.)

Barista Mason Wheatley recommends the Paris latte, flavored with lavender and vanilla. Or there's the Caramel Mountain latte, a crowd favorite.

Live music featuring talented locals — including Wheatley — draws crowds on Fridays and Saturdays.

You can also check out rotating events like speed dating, business networking and even swing dancing.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Trails End Taproom

One of the Springs' newer taprooms has won our readers' affections through its pour-your-own-beer model. Customers get a card and pour as much or as little as they want from one of the 40-plus taps, paying by the ounce. Their model encourages taking smaller samples of a wider variety of beers, allowing customers to spend an evening expanding and delighting their palates with an array of flavors. And many of the beers on tap are hard to find around town — the staff's focused on pulling eclectic brews from smaller Denver breweries, plus national and international offerings that locals otherwise have to travel to sample. They also offer wine, kombucha and cider, so non-drinkers and non-beer drinkers can enjoy a night out. Plus, with affordable bites, a bike-friendly location and setup, and gorgeous outdoors-centric decor, it's easy to call Trails End a quintessentially Colorado experience.


Skirted Heifer

Supports sustainable efforts, including buying local, grass-fed Sangres Best Beef from Westcliffe.

The house garlic focaccia bun on the classic cheddar-skirted Heifer is alone fabulous; our favorite house burger's The Pueblo Farmer though, topped in pepper jack, guacamole and, of course, Pueblo green chiles.

The Megyeri family, Kevin Sr. and his wife Suzette, pulled off a stunning rebranding in 2015 to create the Skirted Heifer's neighboring sister business, Bambino's Urban Pizzeria, born out of the legacy Bambino's Italian Eatery and Sports Bar, an East Platte Avenue fixture for decades.

Look for a second, higher capacity Skirted Heifer to open in February 2019 on Dublin Boulevard, under son Kevin Megyeri Jr.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives propelled the spot to fame in 2016. Megyeri Jr. and Suzette say they'll next appear on Guy's Grocery Games, set to air in January 2019.

Happy Hour, Happy Hour Menu, Late-Night Dining, Upscale Bar

The Rabbit Hole

The Rabbit Hole, the hip underground eatery from restaurateur Joe Campana, rakes up multiple nods for its stellar happy hour specials and upscale bar atmosphere. Savor the flavor of 50-percent off appetizers that aren't downsized, and drink up $3 wells, glasses of wine and draft beer, Monday through Friday, 4-6 p.m.

"We're just trying to be competitive downtown," says Campana, of his reasonable prices and elegant ambiance.

That same spirit resonates with their late-night dining menu that captures an audience of industry folks in need of sustenance at the witching hour. The Rabbit Hole's full menu runs until 1:30 a.m. daily and caters to the need for midnight grub after a long shift or dance party antics.

"So you can come in and get a filet at 1:29 a.m.," promises Campana.

Neighborhood Bar/West, Overall Restaurant, Patio

Cerberus Brewing Company

This brewery took home a bronze medal for best kölsch at the 2018 World Beer Cup.

Executive chef Mark LeFebvre applies chops forged at New York's Culinary Institute of America and honed as chef de cuisine at The Broadmoor to a menu that ranges from bar-bite informal to full-on gourmet.

While waiting for a seat inside, patrons can enjoy a beer on the massive patio, which has plenty of seating, and cornhole.

Beer fans love the consistent, top-quality offerings from brewer/co-owner Joshua Adamski and assistant brewer Taylor Donner.

For non-beer fans, look for a selection of wine, a full bar and on-tap house-made sodas.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Marigold Café & Bakery

No ownership change can derail locals' love for this legacy French café and bakery. Founders Elaine and Dominique Chavanon sold Marigold to Silver Star Investments in 2017, but when last we dropped by, we saw no loss of quality — or popularity; the spot was packed to bar seating only at lunch in the middle of the week. Their most popular desserts, according to one server, are their double- and triple-layer chocolate mousse cakes; their Fraisier, an almond sponge cake full of strawberries and kirsch-infused mousseline cream; and an elegant fruit tart. At lunch, their Reuben and French onion soup stand out. And dinner visitors can enjoy such treats as filet mignon, veal scallopini, or a salmon roulade stuffed with goat cheese, tomato paste and spinach.

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Cheap Eats, Margarita, Tacos

Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Where else can you get a beer upside down in a frozen margarita? We're not entirely sure, but on a recent National Taco Day when this restaurant chain offered $1 tacos, its Interquest Parkway location was packed with happy customers indulging in sugary drinks and cheap eats. It's not surprising that a third restaurant is slated to open early next year at I-25 and Fillmore Street. In the meantime, you can enjoy a variety of tacos for under $3, plus enchiladas, burritos, salads and quesadillas — manager Henry Stewart recommends the queso and tortilla chips adorned with addictive "Fuzzy Dust" at $3.49 — while seated at the bustling Dublin/Powers location or the newer, always poppin' Interquest spot. If your heart aches for more Mexican food the morning after a "beergarita" binge, both locations are open early and offer Bloody Marys and breakfast burritos. (We would know.)

Store for Spirits

Cheers Liquor Mart

The store's a staggering 36,000 square feet, all packed with a variety of local and international spirits.

It's easy to browse their selection online (prices included), and if they don't have something in stock, they may be able to order it: "I probably go through 20 requests a day from people looking for hard-to-find stuff," says owner/manager Jack Backman.

Cheers' smart buyer club program gives customers $20 back for every $500 they spend, as well as special member deals and other promos.

Backman says that after a hail storm devastated the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cheers held a collection, raising more than $5,000 in two weeks. "There's not many liquor stores that do what we do as far as charity."

Wine Menu

The Wines of Colorado

The Wines of Colorado harbors one of the best patios around, with a soundtrack courtesy of the babbling brook and a creekside view of the surrounding natural elements.

Open an impressive 21 years right at the base of Pikes Peak.

There are approximately 120 wineries in the whole of Colorado; they stock bottles from nearly 80.

Stop in for a complimentary wine tasting that includes four to six varietals of your choice, and order one of the "Best Buffalo Burgers in Colorado" according to USA Today.

"We only sell Colorado wines and we are the largest distributor," says manager Lesley Ludwick. "People love it so much because it's one-stop shopping for Colorado wines."

Diner, Green Chile

King's Chef Diner

Almost anyone can dine on their inclusive green chile. It's gluten-free, vegan-friendly and packed with spice and flavor.

In true Colorado style, you'll find it slopped onto most breakfast entrées and you can add it to anything for an upcharge. (It's basically the state's version of ranch dressing.)

The diner prides itself on insane, towering breakfast portions. I recommend the smallest size unless you've got a stomach like Kobayashi or just ran a marathon.

The more diminutive purple castle location offers a cozy lunch counter that fosters friendly conversation with strangers and staff, and the diner recently opened a spot in Fountain.

Neighborhood Bar/North

Johnny's Navajo Hogan

I don't know if it's where they source it or how they cook it, but their bacon is fabulous. Ask for it on everything.

Their broasted chicken is not chicken roasted by bros. It's actually chicken deep-fried and pressure-cooked in a special machine to retain utmost juicy goodness and flavor. (Disclaimer: Bros may in fact conduct that process, but I'm not allowed in the kitchen to confirm it.)

Social butterflies can relish in the Hogan's packed event calendar: pub quizzes, live music, karaoke... you get the picture.

Enjoy an all-day happy hour on Sundays to help prepare you for the week ahead.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
New Bar/New Brewery

Goat Patch Brewing Company

Brewer/co-owner Darren Baze and his team have been killing it with this spot, which opened at the end of July in 2017. They've already taken home their first Great American Beer Festival award, a bronze medal in the Scottish-style ale category for their It Takes a Tribe red ale. Baze is a veteran of Bristol Brewing Company, Trinity Brewing and Colorado Mountain Brewery; he's an experienced brewer, and his business has helped the Lincoln Center grow beyond daytime activity into the nighttime hot spot it is today. They've even brought back a cult favorite brew from Baze's time at Trinity: Pappy Legba imperial saison, brewed to 13.5 percent ABV with over a pound of cherries per gallon. And, of course, they care about community: Every Tuesday, they give a dollar from each pint sold to one nonprofit organization on a rotating list. But while sales director Travis Flett thinks that's important, he says it all comes back to the beer. "You can do all the cool things, but at the end of the day, if the liquid in the glass isn't superior, it's all for naught."

Beer Event

Springs Beer Fest

Twelve years running, the Springs Beer Fest continues to be a staple event on the Colorado Springs beer festival circuit.

Find over 120 beers from local craft breweries.

Take in the scenery as you sip at America the Beautiful Park in the heart of downtown.

Pair up your brewskis with nom noms available from multiple food trucks and area vendors.

Springs Beer Fest gives back with discounted tickets for our active-duty service members and first responders.

Brewery, Local Tap Beer

Bristol Brewing Company/Laughing Lab Scottish Ale

This brewery's one of the oldest in town; founders Mike and Amanda Bristol will celebrate 25 years in business in June of 2019.

The brewery's impressive community beer program raises over $100,000 for charitable causes every year. "We're loyal to the community that supports us," says Sales & Marketing Manager Jason Littman-Quinn.

Recently, the brewery added a new flagship offering: Ivywild School tropical pale ale, brewed entirely with hops that did not exist when the brewery started. "We're excited to share our home with people all over the state," says Littman-Quinn.

Flagship Laughing Lab Scottish-style ale was their second major beer, after Red Rocket pale ale. Over the years, it's won nine medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

"There's a lot of trendy beers out there, but there's something about a nice, malty beer," says Littman-Quinn. "When they're done correctly, they're not overly sweet, and they pair well with a lot of different food."

Place for Bar Games


Something about booze makes vintage arcade games even more fun. Choose from a great selection that includes favorites like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter.

Change machines take $1 and $5 bills, and staff are happy to refund quarters.

Happy hour runs weekdays from 3-6 p.m. Grab smaller bites like green chile queso or fried mac 'n' cheese for half off, or hydrate with $3 drafts, wells or wine.

Nourish your hardworking gamer brain with tacos on Tuesday for $1.25, or wings on Wednesday for just 60 cents.

Neighborhood Bar/East, Neighborhood Restaurant/East

Wobbly Olive

They nabbed awards for the original location again this year, but 2018 added a second location in Old Colorado City. More to love.

Corporate Executive Chef Supansa Banker oversees the menus for both locations, and sister outfit The Collective on Barnes Road; offerings are eclectic and roundly colorful.

Start any meal with the excellent grilled steak tacos under "Colorado chimichurri" or awesome bourbon-glazed pork belly steamed buns.

The seasonally changing cocktail menu's probably the most playful and expansive in town. The question is: Are you up for the Freak on a Leash, or ready to go before the Mexican Firing Squad? They both incorporate tequila and a house habanero shrub.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Paravicini's Italian Bistro

The bistro was opened in 2003 by an authentic Italian chef who went to culinary school and, more importantly, learned traditional cooking and baking methods from his mom. If his food is any indication, mother did indeed know best.

Their $9 lunch menu lets you snag their premium eats without denting your wallet.

Their seafood options are exceptional, with the Seafood Fra Diavolo standing out as a shining star.

Chef Franco's Veal Giuseppe was deemed worthy of a visit from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and his recipe remains available on the Food Network website.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Dive Bar

Benny's Restaurant & Lounge

Count on Benny's for live music every Friday and Saturday night all year long.

Prefer to perform instead of listen? Bring along your instrument of choice to one of their open jam sessions or hit the Wednesday night karaoke party.

A dive bar ain't a dive bar if it doesn't have a happy hour. Benny's offers discounts on booze from 4-7 p.m. and food specials like Taco Tuesday.

Football fanatics can score cheap drinks and eats during the game while hollering at one of Benny's 20 HDTVs. (You know your team can't actually hear you, right?)

Store for Craft Beer, Store for Wine

Coaltrain Wine & Spirits

Since opening in 1981, this spot has sold locals a staggering variety of beers, wines and spirits.

Like craft beer? In addition to the massive fridge of sixers and 12-packs, the store features an entire wall of higher-end bombers and bottles, a mixed six/singles fridge and a refrigerated beer cave.

Stop by after the Great American Beer Festival annually for a variety of craft beers that usually aren't sold in Colorado.

In addition to supplying wine and beer dinners around town, Coaltrain now hosts tastings and classes in its own specialized room.

Peggy McKinlay, co-owner and wine buyer, praises her staff's depth of knowledge as one reason locals choose Coaltrain for vino. They're great for navigating the store's globally minded selection; staff does their own tastings, rather than relying on reviewers for recommendations.

Sports Bar

Oskar Blues Grill & Brew

Born out of the original Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colorado, circa 1997, which later launched the brand's canned beer dynasty; today Oskar Blues Fooderies owns multiple breweries/eateries nationwide.

Our location opened in late 2017, with a killer craft beer list that includes Cigar City and Perrin beers, both owned by Oskar Blues.

As a sports bar, Oskar Blues hosts TVs in three of its five seating areas, the best being four big screens over the upstairs bar.

Keep an eye on OB's Facebook page for game-day special menu announcements. Recent deals during Colorado team games included half-price apps and $3.50 Oskar Blues pints.


Thunder and Buttons II

This rustic Old Colorado City joint is named after two bull elk that pulled the carriage of famous Westside rabble-rouser Prairie Dog O'Byrne in 1888.

The original location, opened in the '70s, closed after a fire. The new "Thunder and Buttons II" has been serving the Westside since 2004.

Get your karaoke on every Wednesday through Saturday night at 9. And celebrate pre-game with daily happy hour from 3-7 p.m.

Need copious amounts of liquor before you dare take the mic? Never fear: Each day offers special drink deals. We like Wednesdays, when mimosas, wells and house wines are just $3.

Normal hours are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., but the restaurant opens at 10:30 for Sunday NFL games.

Music Venue

The Black Sheep

Ever since the Indy added this category in 2005, the Black Sheep's been taking home gold — our readers really love this spot.

After a successful test last year, the Sheep's staff have leaned into parking lot shows, hosting open-air concerts for acts like Sevendust and Insane Clown Posse.

"We've been a music venue going on almost 13 years now," says marketing director Rosanna Taylor. "We're so eclectic in what we offer at the Sheep... [and] we're an all-ages venue," welcoming all local music lovers to shows by groups performing rock, hip-hop, country and more.

The venue's also hosted local festivals, like 71Grind, and a swath of local album-release shows and local showcases.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Craft Cocktail Menu, Neighborhood Bar/South

The Principal's Office

The Principal's Office has been making craft cocktails and third-wave coffee for five years, and it's well-established as part of Ivywild School. They're one of the bars that has helped raise the standard for cocktails across town as the craft cocktail scene has grown in the Springs. To that end, lead bartender Jason Sweeney says they strive for a balance between hospitality and education in their offerings. "We want people to find something they're going to enjoy, but we want to challenge people's tastes a little bit, and we want to provide education and have people ask about our drinks," he says. While they're perhaps best known for their Mules, Old Fashioned takes and Manhattans, they also offer a range of brand new drinks and host a section of customer favorites. Plus, their coffee gives them a quality ingredient many other bars don't offer, also making them friendly to those who'd prefer caffeine to alcohol. But Sweeney says that it's not the menu but the staff that makes the spot as beloved as it is. No matter how good the drinks are, he says, if they're not made with love and hospitality, they're going to miss the mark.


MacKenzie's Chop House

Chef Pete Moreno's a longtime local face, highly respected in the industry — it's easy to say he's got the chops for the job. (Sorry, had to pun.)

Steak options range from a colossal porterhouse (26 ounces, obviously ideal for sharing) to a more modest 6-ounce filet mignon and 10-ounce bison portion. Rest assured they're all cooked to accurate temp.

Definitely order one of the vibrant house steak sauces to complement the protein — we prefer the rich smoked gouda Mornay or herbaceous béarnaise.

Check out the weekly fresh sheets (they'll email you, sign up online) plus "lounge promotions" like prime rib Monday nights and Wine Lovers Wednesday (half-off bottles under a bill).

One of the holdings of the Concept Restaurants group, which includes José Muldoon's and Flatiron's.

Neighborhood Bar/Downtown

Odyssey Gastropub

Grab your crew and hunker down for some shareables with 2 pounds of the oversized chicken wings or a mountainous pile of Cheesesteak "Poutine." Pro tip: Upgrade and ask for it on waffle fries.

Newer menu items: Chicken in the "Nood" and Salmon Upstream, two comforting, veggie-laden dishes.

Brunch hard, and often, any time of day with the staple Chicken & Waffles that Megan Krause, Odyssey general manager, calls "a classic that'll stick around on the menu for a long, long time."

"We just try and take your normal bar food and elevate it with better ingredients, to take it to the next level," says Krause.

The cocktail menu changes from spring/summer into fall/winter the first week of November, but for the continuation of summer vibes order "The Psychedelic Syrup" a pineapple-infused rum-based libation. Also find 80 different beers in bottles and cans and a rotating local tap list.

click to enlarge SARAH MOSQUERA
  • Sarah Mosquera
Bartender/Mixologist, Distillery

Montana Horsfall, Axe & The Oak

When we speak with Montana Horsfall to inform her she's been selected as a finalist in this year's Best Of, she's honored to stand out among what she calls "an exquisite group of wildly talented people" that make up the Springs bar scene. While she believes everyone stands out in some way, she thinks Indy readers picked her because of her commitment to her guests. Good bartending isn't about the certifications, she says. "It's how people feel when they come in. Life is tough; they need to feel like they belong and they matter." When Horsfall isn't teaching classes on how to be a better home bartender, she's pouring drinks at Axe & The Oak Whiskey House. And she's very certain about what makes the company she works for stand out: It's not just the spirits, which have taken home gold at the 2016 Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival and silver at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirit Competition, to name just two. "It's a company you can work for and feel good about who you're working for and who you're working with," she says, "and that's something I've been looking for in this industry for 12 years."

Overall Bar

Brooklyn's on Boulder Street

Congratulations to the team at Brooklyn's on Boulder Street and the Lee Spirits Company for winning best overall bar without using whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, brandy or any store-bought liquors, liqueurs, amari, aperitifs or digestifs. The bar team of tasting room manager Carlos Garcia, bartender Philip Taylor and bartender Robin Jones have built a killer cocktail menu from house-made spirits, all anchored on Lee Spirits gins and liqueurs, distilled in the back of the tasting room. But it's not just the quality ingredients that make Brooklyn's stand out. The bar's smaller and quieter, never getting as rowdy or as packed as many others in town. Service, generally, is professional and attentive. And there's a mix of classic and forward-thinking drinks on the menu."We want to make sure a guest experience at Brooklyn's is always memorable," says Garcia when told Brooklyn's was a finalist for Best Overall Bar, "and it's wonderful to see that ring true in an honor such as this."


Bonefish Grill

Experience the flavors of fall and rejoice with the fresh swordfish and pumpkin ravioli special.

Drink in the seasonal samplings in the form of an apple martini with honey and cinnamon or try a spiced pear Mule with spicy ginger and aromatic rosemary.

Florida knows their fish, and Bonefish's founding location in St. Petersburg has maintained almost two decades of casual, seafood dining that's grown to include more than 200 nationwide locations.

Bonefish has a heart, and partners with numerous charitable organizations, such as the American Red Cross.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Fine Dining

The Famous – A Steak House

The Famous says sustainable local sourcing is key, and recently incorporated Japanese wagyu raised in Hotchkiss, Colorado, by 7X Beef.

It's hard to go wrong with our go-to, an 8-ounce filet mignon with a dollop of black truffle compound butter. Winning.

"We just try to change it up rather than just your regular steak and potatoes," says Brian Sack, executive chef of 14 years.

The Famous maintains stellar consistency with an impressive wine list and high quality beef, sourced from Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.

"We're excited to be opening a Famous in Castle Rock in 2019," says Sack. "That'll be a little more room to move with the food and we'll be able to present it in a more upscale fashion."


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