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RFD's new retail front, Baba's opens in Manitou 

Side Dish

Moving meat

Spurred by the purchase of the former Federal Food Service building at 4635 Town Center Drive earlier this year, Ranch Foods Direct (ranchfoodsdirect.com) will vacate 2901 N. El Paso St. by year's end. Which means in addition to a retail front at the east location and eventually at the Colorado Springs Public Market, RFD will branch out with a 2,000 square-foot Ranch Foods Direct Market & Deli at 1228 E. Fillmore St., formerly a Conway's Red Top and The Bistro.

RFD owner Mike Callicrate, still reeling from a recent USDA recall he found excessive for a labeling issue, always returns to his corporate-feedlot-bullying activism, saying "We've been in business here 13 years ... we're fighting for the alternative ag model."

What that looks like in this case, he says, is the familiar retail space plus a full-service butcher counter where they'll "cut any steak you want. We'll have a tabletop grinder, saw, cutting table, paper wrap. There'll be primals hanging through a window, dry aging — it'll feel back like it was 50 years ago."

RFD will share part of its 1,600 square-foot kitchen with The Sourdough Boulangerie and Mountain Pie Co. And both entities will also be represented in the retail area, which will sport a "greatly expanded produce section." Talks are still underway to decide if the deli will serve sandwiches, though pre-made takeaway items are likely. Callicrate hopes to open as early as Dec. 1.

Baba's to Manitou

Stasi Keramidis' friends, family and business acquaintances are responsible for his six-restaurant empire, the way the 41-year-old tells it. His story begins in the late '70s, at his father's eatery outside Chicago, called Baba's. Having grown up in the industry, he opened Chicago's Best, in 1998, in Estes Park. Then came a Windsor eatery, Theo's Pizza & Sandwiches. But the boom came after opening Baba's Burgers & Gyros (babasburgers.com) in mid-2014 in Estes Park.

The business hit success quickly, and "people have been approaching me" ever since he says. "They see how well it's going, and how much they like the food." Hence three more locations since then.

First, a Baba's employee was moving to Missoula, Montana, and inquired about partnering on a spot; it opened in March. Then another friend wanted out of the nightclub business, making the same request and landing in Branson, Missouri; that location opened in August. Then, the owner of Manitou Springs' Flying Eagle, who also owns a shop in Estes Park, bought the former European Cafe at 935 Manitou Ave., asking Keramidis to open there, which he did on Oct. 17.

All menus are uniform, and Keramidis says he did meticulous tasting to set up vendors for every component of his burgers — from buns baked in Nebraska to GMO-free beef from Washington. Patties, including buffalo and elk, are formed fresh every morning. Lamb and beef gyro meat logs on a vertical rotisserie hail from a company called Devanco out of Chicago. The simple menu also includes chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and sides like Greek garlic fries.

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