Stir Coffee & Cocktails’ strengths lie in its coffee shop roots 

click to enlarge Moroccan chicken rolls stand out on an uneven menu. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Moroccan chicken rolls stand out on an uneven menu.
Stir has grown since opening in 2012. No longer just a parking lot coffee shop, it’s become Stir Coffee & Cocktails, a full café and restaurant.

Rabbit Hole/Bonny and Read/SuperNova owner Joe Campana and SuperNova manager Amber Stull bought and reopened Stir in August. They’ve renovated heavily, tweaking the interior and adding patio space. Bookshelves stocked with possibly fake hardcovers hang around the ceiling over the dining area. Hell, the restrooms are delightful in their whimsy, painted as a library and a fairy-filled forest. There’s no longer an ordering counter for a.m. commuters to get their quick caffeine fix, but it looks like that isn’t the focus of the business anymore.

We find generally good things in the signature coffee drinks, all named for mountains, all $4.25 for a medium. The standout Inthanon sees iced coffee from Denver’s Corvus Coffee Roasters, served with condensed milk and cardamom. The coffee’s mild, but the cardamom’s pleasant, and we’ll be sipping one of these on the patio come summer, thank you very much. The creamy El Toro, a play on a mocha, bears mellow cinnamon, coffee and chocolate flavors, not too sweet, with a mild cayenne warmth rising at the end of a sip. A Turkish coffee-based Elburz sees little of the promised clove and rose water, but the cardamom’s there.

We’re disappointed by a cappuccino, which lands with latte proportions and a shot of espresso that tastes sour — one dining companion hypothesizes that it’s under-extracted.

The food’s more varied. Steak empanadas and phyllo-wrapped Moroccan chicken rolls stand out, the former satisfyingly meaty, the latter brightly spiced with golden raisins keeping things light. From made-daily pie offerings, baked at the Bonny and Read kitchen, we’re over the moon for the chocolate peanut butter pie, especially with its luxurious pistachio and coconut crust. One dining companion calls it a hippie cookie done very right.

The breakfast burrito with meat — ask to find out if it’s bacon, ham or chorizo that day — gets a nice smoky flavor and arrives with pleasant enough salsa. It’s better than a white bean bacon soup that rests solely on bacon for flavor. A vegan green goddess bowl, basically a quinoa salad, underwhelms with underseasoned white bean paste and a side green goddess dressing that lacks any herb flavor, tasting only like thinned sour cream. The Hippy, an everything bagel with cream cheese, tomato and sprouts, tastes great, but we’re not sure it’s worth $7. And two slices of pumpkin pie with vastly varying crust thickness both manage to be dry.

For cocktails, there’s a lot of work to be done. None of the literary-themed signature craft drinks use the local spirits proudly displayed behind the bar. We try all but one, finding them reasonably priced but sweet, cheap and uninteresting. Credit given, we replace Hendrick’s gin with Salida-distilled Wood’s in the Lord of the Drinks and end up with a respectable blackberry gimlet variant. But our best success comes when we ask for a shot of Distillery 291’s Decc citrus clove liqueur in a cup of decaf.

Stir lacks focus. We find a hint of a themed concept here, a few nods to craft culture there, but it’s built on a foundation of easy mediocrity that leaves unanswered questions as to exactly how the owners have improved it by moving away from its coffee shop roots. Aside from those pretty bathrooms, that is.
Location Details Stir Coffee and Cocktails
2330 N. Wahsatch Ave.
Old North End
Colorado Springs, CO

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