Industry folk and foodies in Colorado Springs tend to compare our scene to Denver’s at turns, both for proximity and their general advancement ahead of ours. (That’s everything from finer dining to earlier trend embracement to all-around cool shit.)  That’s something that came up in our discussions several times in State of Plate. And it’s nothing we should be fanatic or overly sensitive about; it’s just something we can politely concede, but also draw inspiration from, or at least study for contrast.

I pop up periodically for mini reviews and to try and stay current enough in the neighboring marketplace. For example my recent writeup on the new Van Leeuwen Ice Cream location on Larimer Street. And over the years, I’ve been through Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace food hall a few times, including for Sweet Cow ice cream (yes, I guess I do have a thing for ice cream … who doesn’t?) and Cheluna Brewing Company in 2019.

I recently passed back through and happened to hit another food stall that staff tell me is under new ownership recently, though they’ve kept their popular menu intact: Chi Lin Asian Eatery. It serves mostly Japanese plates, but also several Chinese and a few outliers like Taiwanese and Thai. The space is beautifully decorated with a striking overhead paper dragon installation that looks frozen in flight over the dining room. Faux pink cherry blossom flowers and other details add pops of color, as do strands of LED lights around the ordering counter (that’s for pick-up; but we dine in and receive excellent table service).

What I love about my visit, in addition to the ambiance, is that everything’s on point and I get to revisit a seldom-found treat, savor a well-made ramen and rice bowl, and meet an entirely new to me drink that’s super cool. Oh, and there’s the amusing robot waiters. (We should probably call them assistants really, because servers and runners still do unload the items from the robot’s trays, like at Urban Tandoor in Colorado Springs.)

To that drink first: Chi Lin offers two Boozy Bobas. My immediate thought: Why haven’t I thought of that, that’s fun! And why haven’t any places in the Springs (to my knowledge — please correct me if you know of one) yet stolen (er, um … borrowed) this idea? You see my point about what the Springs can learn from Denver? Anyway, one is a sake with green milk tea, which we don’t get, and the other is a Japanese whiskey with sweet wintermelon tea and brown sugar boba, which we couldn’t pass up.

Just as marashino liqueur and other sweet things we pour into whiskies in classic cocktails balance out the sour and/or bitter ingredients and base spirit(s)’ potency, so to do the sweet tea and boba elements create ideal counterpoint to the hooch. It’s fabulous, and I find myself pondering how I’ve never actually chewed on a cocktail before, as I’m savoring the soaked, starchy pearls with my sips.

We also order the Purple Haze sake, hot, which places a pour of black raspberry liqueur into a large sake carafe. This is a more common drink, with recipes easy found online, but I don’t remember ever ordering it myself in the past anywhere. It’s good, expectedly sweet without undermining the rice wine essence — I’d say get it if you like cocktails made with Chambord.

For a starter, we can’t pass up soup dumplings — which I tried a famous version of on a trip to Shanghai years ago and relished — which again are difficult to find in the Springs (if currently even possible, again correct me if I’m wrong). As much as the item are a one-trick pony, offering a gush of hot soupy juice from the inside when bitten into, that trick both delights and amuses, making for a neat experience if you haven’t tried them before. Here, each dumpling comes in its own mini, foil pie pan, with a swirly star pattern printed into the soft dough and shredded ginger atop for extra zing with the minced pork flavor. They’re great.

For mains, we order the braised pork belly rice bowl and the Spicy Tantanmen Ramen. The first is a Taiwanese-style dish with the pork sliced into small chunks and scooped over rice with garnishing bok choy, pickled veggies, yellow radish slivers, cilantro and a marinated tea egg. The meat marinade tastes a little sweet with a Chinese Five Spice vibe, particularly from anise, which we enjoy in the overall simple, pleasurable bowl.

The Spicy Tantanmen Ramen hosts more-vibrant color on display, with crimson Japanese red chile pepper threads and oil staining the bowl’s oily topcoat red as it infuses with the pork bone broth. With the toothsome noodles there’s also minced spicy garlic ground pork plus bok choy, bamboo, bean sprouts and garnishing scallions, a fishcake coin, marinated egg, and crunchy fried onion bits for texture. The spice proves just right, not overly hot and plenty flavorful still, making for an overall high-quality ramen.

Flip through the above photo gallery for images of each item.

Food & Drink Editor

Matthew Schniper is the former Food & Drink editor and critic at the Indy. He began freelancing with the Indy in mid-2004 and joined full-time in early 2006, contributing arts, food, environmental and feature writing. In 2023, the Indy began syndicating his weekly newsletter, Side Dish with Schniper (, where readers can find expanded food and drink news and reviews.