Archive for the ‘casual dining’ Tag

Fanfare for Pub Fare   Leave a comment

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It may not be quite fair to draw attention to the Manitou Brewing Co.’s limited food menu: only six items. However, neither would it be quite right to dismiss the dishes altogether. In its defense, MBC is focusing on the brew part of its name; four beers are brewed on site and a dozen others are “guest beers.” In fact, more extensive food offerings should be available in early April.

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MBC has been open since early March after months of preparation. The décor features corrugated tin ceilings, seat backs made from old barrels, and trim work from Waldo Canyon Fire-burned trees. Midday early in the week the place is ghost-like, but it’s unlikely to stay that way for long.

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The five sandwiches and Hummus of the Day skillfully reflect the kitchen’s potential. The Bacon Brisket Sandwich is a festival of flavors. Anything with bacon is bound to be a winner, but add caramelized onions and it’s the jackpot. The addition of cheese is interesting and perhaps unnecessary. The brisket itself was not as tender as what’s found in true barbecue joints, but it was possible to overlook thanks to the vinegary zest of the house beer BBQ sauce.

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Caramelized onions and mushrooms ruled the Mushroom, Onion and Swiss Panini. This was essentially a grilled cheese sandwich elevated far beyond its lunch standard status.

The menu states that the limited items may change or even disappear as new plates emerge. If anyone from MBC is reading: please keep what you have!

Manitou Brewing Co.
Four Plates
725 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO

Happy Morning Faces   Leave a comment

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As I stood in line reading the menu boards, I couldn’t help asking myself why I’d never visited Smiley’s Bakery and Café before. While enjoying my breakfast, that question re-surfaced. In the past few weeks several friends have mentioned Smiley’s; up ’til then it wasn’t on my radar. I understand why some may have been keeping it a secret but am grateful I know about it now.

Although the menu features traditional breakfast fare such pancakes, eggs, French toast, and freshly-baked goods, it doesn’t stop there. Specials include Shrimp and Sausage Grits, Buttermilk Biscuits with Gravy, and Crawfish and Andoulle Sausage Etoufee. Even the standard items get special attention. Consider Spinach Walnut Pesto with Scrambled Eggs or the Cajun Crabcake Omelette, which evoked effusive – and loud – praise from the man at the next table.

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Several items caught my eye, but I couldn’t resist the Sweet Potato Pancakes. I ordered a single because most plate-size cakes are more than I can eat in one sitting. Smiley’s pancake was certainly filling, and I would have been sorely tempted to eat more thanks to the flavor depth of the sweet potato with its whisper of nutmeg. A side of bacon created the right balance of sweet with savory. The homefries on my husband’s plate were inconsistently cooked: some crunchy with no soft middle and some perfectly executed. His was otherwise satisfied with his meal of eggs and sausage.

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While I have no excuse for the past, I plan on returning to Smiley’s to make up for missed meals.

Smiley’s Bakery and Café
Four+ Plates
323 N. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO

Burrito Bonanza   Leave a comment

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The Chipotle formula for selling freshly-made burritos is increasingly commonplace. What may be unusual, however, is finding a fast Mexican eatery with authentically good food. Azada Mexican Grill makes the grade with its “Build Your Burrito” menu.

Six meats, including grilled chicken, shredded pork and carne asada are offered. I couldn’t decide between shredded beef with green chile sauce or the Rojo, pork in red chile. I was offered samples of both, although that only made the decision more difficult since both were abundant in flavor. Sensing my inability to choose, I was asked if I wanted to sample anything else. I did, but I suspected it would only hamper my decision-making abilities.

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Ultimately, I opted for the Rojo. Azada makes its own flour tortillas, which are also sold by the dozen. These are just the right density to contain the contents of a burrito, but not pita-thick. A choice of Mexican Rice and Cilantro Lime Rice, refried or whole Beans are part of the package, as are several salsas. The tender pork in piquant red sauce rendered a salsa superfluous. I did ask for a dollop of sour cream to temper the subtle kick of the sauce.

Breakfast burritos and a handful of entrees are also available.

Not only is the food fresh and delectable, but the staff is friendly and solicitous. Orders are placed at the counter and burritos are made as you wait. Still, the staff checks to ensure everything is fine, all of which sets Azada apart from the pack.

Azada Mexican Grill
Four Plates
16 E. Bijou
Colorado Springs, CO

Barbecue Without Brisket?   2 comments

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Bono is a better name for a rock star than a barbecue joint, especially when the latter doesn’t shine. We’ve eaten at Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q a few times. Although the food is fine, the primary reason is for its easy access from Interstate 25.

Our most recent visit left us perplexed. A small piece of tape was placed behind every use of the word beef. I was certain what was hidden was the word brisket. Our young server assured us that Bono’s had never served brisket – unless it had been delivered by mistake. Hhhmmm… He was also unable to explain what cut of beef is served, but he tried to assure us that it was less fatty and more flavorful. That, to me, seems like an oxymoron.

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So, I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and one of my sons decided to brave it out and opt for the beef, whatever it was. While good with nice texture, it lacked depth.

The pork, on the other hand, was pulled and chopped; it had plenty of fat (perhaps too much since I could distinguish it) and loads of flavor. Several sauces are kept tableside to enhance the smoky hickory taste. My favorite was the sweet and tangy, which was a great balance between the two.

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Perhaps the most baffling thing about the server’s claim about brisket never being part of Bono’s offerings is that it was – still is if one removes the tape. Funny thing is the online menu hasn’t caught up. Oops!


Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q

Three Plates
9393 East Dry Creek Rd.
Centennial, Colo.

Burger Bliss   Leave a comment

Before I finished eating, I wondered if Five Plates were appropriate for a
burger joint. The truth is Bingo Burger scored big on everything from food
to service, from mostly locally-sourced ingredients to the casual atmosphere,
but especially the food. Ultimately, I found two problems: it’s about 50 miles
from my doorstep and it’s pricey.

This is a colorfully decorated, upscale burger bastion. As soon as we entered,
my friend and I were greeted with a warm hello and admonished to take our
time ordering, but we weren’t to hesitate if we had any questions. And, by
the way, the ultra-friendly counterperson said, the milkshake flavor of the
day was banana chocolate. Ultimately, we were walked through the process:
pick a burger; we each opted for the namesake Bingo Burger, made with pueblo
chilies. Next was whether it should be “pink or not pink.” The usual accouter-
ments were available, as were other options ranging from different cheeses to
caramelized onions from fried egg to guacamole (and more). Thankfully, there
was no variation for the bun, which complemented rather than overwhelmed.
To have missed it would have shortchanged the burger.

Ordering the milkshake was a no brainer; banana chocolate is a hard-to-resist
combination, and it didn’t disappoint. This was thick, creamy and dense with
flavor. It, the shared side of hand-cut sweet potato fries served with tangy,
smoky curry ketchup, and the burgers made for a complete, delicious dining
experience – about $25 for two (including the shake we shared).

Bingo Burger
Four and half Plates
101 Central Plaza
Pueblo, CO
(Closed Sundays)