Ask just about anyone in Colorado Springs where to find the best hiking trail and you’ll get an earful of suggestions and a hiking guide. Ask for the best ethnic restaurants in town and you’ll get a shrug, a sigh, and maybe even some eye rolling. Admittedly, the Springs is not New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco on the culinary scale. In many large cities when lunchtime rolls around, the first question is not “Where do you want to eat?” but instead, “What are you in the mood for—Asian, Italian, German, or Indian?” Perhaps the trend towards ethnic and diverse food offerings has been slow to the table, but Colorado Springs is picking up both pace and promise in dishing it out.
OLD COLORADO CITY
Old Colorado City (or OCC as the locals call it) is Colorado Springs historic district—founded in the late 1800s as Colorado’s first state capital, it flourished during prohibition from the sale of alcohol and was considered by many to be the “Wild West.” Today it’s a gastro-hub of diverse food where holsters have been traded for hummus and ammunition for antipasto.
Named the best Italian restaurant in Colorado in 2017 by MSN Lifestyle, Paravicini’s Italian Bistro takes its home country allegiance quite seriously. At dusk, the two-story brick portico is illuminated with the tri-colors of the Italian flag. Inside, a series of cozy dining rooms bring warmth to old-school Italian favorites like manicotti, chicken marsala, and seafood fra diavolo. Take a seat on the outdoor patio or venture upstairs to Paravicini’s sister restaurant, Sopra—an antipasto and wine bar with a distinct urban loft feel.
As the crow flies south and east of Italy, so does Jake and Telly’s Taverna, just a short stroll down the street from Paravicini’s. Replete with a Grecian motif, a spacious upstairs deck with a view of Pikes Peak, and exclamations of “Opa!’ emanating from within, you know when you’ve crossed the border. Sample a mezze platter of dolmádes (stuffed grape leaves), souzoutkakia (baked meatballs), spanakopita, (spinach pie), saganaki (imported kasseri cheese)—flambé, of course—and finish with an array of sun-splashed seasoned meats as only the Greeks can prepare.
One of the new kids on the OCC block is Monse’s Pupuseria, an eatery that specializes in El Salvador’s most beloved native dish—the pupusa. Not quite a taco, not necessarily a quesadilla, this thick, doughy pocket of pure joy takes corn tortillas to a new level. Choose from fillings of beans, cheese, corn, and poblano peppers, and pair them with a side order of curdito—a sweet and sour pickled cabbage relish. Finish with a cold, milky rice horchata, and enjoy the mountain air on Monse’s bamboo-screened patio.
Quietly tucked in a strip shopping mall, Wild Ginger’s cuisine speaks volumes with its fragrant Thai spices and attention to detail. Here’s the place to indulge in curries—both red and green—at any and every temperature on the Fahrenheit scale. The house favorites include the seafood curry with an ample amount of prawns, squid, and scallops in silky sweet coconut milk. Wild Ginger’s peanut sauce is good
enough to eat with a spoon, but we like it best over an appetizer of fried tofu.
If you happen to be strolling downtown and hunger strikes, fear not; there are restaurants aplenty for a diverse range of palates. If the sun is shining, snag a seat on one of the many patios for some extra rays to pair with your eats. Thirsty? A pint of something hoppy, smooth, or sour from one of the local breweries just might help do the trick.
This exclusively gluten-free eatery is a rare gem. Located just south of downtown, Coquette’s sleek, almost industrial-look neutrals are a stark contrast to the sparkling array of bakery confections that greet you at the door. Turn the corner into an expansive dining area and lounge bar with a fireplace flanked by soaring windows and enter a theme park of gluten-free breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees serving American classics that all family members will love—fried chicken, pot pies, and corn dogs. Coquette’s weekend brunch is not to be missed with over-the-top almond milk French toast, biscuit benedict, omelets, and sweet and savory crepes. If we hadn’t told you it’s gluten free, you may have never known!
As lovely as it is in Colorado Springs, we are far, far, away from the ocean or any large body of water—aside from the Pueblo Reservoir. At least the oh-so modern sushi bar at Fujiyama offers an opportunity for the land-locked to reminisce and rejoice in the prospect of fresh fish. Nosh on chirashi, sashimi, or contemplate the daily reef-worthy specials with playful names like Sugar Daddy, When Tuna Met Salmon, and Oh My God; a deep-fried California roll, with cream cheese, masago, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.
In Colorado’s Pikes Peak region we like to make the most of the spectacular area in which we live. In Mexico, they have a word for that—“aprovechar,” meaning, well, making the most of it. Provecho is the shorthand version heard frequently before eating or drinking. It’s also a fitting name for this Yucatan-influenced Mexican restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a flourish of lime and fresh ingredients. Exotic tacos abound in a variety of choices—organic chicken, shrimp, fish, and carne asada—and for the vegetarian, the fiesta taco features cactus sautéed with onions. Taste the Caribbean by sipping on Provecho’s Cozumel Colada.
In this mountain town at the base of Pikes Peak, almost anything goes. Bikers mix with Incline hikers, who mix with children grasping penny arcade tickets in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other.
The cuisine vibe is eclectic as well, and Mavi Kebab and Turkish Doner is culinary proof. Half gift store, half café, this Middle Eastern menagerie blends aromatic spices with handmade Turkish crafts. Amidst decorative stoneware and jewelry lives the Turkish Doner, the lesser known, but proclaimed ancestor of the Greek gyros. For the best buzz in town, order an authentic Turkish coffee. This powerfully sweet, almost mud-like brew will get you where you’re going—quickly.
Gorges are common in Colorado. These remarkably steep and rocky canyons embrace our rivers and elicit “oohs” and “aahs” from spectators from top to bottom. In Cañon City, gorge is both a noun and a verb.
You can visit the famous Royal Gorge or you can gorge on home-style Italian food at DiRito’s. One is synonymous with towering canyons, the other with towering pizzas. Both are tried and true mainstays. Reputed for their signature roasted garlic, homemade bread and “Dats a Gooda Pasta”—sausage tossed with penne pasta and Gouda cheese baked on top—DiRito’s
promises you won’t leave on empty.
Yes, the Pikes Peak region has come a long way from the gold miner’s daily menu of beans, lapjacks, and sourdough bread. And while the gold rush is over, these restaurant gems are well worth digging into.