INSIDER EATS: The hottest hits of Restaurant Week
The weather may be mercurial, but Pikes Peak Restaurant Week is heating up dining in the region — or rather Pikes Peak Restaurant Fortnight, but who’s counting?
Running March 5 to 18, The Gazette-sponsored event drew three times the number of restaurants as it did in 2011, its first year. And they are offering some hot deals, including lunches priced at $5 or $10 and dinners for two at $30, $40 or $50.
But where to go? As someone whose tastes run toward the spicy, I challenged myself to track down some of the hottest spots Restaurant Week has to offer — from mild, slow-burning sauces to searing, paint-peeling heat. Spice hounds, pack some wet naps and keep the water refills coming, because right now the Pikes Peak area is serving a tantalizing variety of fiery foods at low prices.
CHOPSTICKS ASIAN BISTRO
120 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 579-9111, chopsticksasianbistro.com
The deal: Dinner for two ($50), which includes two dinner entrees and a bottle of wine. Beijing Duck not included.
White tablecloths and elegant décor make Chopsticks spice upscaled. The menu is littered with spicy, pepper-marked options in vegetable, seafood, meat and noodle categories. One of the best is the Spicy Ground Chicken and Eggplant: The tender, crumbled meat has a more subtle fire (though you can request that the kitchen turn up the heat) that’s balanced with the sweetness of the soft, perfectly cooked eggplant and the snap of fresh scallions. A glass of cold, strong iced tea with lemon is the meal’s perfect pairing — unless you’re interested in something from Chopsticks’ nice selection of wine, beer and saki.
PHANTOM CANYON BREWING CO.
2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2800,
The deals: A sandwich and Hand-Crafted Phantom Ale ($10) for lunch (excludes Bison Burger and Buffalo Meatloaf); and Dinner for Two ($30), including two house-made ales, wine or nonalcoholic beverages, soup or salad, choice of seven entrees and choice of two desserts to share.
You might not think about this popular watering hole for spicy fare, but it’s got a few tasty and spicy choices in its wide-ranging menu. The Lemon Tabasco Fried Chicken is terrific for its simple technical mastery: The wonderful pebbly fry is ubercrunchy and hides juicy meat inside. Add to that a distinct lemon and Tabasco flavor that kicks it up to interesting, but not to tongue-on-fire proportions. And better yet, it comes with bleu cheese chunks and garlic mashers to wash away any lingering palate pyrotechnics.
405 N. Tejon St., 481-6888,
The deal: Dinner for two ($30), including two bar drinks, side salads, pieces of garlic bread, pastas dinners and one dessert to share.
Bob Marley is famous for his song, “No Woman, No Cry,” but the Caribbean-inspired Rasta Pasta doesn’t guarantee there won’t be tears. The staff favorite pasta is the Spicy Jammin, a large bowl of multi-colored rotini covered in a scalding jerk sauce and spiked with buttery shrimp, fresh basil, green onions and a splash of lime juice for acid. Even though your mouth may be on fire, the flavors are such that you simply can’t stop eating until the bowl is clean. True gluttons for punishment move on to the Chocolate Jammin dessert, which is vanilla ice cream with chocolate jerk sauce.
123 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-0123,
The deals: Lunch offers any Butter Brioche Sandwich ($10), which is served with fries and house cucumber chili salad; and Dinner for Two ($50), which includes choice of appetizer to share, two salads and entrees.
In February, Springs Orleans took home first place at the Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off, and it’s easy to see (and smell and taste) why. Plump grains of rice and slices of Andouille sausage float in this gumbo’s thick, earthy broth, which has a subtle and sensational smoky quality. The complex and subtle burn is downright delicious. For your appetizer, try the Pickapeppa sauce with cream cheese, pepper jam and ultra-thin peppered wafers. The sauce is powerfully savory, like Worcestershire on steroids, and the house-made jam is sweet and only mildly warm