Despite having a party of 65 seated shortly before us at Border Burger Bar in Manitou Springs, there was a silver lining. The staff, from the kitchen to front of the house, was prepared for the onslaught.
Had we not been forewarned, we might have been surprised that the place was so lively in midweek. Then again, it’s summer in Manitou. Nonetheless, the busy dining area didn’t affect our food or service.
We started with the Cannon Balls ($6.99) only because we had trouble imagining mashed potatoes the size of golf balls with bacon bits, green onion and several cheeses. These are deep fried and served with house made ranch dressing. Each bite was the perfect combination of crunchy and creamy.
As you might surmise, burgers figure prominently on the menu, yet plenty of options include other sandwiches and salads. The full bar offers a range of alcoholic beverages.
Beef is ground fresh daily. Choices for toppings represent multiple regions, with some nods to international flavors. The kimichi and Japanese burgers ($12.99 each) are two examples. The latter is an ahi tuna filet with a seared exterior and a cool, red-wine colored center. The freshness of ahi is always a concern, but there was no need to worry here. It was served on a bun, and the generous accoutrements go beyond lettuce and tomatoes. Wasabi and teriyaki aioli, shredded daikon radishes and paper-thin fried nori chips are part of the fray. The only downside was the large amount of aioli; it overpowered rather than complemented the ingredients.
The All-American ($10.49) and the Classic ($8.99) seem hidden among more creative possibilities. Still, basic burgers are here for those sticking with simplicity. We ventured beyond. The Nawlins Bleu Burger ($11.99) featured bleu cheese salad dressing, a generous amount of bacon slices and onion straws, plus lettuce, tomato and raw onion slices. This required big hands, even when cut in half. The crispy thin onion straws were the best part. Of course, the bacon ranked high, too.
Two pulled pork sandwiches are offered: the Cuban ($10.49) and the Memphis ($10.99). The Cuban has ham slices, Swiss and American cheese, pickles, mustard and lemon aioli. We chose the barbecue version and were not disappointed thanks to the tangy, smoky sauce smothering the pieces of tender pork.
Wanting to sample as much as possible, we also ordered the grilled chicken sandwich, aka the Californian ($11.99). This was a blend of flavors representing much more than the Golden State: grilled green chiles, sliced avocado, Swiss cheese and Tzatziki sauce. I don’t usually associate the Middle Eastern, yogurt-based sauce with burgers — or California. Still, it added a sharp flavor that tied everything together.
French fries are cut fresh, the menu says, but we were more impressed with the sweet potato fries and grease-free onion rings. These result in a $1.50 upcharge, but they’re worth it.
The restaurant is also open for breakfast. The patio provides front row seats to Manitou Avenue but sits far enough that it’s easy to enjoy the view and sounds of Ruxton Creek.
The odds that such a large group will arrive minutes before you are slim. Still, it’s nice to know that Border Burger Bar, in the Historic Spa Building in downtown Manitou, knows how to handle a crowd while serving well-prepared meals in the process.