Abdul Nasser grew up eating his family's homemade hummus, shawarma, and baba ghanouj. He now shares his passion for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine with others at Taste of Jerusalem Caf?, stocking the menu with fresh and healthy recipes based on the comfort foods from his childhood. Toasty pita bread holds everything from crispy falafel to marinated lamb. Chicken and beef kebabs, hand-rolled grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice, and flaky, rich baklava round out the selection of hearty dishes. The food won Taste of Jerusalem a spot as the Colorado Springs Independent's Best Middle Eastern pick of 2009.
The dining room is casual but bright, with lipstick-red chairs and booths surrounding the simple wooden tables. The sand-colored walls hold murals that reflect Nasser's Mediterranean heritage, including one of verdant palm trees and a desert city enclosed by a towering wall, presumably to keep intruders from stealing its falafel.
Set within a century-old Tudor-style edifice that once played host to Bing Crosby and Cary Grant, Craftwood Inn graces modern-day diners with gourmet interpretations of wild game meats and stunning views of nearby Pikes Peak. Executive chef Brother Luck relies on a staff of woodsy huntsman to track down the choicest cuts of Colorado elk, venison, and buffalo, which he then daubs with French-inspired sauces that vary in accordance with a rotating seasonal menu. Wines culled from the inn’s expansive cellar fill clinking glasses with reds and whites that shimmer in the glow of chandeliers, fireplaces, and lingering rays of sunlight that filter in through stained-glass windows. Craftwood Inn's large and small dining rooms welcome special-occasion banquets, weddings, and hacky-sack cotillions for up to 150 guests.
Heart of Jerusalem Cafe, a Dining Guide winner, embodies its name from its menu of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine to its decor. Inside the rustic dining room, palm-tree murals offer background to faux stonework and high-arched porticos. Intricately decorated glass lights dangle from the ceiling like exotic ornaments, casting a soft glow on grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice and shish kebabs skewered with lamb and fantail shrimp. Hummus, tabbouleh, and baganooj eggplant dips spread effortlessly across slices of pita chips and warm flatbread fresh from the oven. Diners may also retreat to the outdoor patio for an authentic Greek dessert, such as a slice of baklava, or to remind themselves that they are, in fact, still in the United States.
At Salento Restaurant, his second BYOB venture, chef Davide Faenza draws on his roots in the region of Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot, to fill a menu of authentic Italian fare. Home to “some of the finest raw ingredients in Italy,” according to a 2007 Philadelphia Weekly review, Puglia is known for its fresh seafood and simple pasta dishes. At Salento, servers carry in homemade gnocchi, sautéed fish filets, and other entrees that do justice to this tradition. After popping the last golden raisin from a balsamic-glazed chicken breast, guests can admire the dining room's glowing chandeliers, blue velvet curtains, and enormous mirror reflecting hungry pizza-delivery boys peeking in the front windows.
Fried and specially seasoned, hand-breaded and tossed in Frank's sauce, or doused in made-from-scratch cream gravy—if there's a way to make chicken, The Mason Jar's chefs have mastered it. That mastery extends to other staples of American comfort food, including catfish fried in a crispy cornmeal coating, corned beef and sauerkraut sandwiched between slices of pumpernickel rye, and buttermilk-crusted fruit cobblers for dessert. Modeled after a Colorado lodge, The Mason Jar's dining room complements its dishes with wood paneling and exposed brick, a cozy fireplace, and chandeliers made with deer antlers donated by Bambi.
At Mountain Shadows Restaurant, guests can tuck in to gourmet, hormone-free burgers or savory rib-eye steaks, but they also can enjoy a smorgasbord of breakfast food available at all times of the day. Fluffy denver omelets loaded with ham and peppers, stacks of syrup-drizzled French toast and pancakes, and breakfast burritos loaded with homemade green chili are some of the favorites, and entrees can be halved for smaller appetites or made with gluten-free bread for those with dietary restrictions. And flavored coffees dosed with liqueurs or pitchers of mimosas help excite taste buds.