A laid-back, beachy vibe flows through BooDad's Beach House Grill; oftentimes, there's even sand on the floor from an outdoor beach with hammocks and a volleyball court. In the kitchen, cooks prepare Cajun-inspired dishes such as bacon-wrapped buffalo shrimp and New Orleans–style muffuletta sandwiches with Genoa salami, ham, and chopped olive salad. Diners can wash it all back with beers or mixed drinks served in glasses or 64-ounce fishbowls.
1950s ephemera decorate Gunther Toody's eight Colorado locations, lending an extra boost of Americana to plates of classic diner food such as burgers and meatloaf. The menu even draws its inspiration from American pop culture of yore, with Elvis fries, burgers named for Howdy Doody, and Big Bopper breakfasts served on platters of chantilly lace. Classic ice-cream treats including shakes, malteds, and black cows help lead each meal to a suitably sweet conclusion.
Sandy’s Restaurant dishes out Southwestern and classic-American comfort food in a cozy dining room made all the more inviting by its knotted-wood walls. Housemade white and wheat toast flanks six-egg omelets or hugs french-dip and egg-salad sandwiches. Sandy’s serves breakfast all day, offering dishes such as pancakes and the Hasty Burrito, the latter of which includes a mixture of sausage, chili, and cheese that should be eaten at the speed of light. The menu also includes chicken-fried steak and housemade red and green chili, all served amid wagon wheels, wooden signs carved with sassy slogans, and other rustic decorations.
In 1984, against the advice of certain friends and family members, a man named Frankie opened a pub on the East Side of Colorado Springs. He began with little more than a small storefront and a chalkboard on which he scrawled the day's burgers and sandwiches. But over the next three decades, to the surprise of everyone except the people who ate Frankie's food, the bar doubled in size. Frankie opened a patio, installed big-screen TVs, and, with the help of his wife—who was once just one of his patrons—began printing real menus. Today, Frankie keeps his visitors full with burgers, steaks, hand-battered onion rings, and other pub eats—most of which are recipes he's been making for years and some of which were inspired by dreams about storm clouds raining nacho cheese.
But Frankie's isn't just about food and beer, it's also about community. Throughout football season, his TVs broadcast the professional and college-level games in College Tickets, games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday Tickets and ESPN's Gameplan package, ranging from regular-season match-ups to special conference games. And every Saturday, live music draws newly formed friends to the dance floor, keeping them moving long into the night.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
When owner Michael moved from his home in upstate New York to Colorado Springs, he brought along his most valued possessions, including his family's recipe for New York–style pizza. In 1997, Michael capitalized on his delicious knowledge and opened Back East Pizza & Wings, and the kitchen crew has been tossing savory pies since then.
Of course, the centerpiece of the eatery’s menu is the traditional New York pizza—a chewy thin-crust masterpiece that folds in just the right spot. Along with the pizzas, which come with red or white sauce, the kitchen also fires up wings tumbled in sauces ranging in heat from medium to dragon fire, and stopping just short of spontaneously combustive. Sandwiches complete the hand-held options, making it easy to clap with your free hand as live music from local bands fills the room on weekends.