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.
Sri Lankan culture incorporates distinctive southern Asian roots along with influences from the various European nations that have ruled it. As a result, the cuisine typically features a m?lange of Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, and Malaysian flavors. At Sri Lanka Curry Leaf Restaurant, Lana Hillstrom remains true to the flavors of her native Sri Lanka, filling the menu with her country's eclectic cuisine. Pork and sliced mango simmer in aromatic curry, distinguished from familiar Thai or Indian versions by a signature powder that uses 21 fragrant ingredients, according to the Colorado Springs Independent. The rest of the menu includes Sri Lankan interpretations of Asian standards such as chicken tikka, fried rice, and mulligatawny soup.
Channeling the same vivaciousness as the menu, the dining room bursts with color from its sunshine-yellow walls, draped with leafy foliage and imported Sri Lankan rainbows. Framed pictures and woodwork also adorn the walls and add to the room's homey ambiance.
Briarhurst Manor Restaurant has overlooked Garden of the Gods Park in the shadow of Pikes Peak since 1876, when Manitou Springs town founder Dr. William Bell constructed the pink sandstone Tudor-style manor. The English country architecture showcases elegant flourishes such as a tiled fireplace, dark-wood boiserie, and a garden room where sunlight streams through towering windows. Not surprisingly, Briarhurst Manor has been hailed as one of the 100 most romantic restaurants in the country according to OpenTable's 2012 and 2013 Diners' Choice awards.
The cuisine matches the interior?s opulence: Chef Neal Moreno glazes duck-shank confit in a gooseberry cassis, and augments the flavor of Colorado lamb chops with chestnut fig jus. Cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays from Napa Valley punctuate the restaurant's extensive wine list and give beer a reason to feel as insecure as a styrofoam rabbit marooned amid a pack of real wolves.
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.
Meat is the primary item on the menu at Flatiron's American Bar & Grill. Blank-angus steak comes in three cuts—the signature Flatiron, the rib eye, and the New York strip—and shares a plate with a choice of veggies and potato. Orders of chicken wings, whether coated in spicy buffalo sauce or honey-chipotle glaze, weigh in at one pound, making for a hefty appetizer or a delicious paperweight. Although it's technically meat-free, the three-cheese mac-n-cheese comes with a “robust bread-crumb crown” and benefits from the addition of shredded spiced chicken, according to food critic Nathaniel Glen of The Gazette. On a daily basis, the restaurant’s chefs inspect each meat shipment to ensure top-notch quality and freshness.
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.