Situated at the foothills of Pikes Peak, in a 19th-century hotel, the Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant is primed for romance. The restaurant's past life as a hotel means that tables scatter throughout various rooms and levels, giving diners the space to entertain private conversations and practice lighting candles with their mind. Meals might unfold in The Veranda, for instance, where mottled walls, green ivy, and a decorative streetlamp recall a Venetian street. The Wine Cellar, meanwhile, lines its walls with hundreds of bottles that encompass more than 80 varietals stretching back to the early 1900s. With such ambiance, it's no wonder Mona Lisa was selected as one of Colorado Springs Independent's Best Fine Dining restaurants in 2012.
Of course, the centerpiece of the Mona Lisa's romance is the food. The signature four-course fondue meal for two brings couples together with shareable pots of melted "Old World," "New World" or "South of the Border" cheeses before breaking into heartier offerings. Duos can dip tiger shrimp, flatiron filet, chicken breast, or even game meats such as mallard duck or Rocky Mountain Elk into six gourmet sauces. And like the best dreams, the interactive dinners end in a pot of warm chocolate fondue, ready to coat cakes and fruit.
Her Story Cafe trucks gallivant around Colorado Springs, enlivening lunch breaks with a rotating menu of hearty soups and sandwiches named for influential women and crafted from local ingredients. A selection of soups might include the Greta Garbonzo Bang!, Annie Moore potato soup, or the Marie Curie chicken gumbo, a gluten-free concoction that pays homage to the French woman’s famous discovery of chicken gumbo. Like Frank Lloyd Wright during his underappreciated sandwich period, chefs construct towering stacks of deli meats and vegetables on foundations of pumpernickel, rye, French, and wheat breads, flush with ingredients straight from local farms, ranches, and bakeries. Made from scratch, sides range from tangy German potato salad to banana pudding sweetened with cream and Nilla wafers. Fans of the food truck can now frequent a non-mobile café that also offers breakfast, and where Her Story classics are served up with the same frequently-rotating selection of soups and specials.
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 Café, 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.
Claudette Hutchinson's passion for traditional Jamaican food is in her DNA. Coming from a large family of Jamaican cooks, she honors both the national dishes and Rastafari staples of her homeland on Spice Island Grill's expansive menu. Her steamy plates of curries and stews have earned her glowing reviews from the Colorado Springs Independent and ColoradoSprings.com.
On many weekends, a dance party sends modern Jamaican DJ sounds to mingle with the whir of blenders as the staff blends slushy tropical cocktails. Bright blue and yellow walls further reflect the restaurant's upbeat vibe, and posters of Bob Marley exhibit its unabashed love for reggae and tropical culture.