As people walk past the spacious outdoor patio into Hodsons Bar & Grill, they might spy diners devouring sushi rolls, brick-oven pizza, and steaks beneath white canvas umbrellas or sipping brews around the fire pit on gray wicker patio sofas with sleek white cushions. Inside, diners perch on leather chairs and slide into booths beneath an abstract glass chandelier that resembles a flaming sun. The private dining room seats guests beside a floor-to-ceiling wine rack built into the wall, and the glass doors, marked by the face imprints of those who weren’t invited in, can be shut for total privacy.
The upscale, contemporary decor reflects Hodsons’ upscale, contemporary American dishes, such as portobello-and-fig pizza, baked dungeness-crab dip, and Asian nachos with mango, avocado, and chilled chicken. Burgers hoist Colorado Angus beef and buffalo, handcut fillets of Scottish salmon await the grill’s flame licks, and three-cheese macaroni teems with chunks of Maine lobster and applewood bacon.
Signature drinks—including blueberry basil-tinis with Little Black Dress vodka and muddled basil and blueberries—and the food pair better than Elvis and sequins. Servers also pour glasses of wine and tap brews such as Left Hand Sawtooth ale and Angry Orchard cider.
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.
The Denver Post and Feasting Fort Collins featured the vegetarian fare at Tasty Harmony. Seventy-four percent of Urbanspooners recommend the restaurant. Yelpers give Tasty Harmony an average of 4.5 stars, and Google Mappers give it an average of three stars.
Chef Niko spreads a thin layer of crepe batter over a hot griddle, then stuffs the thin pancakes with sweet and savory ingredients to serve alongside spit-roasted gyro wraps. He loads up plates with saganaki, pan-fried kasseri cheese, and paninis stuffed with brie, fig jam, and prosciutto, which are soon delivered to diners listening to live entertainment.
Each Sunday, chef Niko stocks the brunch buffet with appetizers such as grilled pita bread and hummus, as well as entrees such as made-to-order crepes filled with Nutella and topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream. While sipping steaming mugs of Illy coffee, patrons can gather around the fire pit on the outdoor patio to tell eerie stories of long-removed menu items appearing on the chef’s nightstand at midnight.
When Denver Westword critic Jason Sheehan visited Cracovia Restaurant and Bar, his summation of the meal ended up sounding less like a restaurant review and more like an Alice in Wonderland–style memoir dripping with passion and faux nostalgia. At one point, he recalled a desire to tackle a waiter who had walked by with a plate of cabbage rolls, so that he could "grab the golabki with [his] teeth and drink the tomato-mushroom gravy straight from the tureen." Later in the meal, he and his wife felt so connected to the food, they almost felt Polish themselves: "If our mothers had been Polish … this would've been what we ate growing up, " Jason said, "This tastes like home cooking in the best possible way, tastes of time and care and experience and love."
Love is probably the key word here: it's not surprising that Jason and his wife were so enamored with their meal, considering Cracovia is a labor of love for husband-wife team Lester and Marie Rodzen. They named the restaurant after a Krakow hotel where they honeymooned more than a quarter-century ago, and they pour this affection for their home country into each of the from-scratch Polish dishes they create. The aforementioned golabki—cabbage rolls stuffed with pork and rice—is one of the Rodzens' signature dishes, as are the homemade kielbasa and pierogi stuffed with meat, cabbage, cheese, or blueberries, all purchased at local farmers markets. In the spirit of its romantic inspiration, Cracovia is a perfect date-night restaurant—every Friday and Saturday night, live singers croon as couples make their way to the dining room's dance floor or three-legged racing area.
The menu is stuffed with a wide variety of mini-burgers made with all-natural ingredients. Beyond basic beef, the mini-mounds also feature chicken, pork, buffalo, shrimp, salmon, and vegetarian-friendly black beans. Stuffed with exotic flavors, tempting textures, and void of any fillers, the burgers are modestly mouth-sized, unlike embarrassingly mammoth munches that don't seem appropriate to eat in public or alone in the corner of a garage. Try the Kansas City ($2.50), mesquite ground pork with caramelized barbecue sauce, or the Bangkok ($3.25), a slightly more spicy burger made with Thai peanut shrimp and fresh veggies. Non–burger fans will appreciate the creative selection of salads (the Incan Quinoa is gluten free, vegetarian, and tossed in a cilantro lime vinaigrette, $5.25 entree portion) and breakfast tastes. Until 10:30 a.m. every day, you can pair the café's hand-infused drip coffee (up to $1.85) with organic egg sandwiches (like the vegan Zephyr, compiled with spinach, feta, and artichokes on an English muffin, $3.50) and arepas, South American corn cakes with cheese, red peppers, and green chilis ($2.25).