Once upon time, the Stagecoach Inn was as famous for its fried chicken and biscuits as it was for stuffing Dwight D. Eisenhower's tummy and pants pockets with mouthwatering comfort food. Though the clattering of President Eisenhower's cutlery has long since faded from the log cabin, the eatery's fried chicken continues to draw in crowds of hungry locals and travelers alike. Their chefs cook up a well-rounded menu of such time-honored classics as pork chops with molasses and bacon and their signature-stuffed steak, a local favorite. Bartenders uncork Colorado wines and local brews—including Bristol Brewing Company's award-winning Laughing Lab Scottish ale—as hungry guests dig into meaty burgers and classic fish and chips. The Stagecoach Inn's rustic décor evokes the warmth and comfort of dining at a friend's house across its café, lounge, and upstairs dining room. Guests can also enjoy their meals creek-side outdoors or by the warmth of a fire.
Though the Stagecoach Inn has long since established itself as a community staple, Manitou Springs' old-timers remember a time when the old stage stop upheld another distinctive honor. The structure also housed the town's first electric company—an important feat, since Manitou Springs enjoyed electric power before even New York. The rest of the inn's past, however, is a matter of western lore, but many believe this rustic log cabin served as American author and civil rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson’s summer cottage.
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.
Winner of numerous accolades from the readers of the Springs Gazette and the Independent, Josh & John's has firmly established itself as a local favorite. Each scoop of the shop's ice cream is fresh, often churned just hours before, and made without hormone-filled, artificially beefed-up dairy products. Like the seasons, special flavors come and go by the day or week, but popular stalwarts such as yellow cake, chocolate-chip-cookie dough, and oatmeal cookie hold down the creamy fort. Toppings such as fresh whipped cream, nuts, fruit, or house-crafted caramel add an extra dash of flavor.
Decorated with pastel and chrome creamery gear and an open chalkboard filled with doodles, Josh & John's is as local as an ice-cream parlor can get, unless it’s located inside an actual local resident. Every day, the friendly staff puts up a new trivia question for patrons to answer, and if you come in on cold, rainy, or snowy days, you'll get bonus punches on your Ice Creamometer card. Josh & John's is also celebrating the opening of a new location in Mountain Shadows.
After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
Diners leave their passports and carry-ons at home and embark on culinary odysseys to Tajine Alami, enjoying four- or six-course meals of traditional Moroccan cuisine. After leaving their shoes at the door, guests tuck into six-part dinner travelogues ($32/person; $27 vegetarian) starting with their choice of lamb-lentil or vegetarian soup followed by second and third rounds of homemade honey wheat khobz bread and a platter of Moroccan salad. Tables share the flaky fourth-course bastella, mining the phyllo-dough crust to uncover a subterranean civilization ruled by chicken, spiced eggs, almonds, and an austere oligarchy. Individual tastes take the front seat as eaters select one of the chicken, lamb, seafood, or veggie entrees simmering in the kitchen, all slow-cooked with a few friends in a traditional clay tajine or served over a pile of couscous. Baklava and hot mint tea close out the evening with a sweet curtain call and politely turn down requests to play "Where the Streets Have No Name.” Visitors afraid of overstuffing can select the slimmed down four-course experience and forego the salad and bastella ($24/person, $21 vegetarian) while youths peruse selections from the children's menu ($10.99).
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.