Much has changed since Matt and Ethel Shirola and Evelyn Ellis whipped up the first fried chicken dinner at Juniper Valley Ranch Restaurant in 1951. But the rustic red-mud restaurant continues to serve the very same home-style menu as it did generations ago—including baked ham and the fried chicken lauded by reporters from The Gazette as "crisp and indulgent". Meals are accompanied by home-style sides—including okra casserole, riced potatoes, gravy and housemade biscuits with apple butter—and followed by a sweet finish of homemade deserts and ice cream sundaes.
Today, the cheerful eatery is run by Matt and Ethel's eldest grandson, Greg, after working its way through the generations. The dining room is bright and cozy, with soft red walls decorated with old-fashioned western artwork and antiques. Just beyond the restaurant windows lies a ranch, where the juniper and skunk brush grows.
Overhearing such words as kamikaze, sonic boom, and bomber, you might think you’re on an Air Force base instead of in a chicken restaurant. But these are the names of Wild Wings ‘N Things’ wings, slathered in 10 zesty incarnations of sauce so named for their respective abilities to send taste buds soaring. The franchise has spent the last several years cropping up across Colorado and Mississippi like hot-sauce dollops on a crisp white napkin, with its Fort Carson location serving up bone-in and boneless wings in baskets of up to 100 pieces.
As patrons lounge amid the dining room's Tabasco-red walls, chefs in the kitchen construct buffalo and teriyaki sandwiches to pair with comfort foods such as okra, fried pickles, and deep-fried recliners. After two-handing a chili-smothered slopper burger, diners can question the counter person about the weekly offerings of NFL Sunday Ticket viewable on the eatery's many flat-screen TVs.
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.
At My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, cooks browse timeless Greek recipes before grilling, broiling, and baking the food that has powered the Hellenic Republic for generations. Although they source ingredients from local producers and grind their own beef in-house whenever possible, they also spotlight the region's iconic flavors by importing kasseri cheese and doling out draft pours of Greek beers.
After carving tender slices of lamb and beef off the towering rotisseries for gyros, the cooks spend their evenings roasting skewers of chicken, shrimp, and vegetables and baking meticulously layered pans of moussaka. Throughout mealtimes, the restaurant keeps diners immersed in the Mediterranean experience by playing a mixture of traditional and modern Greek music while dancers navigate the tables and fire blowers relight any out-of-reach chandeliers.
"Bar snacks at their best"?that's how The Gazette described TAPAteria when it opened in 2010. The raves haven't slowed since ? the Colorado Springs Independent recently named TAPAteria the city's best spot for appetizers and tapas in 2013. Using local ingredients, the eatery's culinary team crafts nearly 35 authentic Spanish tapas, from chorizo-stuffed mushrooms to grilled shrimp with garlic. Each small plate is entirely gluten-free, while half the options are vegetarian. A quarter are even vegan, such as artichoke and pepper salad. No matter the dish, The Gazette calls TAPAteria's flavors "straight out of the streets of Madrid or Sevilla." Many of those flavors can be carried straight out of TAPAteria, too, in the forms of meats and cheeses from the restaurant's massive Spanish deli.
The locally lauded by both the Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Independent as "The Best of the Spring" for 2011 and 2012, chefs at Mirch Masala aren’t afraid of the extra work it takes to make a menu of authentic Indian cuisine. They make their own paneer cheese in-house and constantly keep the fire stoked in a clay tandoor oven to bake yogurt-marinated lamb chops, chicken, mixed grill, and banana splits, as well as fluffy naan stuffed with a variety of ingredients. Diners with delicate palates can customize the spice level of any dish. Mirch Masala's servers also deliver beer, wine, and mixed drinks such as the Mango Margarita and Slumdog Millionaire cocktails to tables in addition to mango lassis or indian chai with milk.