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.
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.
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.
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.