The vibe at Red Dog Coffee and Cafe is as arty and friendly as Manitou Springs in general.
The menu consists of sandwiches, a few salads, a daily quiche and an array of baked goods. What we sampled was fine but not at the top of the best-ever category.
This might not be the place you'd go to impress a date or important business client, but Red Dog is a clean, comfortable spot to meet friends, read a book, catch up on email, sip a latte, drink a martini, nosh on a bagel or eat something slightly heartier.
The tuna tomato salad ($8.99) was heavy on the mixed greens, but not so much on the tuna and tomato. The diced onion provided texture and piquancy, but, as my friend astutely noted, the absence of a much-needed acidic element left the salad lacking. The balsamic vinaigrette helped, but there wasn't enough. This was also the case with the ranch dill dressing that accompanied the side salads with sandwiches we ordered.
They incorporate thinly sliced deli meats that are elevated - some more successfully than others - by added ingredients with strong flavor profiles, such as the chicken pesto ($9.99). It's not unusual to have a chicken sandwich with tomato, onion and red pepper, but when pesto and melted mozzarella are added, it's like a taste of summer between two slices of bread, in this case whole wheat. The only thing that could possibly make this any better would be to use better bread, such as a crusty baguette that splinters with each bite. Just sayin'.
The turkey guacamole ($9.99) would benefit from better guac. I didn't ask the staff, but neither my friend nor I thought it was house-made. The deli meats used at Red Dog are good quality, so it seems a shame not to pair them with equally superior components.
A number of bagel options include the ham jalapeño ($8.49), which caught my attention. Sliced ham with tomato, mixed greens and cucumber share space on a toasted jalapeño bagel slathered with cream cheese.
Breakfast is served daily until 11 a.m. A friend swears by the breakfast burritos. Bagel egg sandwiches, quiche and a la carte offerings such as eggs and sausage are also part of the morning fare.
A baker keeps busy three days a week preparing the goodies for the display case that greets patrons, the staff said. Two types of fruit tarts, several varieties of large muffins, lemon bars, brownies, cupcakes and more are among the snack/dessert possibilities.
I succumbed to the yellow chocolate chip cupcake. The cake was yellow, not the chips. A thick, creamy vanilla icing provided an impressive frosting-to-cake ratio.
Orders are placed at the counter behind which food is prepared and beverages created. These include all of the mixed drinks and coffee options. Food is brought to the table, though if the place is busy, you may need to get your own flatware and napkins from a central supply stand.
The dining area is adorned with novelty mugs, lunch boxes and teapots available for sale, along with original artwork on the walls. An upper level is a quieter space, while the main level and a few outdoor tables offer views onto Manitou Avenue.
The ambiance at Red Dog is almost too comfortable. My friends and I agreed it overshadowed the food. We'll return because we liked the atmosphere and to see what's new in the bakery case.