Oskar Blues was born as a brewery in northern Colorado, but its food has Southern roots, which makes for an interesting marriage of mountains and bayou.
Oskar Blues Grill and Brew Colorado Springs serves Cajun and Creole fare such as fritters, jambalaya and po' boys. The menu includes burgers, salads and wood-smoked meats, but they aren't the focus.
Oskar Blues fills the large downtown space of a venerable, gone but not forgotten pizza and beer establishment. It doesn't take long to realize that OB is establishing its own identity. The brick walls and tin-plate ceilings are the same, but it's definitely a different place, not just a facelift, ownership change or another brand. It's all new.
I suspect people come to Oskar Blues for the beer. Eight bear the OB label, and dozens more represent a range of breweries featuring malty, fruity, gluten-free and hoppy beers. A full selection of mixed drinks is also available. As long as you're enjoying a beverage, it doesn't hurt to have a good meal.
We avoided the fried pickle appetizer and chose the pork belly and shishito nugz ($7). It's just what it sounds like: chunks of fatty pork with roasted peppers. The surprise is the Thai chili sauce drizzled on the plate and easily sopped up with the plate's namesake. Occasionally, an errant spicy pepper is mingled among its wrinkly sweet counterparts.
Our server's favorites are any of the smoked meats, the po' boy and one of the sandwiches. She said you can't go wrong with any of the burgers, so we opted for the BB King ($13) a juicy rendition with cheddar, bacon and barbecue sauce (thus the BB). Our request for medium rare was impressively honored with a slightly pink center. With the usual accoutrements of lettuce and tomato, this made for a satisfying meal. The thin, brittle french fries sealed the deal.
The shrimp po' boy ($13) is best suited for someone with larger hands than mine. Battered and fried plump shrimp hide a bed of lettuce and are topped with sliced tomatoes. This all rests on a sliced bulky roll lathered with remoulade. The breading on the shrimp was crunchy but too thick for my liking. Happily, there was no greasy element whatsoever.
The side selected was sweet potato fries, which looked remarkably like the french fries on the hamburger plate. They just happened to be a pale version of the tuber rather than the orange variety. But they were cut so thin that it was difficult to discern the sweet flavor I associate with this spud.
Yaya's fried chicken ($14) is a plate full of crispy tenders with coleslaw. Creole mustard is served on the side for dipping, which took the ordinary chicken to new taste heights. The tangy and spicy mustard should be sold by the jar. The creamy slaw was exceptional, and the corn fritters were interesting but reinforced the abundance of fried food on the table.
The smoked ("pig pickin'") pork shoulder ($13) boasted a nice rub. The meat was tender and certainly fulfills a hankering for barbecue, but the cheese grits and coleslaw were far more impressive.
Every staff member we encountered was friendly, and our server patiently answered questions. She was genuinely sorry when confessing that the blueberry pie for dessert was too hot to serve.
Oskar Blues has settled into its new digs and, it seems, its patrons have, too.