LA ROSA SOUTHWESTERN DINING 4.25 stars 25 Highway 105, Palmer Lake, 368-7676 It's well worth driving to Palmer Lake to eat at La Rosa. The small, charming restaurant with a tiny bar in the front and simple wood tables offers a warm welcome to everyone seeking fresh, homemade Mexican food. DISHES NOT TO MISS: Vegetarian tamales ($9), Fish Vera Cruz ($17), Tres Leches Cake ($6)
MCCABE'S TAVERN 3.5 stars 520 S. Tejon St. 633-3300, www. mccabestavern.com The first thing that will strike you at McCabe's is the atmosphere. Everyone is welcome, and there's a casual air about the place that makes you feel like sitting and relaxing for a while. The menu offers a surprising number of creative vegetarian options. The food is better than the usual bar fare, although there are some nondescript dishes, as well. DISHES NOT TO MISS: Chips and Curry ($6.95), The Works Burger ($9.95), World's Greatest Grilled Cheese ($8.95), Alaskan Cod Cakes ($11.95). SCHNITZEL FRITZ RESTAURANT AND DELI 3.5 stars 4037 Tutt Blvd., 573-2000, schnitzelfritz.com The small, strip-mall store is bright and clean, but on the plain side. The food, however, is much better than a place this size has any right to be. The German specialties are savory and scrumptious, beautifully complemented by the baked goods from Old German Bakery. DISHES NOT TO MISS: Hungarian goulash ($7.99), rouladen ($9.99), bratwurst platter ($8.99) and cherry crumble cake ($3.79)
BONEFISH GRILL 4.5 stars 5102 N. Nevada Ave., 598-0826, bonefishgrill.com The Bonefish Grill dominates the seafood market in Colorado Springs because, besides an array of fresh seafood, the menu offers appetizers, salads and grilled items for those who don't care for seafood. The staff is well-educated, welcoming and accommodating. DISHES NOT TO MISS: Singapore Calamari ($8.30), beet and goat cheese salad ($3.90), pecan parmesan crusted rainbow trout ($17.50), Jen's Jamaican Coconut Pie ($6.20). CASPIAN CAFE 4.25 stars 4375 Sinton Rd., 528-1155, caspiancafe .com The Mediterranean menu at Caspian Cafe travels from Greece to Spain and France, with some specials on the menu that are pure originals. While delicious dishes are plentiful on the menu, some of the standards are suffering from a lack of attention. DISHES NOT TO MISS: Baclava ($5.95), dolmades ($7.95), Grilled Salmon in Spicy Honey Sauce ($21.95), vegetarian moussaka ($19.95)
2036 S. Academy Blvd., 591-8585 no website
Tong Tong Korean Restaurant is an excellent place to start if you've never ventured into Korean food. The unassuming restaurant has a very friendly staff, who is more than happy to answer questions and make suggestions. The menu offers a wide variety of traditional dishes, although some of the flavors are perhaps muted to suit American palates.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: Tteokbokki/Spicy Rice Cake ($5.99), Bulgogi Dolsot Bibimbob ($11.99), Dak-Gui ($13.99)
MB PARTLOW; MB.PARTLOW@GAZETTE.COMIL VICINO
5214 N. NEVADA AVE., 590-8633,
With a great variety of wood-fired pizzas, plus a few sandwiches, salads and pastas, this could easily become your family's new favorite pizza joint. The pizzas are individual-sized, but most of the other dishes are big enough to share. All the food we tried was excellent, and it hits that illusive restaurant chord that makes it perfect for families, business lunches, dates or just meeting a friend. Add in a great staff and extremely friendly service, and you've got a combination that's tough to beat.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: The Melanzane ($8.50), the calzones ($8.50-$9.25) and the housemade root beer.
THE PANTRY 4 stars 6980 Lake St., Green Mountain Falls, 684-9018 The Pantry in Green Mountain Falls is homemade, comforting diner food at its best. More than slightly off the beaten track, the Pantry is worth searching out for breakfast or lunch any time you drive up the pass - the only day they close it closes is Christmas Day. The white, wheat and cinnamon raisin bread is all made on the premises. And the soups, green chili and desserts are all made from scratch. The burgers are juicy and the pancakes are bigger than the plates. DISHES NOT TO MISS: French toast made with cinnamon rolls ($5.99), fried chicken ($10.99), bread pudding ($4.29).
2SOUTH FOOD & WINE BAR
2 s. 25th st., 351-2806, 2southwinebar.com
2South is a relaxing and inviting wine bar with some disparities in the quality of menu offerings. The dishes that are done right are outstanding, but when they miss the mark, they miss it by a mile. Open since October of 2012, it's a work in progress which that shows a lot of promise.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: The Salmon Platter ($16), the Roasted Red Pepper Soup ($6), the burger ($10) and the Braised Lamb Belly ($16).
THE WAREHOUSE RESTAURANT AND GALLERY 4 stars 25 W. Cimarron St., 475-8880, thewarehouserestaurant.com A relaxed but elegant restaurant and gallery with an inviting atmosphere. The service and the food get more attention at dinner, including small details like the wildflower honey with bread basket, the tomatillos in the sauteed vegetables and the attentive but not intrusive waitstaff. The dinner entrees are definitely the star of the show.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: The Cannelli and Brie Gnocchi ($11 at lunch/$21 at dinner), The Warehouse Filet Oskar ($34) and the Redmesa Lamb Shank ($28) and Dessert Sampler ($16).
OVERSEAS 101 4 stars 5166 N. Academy Blvd., 534-9588 What makes this place such a find? Fast and friendly service coupled with really good food at reasonable prices. The lunch specials start at $5.95, and each entree comes with an egg roll, a cream cheese wonton and soup of your choice. Terrifically fresh food is consistently prepared with tasty sauces that complement, not overwhelm. DISHES NOT TO MISS: The Sesame Tofu ($7.25), the Fried Squid ($5.95) and The Triple Curry Sauce ($6.50). COLORADO MOUNTAIN BREWERY 4 stars 600 s. 21st st.; 466-8240, cmbrew.com
600 S. 21st St.; 466-8240, 466-8240, cmbrew.com A location recently opened by owners of the Colorado Mountain Brewery, this spot in the Roundhouse features tall ceilings,a warm wood interior with an upscale feel, a second story and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains. It's not just pretty: It offers warm, friendly service and mostly outstanding food with a few small glitches. The wood-fired pizza oven helped produce 'what might be the best pizza I've ever had. '
DISHES NOT TO MISS: The Truffle Fries ($9), Fish and Chips ($12), Bacon-Wrapped Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout ($14).
DICKEY'S BARBECUE PIT 3 stars
1466 Garden of the Gods Road;
A Texas-based barbecue chain with fast and friendly service and food that delivers no surprises. With the exception of the ribs, the meat was unpleasantly dry. And the sauces? Just OK. Good barbecue joints are also judged by the quality of their side dishes. Dickey's fares a little better here than with their mainstays.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: All sides - the jalape? beans, coleslaw, baked potato casserole.
JORGE'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT 3.5 stars
2427 W. Colorado Ave.; 634-9031
After about a half million in renovation costs, Jorge's sports a colorful and inviting new decor. It is a lively family-run restaurant with great service and a nice selection of traditional Mexican-American dishes. And the house-made tortilla chips? 'Fresh, warm and fried on the premises, and with a thick, corny crunch you can't get from a bag. ' A great pairing with the guacamole, which tasted like it had been made moments before it arrived at the table.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: The Shrimp Fajitas ($13.50), The Enchiladas Tejanas ($9.50), the Tacos de Carne Asada ($11.25).
ROCCO'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT 4.5 stars
3878 Maizeland Road, 574-1426, roccoscolorado.com
Rocco's is a cheerful, inviting, family restaurant with a menu full of Italian-American standards and some surprisingly diverse specials, including the Pan Seared Ostrich ($19.95) and the Grilled Quail and Wild Boar Sausage ($18.95). The brick walls, padded booths and red-checked tablecloths may say 'kitsch ' to some, but the food tastes like there's an Italian grandma in the kitchen.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: Italian Hot Beef Sandwich ($8.95) a calzone ($9.95 small/$11.50 large), The Zuppa di Clams ($17).
MB Partlow, the gazette