You know what it's like. That slow shake of the head, the unfocused gaze and the moan of pleasure that comes with a great mouthful of food. Restaurant critic MB Partlow, who returns with a review on Aug. 2, has been there, done that, although probably not as often as she might like. Here we look back at her favorite spots, restaurants that scored 4 points or higher.
RAMON Q'S CANTINA
1005 W. Colorado Ave., 434-2741, ramonqs.com
The restaurant bills itself as "Mexican food with a twist." The twist seems to be a small, well-executed menu that focuses on doing a few things in an outstanding manner rather than trying to be everything to everyone. You won't find bland combo plates hidden under a blanket of melted cheese. You will find lots of freshness, lots of flavor, and an attention to detail you find only with people passionate about feeding others.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: Q's Twisted Burger ($12), Chili Rellenos ($12), Huevos Rancheros ($10)
4375 Sinton Road, 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. Exercise your sense of adventure for the greatest return on your dining investment.
DISHES NOT TO MISS: Baclava ($5.95), dolmades ($7.95), Grilled Salmon in Spicy Honey Sauce ($21.95), vegetarian moussaka ($19.95)
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 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).
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).
LA ROSA SOUTHWESTERN DINING
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)
TONG TONG KOREAN RESTAURANT
2036 S. Academy Blvd., 591-8585
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)
THE WAREHOUSE RESTAURANT AND GALLERY
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).
MB PARTLOW, MB.PARTLOW@GAZETTE.COM