The Shrimp Cocktail
The Famous, A Steakhouse
31 N. Tejon St.- 227-7333, thefamoussteakhouse.net
Sure, the SC screams country club dances and stuffy ma?re d's. The Famous, though, gives us the turbo-charged version of the appetizer: Four dewy, pink, Godzilla-sized shrimp perched on a martini glass filled with a horseradish-heavy sauce spicy enough to raise the dead. (You can ask for a milder version, of course.) The shrimp are consistently plump, and your first bite will remind you how dangerously craveable shrimp can be. At $18 for four or $15 for three, it's pricey, but for the occasional treat, it's worth it.
Yoo Mae Japanese Cuisine
21 E. Kiowa St.- 473-8105, yoomae.com
I love my sashimi, but this sweet little spot on Kiowa Street has turned me into a nut for sushi rolls. And Yoo Mae's owner and master chef, J.J. Kim, has created a stunning array. The California Roll, the Philadelphia Roll, and other standards are available, but try one of the rolls named for one of the 50 states. I have a few favorites (the Kansas, for instance), but the Alabama ($13.50) has turned me into a junkie. It's crab meat and shrimp tempura that's topped with spicy tuna, eel sauce, wasabi mayonnaise, tempura crunch and seaweed. The combination is rich, crunchy and memorable.
123 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 520-0123, springsorleans.com
There's nothing particularly fancy about the Springs Orleans version of this American favorite (except, perhaps, the buttery brioche bun), but sometimes you don't want fancy. You want deliciously straightforward. What I like here is that Springs Orleans uses 8 ounces of Angus beef, which, per my order, is cooked to a juicy, savory medium rare. It's like eating a cozy fall day. And that costs $11. Cheese is considered a side here and costs an extra $1. And by the way, the fries are thin, crisp, well seasoned and very satisfying.
Crisp Pork Belly Tacos
The Rabbit Hole
101 N. Tejon St., 203-5072, rabbitholedinner.com
As its name suggests, a visit to The Rabbit Hole is something of a descent: The underground restaurant with an European Metro style entrance on Kiowa Street is darkly mysterious and, well, steampunk cool. And I can't resist the reoccurring references to "Alice in Wonderland" (don't miss local painter Phil Lear's three-panel mural of the tea party at the end of the dining room). Chef Josh Beemer's pork belly tacos ($10) are as appealing as the restaurant: The unctuous goodness of the pork plays against the spicy Asian slaw, salsa and chili threads, creating a bright and slightly spicy punch of flavor. And you get three, which is a meal in itself for me. Check them out during Happy Hour, which runs 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, when all appetizers are half price.
Colorado Mountain Brewery
600 S. 21st St., 466-8240, cmbrew.com
This is one of my favorite comfort foods, but I haven't found many local restaurants that serve a thick, moist slab of prime rib served exactly to temperature every time. And when you do find it, it's often very expensive. This spot in the Roundhouse, which is the second in the city's chain, has the goods. CMB serves an herb-crusted prime rib ($20) that's wood grilled over mesquite coals with both au jus and a dense horseradish cream on the side. It's so good, I'll even sit at the often rowdy bar for my fix.