Juniper Valley Ranch opens for the season Friday and will serve the famous family-style menu of comfort food — fried chicken, baked ham with all the homemade fixings — that has kept diners flocking to the eatery since 1951.

Fourth-generation owner Preston Dickey has stepped up the offerings with the addition of homemade pies and more adult beverages. Last year he updated the bar menu with Colorado craft beers and hard cider. This year he is introducing Juniper Valley Gin, made by Colorado Springs-based Lee Spirits with juniper berries gathered from trees on the ranch.

Colorado Springs embraces bowl trend

“We collected about 5 pounds (of juniper berries) by hand,” Dickey said. “Not a huge amount, but those things are tiny and don’t weigh much so it was a bit of a process.”

There’s a lot of juniper trees in that area south of Colorado Springs, and Dickey had a dream for using the berries.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to get them into gin,” he said. “We were so thankful when Ian (Lee) and the team at Lee Spirits agreed to do this with us. It was a several-month-long process and I could not be happier with the final product. I think it really does justice to the juniper berries and has just a hint of Colorado earthy taste in there too.”

Juniper Valley Ranch will be serving a classic gin and tonic for a few months until more Colorado fruits become available. Then Dickey plans to introduce seasonal cocktails. Hours for the restaurant, 16350 S. Colorado 115, are 5 to 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Details: 576-0741, junipervalleyranch.com.

Taste of Austin

Austin-based Tex-Mex restaurant Chuy’s, 9297 Forest Bluffs View, has opened its doors to a swarm of fans eager to down Texas-sized margaritas and loaded plates of unique chow. They have you covered with tacos, enchiladas and big-as-your-face burritos.

Don’t overlook Chuy’s House Specialties, which include mouthwatering dishes such as the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken, a Chuy’s original with chicken breast breaded with Lay’s potato chips and smothered in green chili sauce and cheddar cheese. Plan on a take-home box because you’ll want to save room for a slab of tres leches cake. Details: 430-4025. tinyurl.com/y59tk2hv.

Oscar’s update

Phil Duhon, owner of Oscar’s Oyster Bar, 333 S. Tejon St., has moved up the remodel and branding of his restaurant. He closed Oscar’s on Monday and plans to reopen his new concept, Midtown Grill, around April 22 to 24, with a new American comfort food menu.

“With all the changes on this end of Tejon, I figure I have a shot at offering food like pot roast and corn beef,” he said. “I’ll start with lunch and dinner. Breakfast will come after I’m open a couple of months.”

Details: 471-8070, themidtowngrill.com.

Foodie events

It’s time to update your calendar with upcoming dates for tasty events.

• Pikes Peak Community College’s Fran Folsom Culinary Arts Scholarship Dinner. Garden of the Gods Club, 3314 Mesa Road, 5 p.m. April 14. Culinary students prepare a multicourse dinner paired with wine. Cost is $150. Details: 502-2013, ppcc.edu/franfolsom

• The American Culinary Federation, Pikes Peak Chef’s Culinary Passport at St Paul’s Church, Julie Penrose Hall, 9 El Pomar Road, 6:30 to 9 p.m. April 27. For $50, take a culinary journey around the globe. Colorado Springs chefs showcase savory and sweet tastes from more than 12 countries. Visit tinyurl.com/y5777knc.

• Spring Wine Extravaganza at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, 3011 E. U. S. 50 in Cañon City, 1 to 4 p.m. April 27. For $30, taste new releases of five wines and nibble fruit, cheese, desserts and appetizers. Details: 276-5191, abbeywinery.com.

• The Colorado Restaurant Association — Pikes Peak Chapter’s Food, Wine and Beer Expo presents The “Taste of Pikes Peak,” The Broadmoor World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd., 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 28. For $45, sample food from more than 80 restaurants and vendors while enjoying the live Chef’s Competition and Craft Cocktail Competition. Visit tinyurl.com/ yy6quy98.

Contact the writer: 636-0271.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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