Kelly Bubach is infusing some Southern flair at his cozy Urban Steam, 1025 S. Sierra Madre St..

He's refreshed his menu and hired chef Christi Nickey, who's from South Carolina.

She cooked at the Ritz Grill and The Blue Star until both closed. Earlier, she cooked across the Palm Beach, Fla., area and graduated from the Florida Culinary Institute.

"We were lucky to pick up Christi," Bubach said. "It really helps that she is a firm believer in my philosophy of using fresh, quality, local and natural ingredients in everything we do here."

Bubach, a waffle fan, has had a strong lineup of sweet and savory selections on his menu from day one. But the glaring absence of chicken and waffles had been noticed more than once.

"After years of being harangued by guests to include classic chicken and waffles to our menu, we've finally relented," he said. "We call it the 'Southern Comfort.'"

The cafe's famous blue cornmeal waffle is topped with a huge fresh-from-the-fryer local Red Bird skin-on boneless chicken thigh ($10.50).

"I brine the chicken in buttermilk, then dredge it in my spicy flour mixture," Nickey said.

The crisp skin gives way to sizzling-hot juicy meat full of flavor. A side of Urban bourbon-infused 100 percent maple syrup seals the deal.

"The boys and girls from the Deep South who have tried it are giving our rendition two thumbs up," Bubach said. "Some folks add an egg or two, or top it off with our sausage gravy."

It's on the breakfast menu, which is served until noon on weekdays and until 4 p.m. on weekends. Other new items include the "Greasy Granny" (biscuits and gravy waffle), Urban Buddha Bowl and the Farmhouse Breakfast Burger.

"We've retained all of our 'Original Gangster' waffles," he said. "We still have our creative sandwiches and salads and our light, sharable night menu. Taco Tuesdays is still strong, and Spaghetti Monster Mondays are popular."

The spaghetti dinners start at 5 p.m. Mondays with all-you-can-eat pasta, marinara, Italian sausage, garlic toast and Caesar salad. Details: 473-7832, urbansteamcoffee.com.

More chef moves

Brian Blasnek, former executive chef at the Blue Star has become executive chef at Tapateria and Pizzeria Rustica. He came to Colorado Springs in 2006 and has honed his culinary skills at Trinity Brewing Co., The Broadmoor and Brues Alehouse.

"Chef Brian is a great addition and asset to Tapateria and Pizzeria Rustica," said owner Jay Gust. "I'm looking forward to taking Blasnek under my wing while continuing to broaden my portfolio and new projects and concepts in the not-too-distant future."

Ring in the new year

Here are a few ways to party into 2018:

- Get a jump-start on the new year at Spice Island Grill's Downtown Pre-NYE Reggae Party, 10 N. Sierra Madre St., 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday. Cost is $15 for live music. Details: 473-8280, spiceislandgrill.com.

- Swirl Wine Bar, 717 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, has live music by Red Moon Rounder from 9 p.m. to midnight Sunday. A $3 cover starts at 8:30 p.m. Details: 685-2294, swirlismybar.com.

- Till Kitchen, 9633 Prominent Point, is serving a four-course dinner for $125 at 7 p.m. Sunday with two cocktails, dancing and a Champagne toast at midnight. Details: 282-8004, tillkitchen.com.

DIY NYE

Picnic Basket Catering offers the New Year's "Steamy" Lobster Pot dinner to prepare at home.

For $167.50, you get two 1½-pound live Maine lobsters, 1 pound of black mussels, a half pound of linguica sausage, onions, new potatoes, corn, fresh herbs and a loaf of French bread. The meal comes in a bucket with directions for steaming the crustacean.

Place orders 48 hours in advance for delivery or to pick up at 1701 S. 8th St. Details: 635-0200, pbcatering.com.

Wine Wednesdays: Good Neighbors Meeting House, 505 E. Columbia St., is the place to be noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays for a bottle of wine and a meat or cheese plate for $25.

Current wine selections are from the Willamette Valley, France, Chile and California. Visit: goodneighborsmeetinghouse.com.

Shuttered

Maggie Mae's Restaurant and Pub 2405 E. Pikes Peak Ave., has closed.

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Send tips about restaurant openings, closings and specials to teresa.farney@gazette.com, 636-0271, Twitter: @tffoodie or Facebook Teresa Farney.

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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