Diners and their well-behaved pups are welcome at the new Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar, which opened last week at the intersection of Academy Boulevard and Agora Point.

This welcoming space, with a design inspired by the Rocky Mountain lifestyle, replaced the former Romano’s Macaroni Grill and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant at 7605 N. Academy Blvd. As you enter the grand interior it’s like walking into a peaceful mountain retreat. A crackling fire, soaring high ceilings of hand-hewn wood beams and lodge-inspired cozy seating all create a comforting vibe.

The restaurant specializes in upscale casual dining. On the menu are dishes most of us are familiar with, but with an elevated twist. For example, the open-faced lamb shank pot pie ($19.95) served in a red wine and garlic gravy with a salted-thyme house-made pie crust is an elaborate, yet comforting dish. The BBQ bison meatloaf ($19.25), served with luscious mashed potatoes and crispy onions is wrapped in smoked bacon for added flavor.

Speaking of bacon, can we talk for a few moments about the bacon candy? Yes, you read that correctly. This divine thick-cut bacon is dusted with brown sugar and red pepper flakes then slow-roasted to crunchy, chewy perfection. The Lazy Dog uses the bacon in appetizers like the crispy deviled eggs, as a garnish to its upscale old-fashioned cocktail and even as a dessert. It’s also available as a small plate for $6.75.

The family-owned restaurant chain started in Huntington Beach, Calif. 17 years ago. Founder Chris Simms modeled the restaurant after his family’s cabin high in the Rocky Mountains near Jackson Hole, Wyo. Chris’ dad, Thomas Simms, and granddad, Arthur J. Simms, founded numerous restaurants including Mimi’s Café Restaurant Co. Including the Colorado Springs location, the Lazy Dog includes 34 restaurants.

General Manager Joe Fantocone said the chain “focuses on three things — food, drink and service.” He said the Colorado Springs location, the chain’s third location in the state, employs 200 residents selected from over 1,800 applications.

Vice President of Restaurant Services Roshan Mendis said the large menu “casts a wide net, serving something for everyone in the family.” The kitchen makes everything from scratch, sourcing high-end ingredients from small-batch specialists. Partnering with small producers, like Durham Ranch in Wyoming who provides both the bison in the meatloaf and the wild boar in the chili means they serve a quality meal.

Executive chef Jamie Harper has been with the company for about a year working at the two Denver locations. Harper, who’s from the New Orleans area, is a self-taught chef. He will execute the corporate menu using seasonal food with locally sourced ingredients. A couple of his favorite dishes on the fall offering are the shrimp and grits ($17.95) and the indigo cornbread, which is made with blue cornmeal.

Servers in plaid shirts hand out beautifully leather-bound menus, sprinkled with lovely watercolors by Creative Director Rebecca Simms. The wide variety of menu choices includes a good number of gluten-sensitive considerations including house-made hummus, grilled shrimp tacos, and a stir fry of protein, vegetables and garlic over rice.

Lunch specials are served until 4 p.m. daily and include a Dirty Dog (bacon-wrapped Nathan’s hot dog in a King’s Hawaain bun, topped with potato chips, blue cheese dressing, buffalo sauce and slaw and served with fries ($8.95); and a cup of soup with choice of salad ($7.95).

There is also a weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fantocone suggests the butter cake for a decadent dessert, but the gluten-free carrot cake made with almond flour and topped with pineapple buttercream frosting looks divine.

Daily happy hour (Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m.; Sunday-Thursday, 9 p.m. to close) food specials include lamb barbacoa tacos. Scratch-made drinks include house-made concoctions like ginger beer and Rocky Mountain huckleberry syrup.

Their attention to detail even extends to your doggies! The large patio is the place for family and hound to sit and enjoy a meal together. Order a bowl of brown rice ($2.50) or unseasoned beef or chicken ($4.95) for your pup. So long as the dog is well behaved and leashed, it can enjoy a seat at the table, or at least near the table.

There are patio rules: No dogs on tables or laps. No begging, barking and biting.

To see the full menu or order online, visit lazydogrestaurants.com or call 445-5851. he Lazy Dog Restaurant is open daily at 7605 N. Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs (80920).

The Gazette’s Teresa Farney contributed to this article.

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