How I decide where to go for Chicago Restaurant Week (2014)

I love Chicago Restaurant Week! This year it’s actually two weeks and takes place from January 24th to February 6th. Last year we went to Kinzie Chophouse and Bistrot Zinc. Both were very enjoyable. We rarely go to steakhouses or French restaurants because they tend to be pricey, and we’re not rich. So Restaurant Week is a great time to hit them up. If you haven’t heard of Restaurant Week, it’s a week (two this year!) when all the fancy restaurants in town do special prix fixe menus for $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner.

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

Restaurant Week 2013 at Bistrot Zinc, Chicago

I want to be adventurous, and I know I should be, but I don’t really like weird trendy food like kale and duck confit. But I also don’t like boring things like roast chicken. I appreciate a good beef dish and vegetarian dishes and Italian places, too. So this year maybe along with the steakhouse and French, we’ll go to a third, possibly more unusual spot. And, unless it’s something ridiculously fabulous, we stick to the $22 lunches and $33 dinners- another way I choose is to check out their regular menus and see if the places are a really good deal during Restaurant Week or if you can get basically the same thing any time.

So, based on all that, here are the contenders:

French: Bistro Voltaire, Mon Ami Gabi

Steakhouse: David Burke’s Primehouse, Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Italian: Riccardo Trattoria, Piccolo Sogno

Other: The Refinery, Two

Where else should I absolutely not miss? Where are you going to go?

Some places to get happy hour drinks and snacks in Colorado Springs

Another wrap-up post- where to get some drinks with your food.

Judge Baldwin’s: another brewpub

Judge Baldwin's in The Antlers Hotel

Judge Baldwin's in The Antlers Hotel

MacKenzie’s Chophouse: great vintage decor, excellent food, and pretty good happy hour specials.

MacKenzie's Chophouse

MacKenzie's Chophouse

MacKenzie's has some nice drinks.

MacKenzie's has some nice drinks.

Johnny’s Navajo Hogan: Johnny, of Southside Johnny’s, did an excellent restoration of this historically landmarked building. Service is fabulous, and the drinks are good too.

The Navajo Hogan is an historic building.

The Navajo Hogan is an historic building.

Johnny's Navajo Hogan

Johnny's Navajo Hogan

Johnny restored the original neon sign

Johnny restored the original neon sign

Red Martini:

The cozy bar at Red Martini

The cozy bar at Red Martini

A blurry picture of their happy hour menu, which is pretty extensive.

A blurry picture of their happy hour menu, which is pretty extensive.

Not sure if anyone ever plays the piano at Red Martini

Not sure if anyone ever plays the piano at Red Martini

Red Martini snack menu, lots of good happy hour specials.

Red Martini snack menu, lots of good happy hour specials.

Happy hour cocktail

Happy hour cocktail

Happy hour cheese plate

Happy hour cheese plate

Happy hour coconut chicken fingers- these are really really good!

Happy hour coconut chicken fingers- these are really really good!

Sonterra Grill:

The very pretty Sonterra Grill

The very pretty Sonterra Grill

Happy hour!

Happy hour!

They have a few really good happy hour food items, including free chips and salsa.

They have a few really good happy hour food items, including free chips and salsa.

Springs Orleans: Good happy hour specials. Don’t forget to go next door to the new hotel, they have a beautiful lobby bar.

Springs Orleans

Springs Orleans

Springs Orleans

Springs Orleans

I love happy hour!

I love happy hour!

They kept tons of the original features when they renovated the hotel (Wyndham at the Mining Exchange) and restaurant

They kept tons of the original features when they renovated the hotel (Wyndham at the Mining Exchange) and restaurant

The original tin ceiling

The original tin ceiling

Springs Orleans has a very long wine list- almost all of them are available for happy hour.

Springs Orleans has a very long wine list- almost all of them are available for happy hour.

Swirl Wine Bar:

Nice atmosphere to go with your wine and cocktails at Swirl Wine Bar

Nice atmosphere to go with your wine and cocktails at Swirl Wine Bar

The Famous: if you want to spy on Colorado Springs movers and shakers, you have to go to Friday night happy hour at The Famous.

Hob-nobbing with Oinkety nemesis, John Hazlehurst at The Famous

Hob-nobbing with Oinkety nemesis, John Hazlehurst at The Famous

Snacks at The Famous

Snacks at The Famous

A gigantic plate of french fries at The Famous

A gigantic plate of french fries at The Famous

The Loop: great Mexican food and fab margaritas.

A huge margarita at The Loop

A huge margarita at The Loop

Rico’s Cafe and Wine Bar:

Rico's Cafe and Wine Bar

Rico's Cafe and Wine Bar

Delicious hummus and happy hour wine on the sidewalk at Rico's

Delicious hummus and happy hour wine on the sidewalk at Rico's

Rico's offers 3 and 6 ounce wines by the glass, so you can try a few at a time. And their food is interesting and tasty, too.

Rico's offers 3 and 6 ounce wines by the glass, so you can try a few at a time. And their food is interesting and tasty, too.

 

Shuga’s: Of course, Shuga’s. My Fave. Great food, great atmosphere, great happy hour.

Happy hour!

Happy hour!

Special cocktail for happy hour at Shugas

Special cocktail for happy hour at Shugas

Now go to happy hour somewhere and come back and tell us all about it!

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne

A couple weeks ago we went to see the Ice Castles at Silverthorne and it was really neat!
Now you can get half off tickets from Groupon.

We took the scenic route to get there- Highway 24 to Highway 9 to I-70. It was a beautiful clear day like so many we have here in Colorado, and just lovely. If you go to the Ice Castles and you’re coming from Colorado Springs, I highly recommend this drive.


View Larger Map

First stop: Happy Meadows, our favorite summer camping spot. The campground isn’t open in the winter but we walked around on the frozen stream awhile anyway.

Happy Meadows in winter

Happy Meadows in winter

Happy Meadows, Colorado

Happy Meadows, Colorado

There are many scenic stops along the way.

Scenic point along the way on Highway 24.

Scenic point along the way on Highway 24.

Made a stop in Fairplay for a snack. There are lots of little cafes in Fairplay but the best cinnamon roll in the whole world can be found at the Brown Burro Cafe. Two coffees and this huge treat was only $4!

Cinnamon roll from the Brown Burro Cafe in Fairplay, CO

Cinnamon roll from the Brown Burro Cafe in Fairplay, CO

The recreated old west town of South Park is also in Fairplay. It’s really neat, kids and adults will like it, there are lots of good photo opportunities and its’ definitely worth a stop. We’ve been there before so didn’t go this time.

South Park recreated old west town, Fairplay, CO

South Park recreated old west town, Fairplay, CO

The rest of the drive is also really pretty but it was getting late and we wanted to get to the Ice Castles before it got dark.

We drove thru Breckenridge and debated hitting up Breckenridge Brewery because we love the delicious Vanilla Porter they make. But we decided maybe we’d come back thru later and go there.

On to the Ice Castles, which is about 20 minutes north of Breckenridge. The Ice Castles is a man made art exhibit. They run sprinklers all night long, the water freezes, and these neat sculptures are formed. You can walk all around them and even inside some of them.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

Ice Castles at Silverthorne, CO.

We didn’t know when we got there, but it’s open at night, too. It looks totally different at night and they let you come and go on one ticket, so we wound up going to Breckenridge Brewery afterall and then went back to the Ice Castles later.

 

Vanilla Porter at Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado.

Vanilla Porter at Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado.

Then back to the Ice Castles. By now it was pretty cold so we didn’t stay as long, but it was really pretty with the lights they use.

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

 

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

Ice Castles at Silverthorn, at night

So go get these half off tickets from Groupon and go check it out.  And be sure to tell us what other interesting things you find along the way!

Phat Hatties Discount

Phat Hatties is awesome! It’s just a little truck in the Big Lots parking lot at Union and Academy, across from Target.

We recently had lunch there and really enjoyed it. Plus it’s cheap!

Phat Hatties BBQ truck, Union and Aacademy, Colorado Springs

Phat Hatties BBQ truck, Union and Aacademy, Colorado Springs

BBQ beef sandwich and chips from Phat Hatties, Colorado Springs- yummy!

BBQ beef sandwich and chips from Phat Hatties, Colorado Springs- yummy!

Enjoying my lunch!

Enjoying my lunch!

So, anyhow, go get this groupon and then get yourself some tasty BBQ at Phat Hatties!

Gunning for second place

It’s that time of year again, where we shamelessly ask for your vote on The Independent’s annual Best of Colorado Springs survey.

Last year, we tied for third with then-Business Journal writer John Hazlehurst and decided that he must be destroyed. He has since moved to the Indy, which means that while he still pens a regular column, we have not seen any Hazlehurst-specific “blog.” Consider yourself destroyed, Mr. Hazlehurst.

The first-place winner was a coupon thing, so whatever with that. Who can compete with bargains? The second-place winner is a member of Big Media, and who can trust Big Media?

It’s time for Oinkety to be the Springs’ No. 2 blog.

You have to vote for at least 15 things for your ballot to count. Here’s a sampling of what we voted for:

  1. Best Wait Staff: Detz Cafe.
  2. Best Restaurant for Tourists: Paris Crepe.
  3. Best French Restaurant: La Baguette. The one on Chestnut.
  4. Best Patio Dining: Shuga’s.
  5. Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Taste of Jerusalem.
  6. Best Food Truck: Phat Hattie’s.
  7. Best Burger: Drifter’s.
  8. Best Place for Ice Cream: Dogtooth Cafe.
  9. Best Local Beer for Winter: Bristol’s Venetucci Pumpkin Ale, of course good luck getting any.
  10. Best Breakfast: Smiley’s.
  11. Best Caterer: Blue Sage Catering.
  12. Best Place for an Over-the-Top Gift: Pink Kitty Studios.
  13. Best Photographer: Pink Kitty Studios.
  14. Best Naughty Business: Pink Kitty Studios.
  15. Best Local Twitterer: @barelyescape.
  16. Best Local Blogger: Oinkety!

Adrienne and I agreed on a few of the categories. But we disagreed on a bunch, too:

  1. Best Neighborhood Restaurant – West: Adrienne enjoys La Baguette, but I like Cucuru.
  2. Best Neighborhood Restaurant – Central: Adrienne went with Shuga’s, while I went with Detz.
  3. Best Restaurant for Dining Alone: Adrienne would rather go to Shuga’s alone, and I prefer Poor Richard’s.

In fact, for just about every category, Adrienne picked Shuga’s. Best Happy Hour; Best Patio; Best Place for a Wedding Reception; Best Appetizers; Best Soup; Best Bartender (Kevin); Best Place for a Fancy-Pants Cocktail. Someone has a Shuga’s addiction.

Vote for Oinkety or this cat will cry

We sometimes write about cats. That alone is worth your vote.