Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Surfside eats & alcoholic treats at Palapa's

I'm going to shift gears away from beer for a few minutes because I want to give a big shout out to Palapa's Surfside restaurant. I first heard about Palapa's from our local food critic, Nathanial Glenn (a guy I admire as much for his writing as for his culinary opinions), who penned a fantastic review of the place in the March 20 edition of the Gazette.

Everything in his review is dead on accurate, down to the several groups of people who (still, after being opened since January) walked in (seemingly straight off the prairie; apparently their one trip to the "big city" every week), looked at the menu, and walked out. Part of that I'm sure has to do with the prices at Palapa's, which are higher then other places. Golden Corral all-you-can-eat-and-hope-to-digest buffet dining this (THANKFULLY!) is not. No, Palapa's is a one of kind restaurant... especially here in Colorado Springs, where chain restaurants and their bland food is loved by the unwashed masses. The old adage "you get what you pay for" could not be more accurate.

*I do want to state that there are some exceptional restaurants here (Blue Star, Edelweiss, The Famous, and Phantom Canyon to name a few).

In his article Nathaniel briefly mentioned one of the entrées -- the Scallops of Love. What he failed to mention was just how damn good -- scratch that, great -- they are. Simply put, these scallops are hands down the best Fran or I have ever had. Period. Dot. Exclamation point. Keep in mind that this statement comes from two people who lived in the the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years, a place where fresh seafood is part and parcel of everyday life. SF is to fresh seafood and top notch cuisine as Colorado Springs is to gorgeous mountain vistas and amazingly fresh buffalo steaks. Colorado Springs needs a place like Palapa's.

But it's not just the food that's so great. Nate Windham, the "much-loved mixologist from The Red Martini" is the joint's executive bartender. Any restaurant that takes their drinks as serious as their food is a winner in my book. See, Nate is to spirits as I am to beer. He's a Spirit Geek through and through and knows as much about the history of alcohol as how to mix them.

Ironically, Palapa's only serves bottled beer (Odell's, so beer lovers like myself do have good options). They have nothing on tap. But Nate is so knowledgeable about spirits (and only serves the best) that he had me downing a shot of Tequila with some kind of "traditional" chaser that made me want more. Those of you who know me know I over indulged as a youth on Tequila (thanks Joe!), so I practically dry heave at the mere smell of the stuff. Well, not anymore. The man is an alchemist... a true Liquid Engineer.

Nate is joined at the bar by Joey and Sean, his liquid engineering apprentices. All three combined to make some of the best mixed drinks we've ever had the joy of sampling, and made our anniversary evening a truly special one. But more then that... they made us feel at home. And for Fran and I, who pride ourselves on being consummate Bar Flys -- bartenders make or break a bar. If we don't like the atmosphere at the bar we're not coming back. Palapa's has some of the best barkeeps in the entire city. We'll not only be back, but we're brining the entire Professional Drinker's Tour with us next time!

But don't take our word for it. Aside from Glenn's review in the Gazette, Palapa's recently received another rave review from Matthew Schniper, the food dude at the Independent.

This is a great restaurant located in an area of Colorado Springs overran with chain drek (i.e., Chili's, TGIF, Ruby Tuesday's, Red Robins, etc.). It needs your patronage in order to keep on tickin... and Fran and I need you to need it so we can keep on eatin' the freshest seafood this side of a coastal town, and drinkin' some of the best spirits money can buy. So if you're in the mood for something more refined then a bagde wearin' buffoon who doesn't know the difference between medium and well-done... Palapa's is the place you need to be.

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