Carlita's Cocina

Carlita’s Cocina (South Royalton, VT)

Prior to the pandemic, one of my more regular spots to visit in Vermont was South Royalton. It has several great places we like, including First Branch Coffee/Upper Pass Beer and Worthy Burger, but between reduced operating hours and fewer social gatherings, we hadn’t made it over that was as often. Early in the pandemic, we had noted the opening of Carlita’s Cocina, a primarily Mexican-themed food truck, operating in the large parking lot opposite Vermont Law School. When I had to reschedule one of my periodic Red Cross blood donations to the Sharon Academy, that gave me a good excuse to go on a short hike up to Kent’s Ledge, and then meet up with my friends Rick and Sarah to finally try out Carlita’s.

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The Cluckin' Cafe

The Cluckin’ Cafe (Pittsford, VT)

During the pandemic, one of the things we started doing, due to spending a lot more time making dinner at home, was investing in a wine membership from one of our favorite Vermont wineries: Lincoln Peak. But they are located outside of Middlebury, and as the old New England saying goes “ya can’t get there from here,” at least not without a lot of driving down back roads. So even in the peak of pandemic shutdowns, we’d relatively frequently drive across mid-Vermont to pick up from their winery in New Haven, VT, which took us through several towns we don’t normally visit, like Rutland, Pittsford, and Brandon, VT. Throughout these drives, we’d often drive by a place that opened in 2020: The Cluckin’ Cafe in Pittsford, VT, and early this year, we were finally passing by when they were open, so we stopped and checked it out.

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WA Frost

W.A. Frost & Co (St. Paul, MN)

Back in December, I was invited to the University of Minnesota’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to give a talk on some of my autonomous drone development work. I always love these sorts of visits, since they are a chance to keep caught up with what the University is up to… as well as having an excuse to visit some old friends and favorite food haunts. Indeed, it’s become a bit of a running joke that on most of these visits I end up going to Al’s Breakfast, often multiple times. But they also take me out to dinner. Last time, it was to a new-to-me place, Cafe Biaggo, but this time, it was a return to a long-ago favorite of mine, W.A. Frost & Co in St Paul.

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Shame & Regret (Colorado Springs, CO)

As I mentioned in a few reviews, Colorado Springs has been a semi-frequent work travel destination for me for a few years now. Originally, I’d always stay at The Antlers, which is a fine hotel, but starting in 2019 Hilton opened up a new Hilton Garden Inn on North Cascade a few blocks north of there. And, I’ll admit it, in the case of hotels loyalty programs seem to work well for me, so most of my trips now have me staying there. In 2019, I was taking a shortcut out of the hotel to E Bijou Street, and found myself instead in a small alley off Bijou, staring at a bright neon sign for the recently-opened Shame & Regret Cocktail bar, and felt compelled to check it out (heck, it’s one of the best cocktail bar names I’ve ever seen).

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The Skirted Heifer (Colorado Springs, CO)

Much like my review of King’s Chef Diner, I’ve had a handful of places that I had started reviewing around Colorado Springs, but deferred publishing once Covid hit, preferring to wait until I could make sure I could follow up and revisit them to check up on how they are doing. One of these places is The Skirted Heifer, a burger joint which I’ve visited on several trips to Colorado Springs. Now, with visits on my 2019 and 2021 trips, I can confirm things are well at the Heifer.

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Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen (Colorado Springs, CO)

Most of the time I’m in Colorado Springs, it is because I’m visiting the United States Air Force Academy for work. While during non-pandemic times, if you can ever swing a visit to their Mitchell Hall dining room, it’s a sight to behold, with them serving the entire student body in 30 minutes in a giant dining room (the only similar experience I’ve had was dining at the Naval Academy’s King Hall). But during these pandemic-restricted times, the primary dining option for visiting researchers is… Subway. My Academy host agreed that this was sub-par, so every day we headed off-campus to try out some different dining options. And in this case, we headed out the North Gate to the nearby shopping center for some Cajun food at Momma Pearl’s Cajun Kitchen.

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The Carter Payne (Colorado Springs, CO)

In my previous review of Bonny & Read, I discussed how I had asked several good bartenders and waitstaff around Colorado Springs for what other places they’d recommend, and several places all percolated to the top of everyone’s list, most notably the above-mentioned Bonny & Read, and The Carter Payne. I hadn’t been aware of The Carter Payne on my previous visits, but at the time it was still a bit of a startup. Located about a block and a half SE of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, The Carter Payne is located in a former AME Church. Original opened in 1897 as the Payne Chapel (after Daniel Payne, one of the AME church’s founders) and later renamed after the Carter Brothers who moved to Colorado Springs from Philadelphia, the Church outgrew the chapel in 1987, moving to a much larger building in NE Colorado Springs. After a period of time hosting various offices, events venues, and satellite church operations before getting refurbished in 2016 as The Carter Payne, a shared vendor space.

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Bonny & Read (Colorado Springs, CO)

During my trip to Colorado Springs, I decided to drop in and check out Bonny and Read for some good seafood. Mentioning this fact on Facebook got a fair bit of skpetical feedback of the “Have you looked at a map? Colorado Springs is about as far from the ocean as you can get!” variety. While that’s not quite true (the North American pole of inaccessibility is in Bennett County, South Dakota, several hundred miles further from the oceans), yeah, it’s a bit risky getting seafood more than 700 miles from the nearest ocean. But I wasn’t terribly concerned, because of recommendations. As I discuss a bit on my Resources page, one of my standard methods of finding good places to eat when traveling involves finding a good place to eat or drink with good staff, and asking the staff there where they eat when they aren’t on the clock. And in this case, the bartenders at both Shame & Regret and Local Relic included Bonny and Read near the top of their dining recommendations. So, on the first night of my last trip to Colorado Springs, when craving a light dinner, armed with this advice I headed off to Bonny & Read.

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King’s Chef Diner (Colorado Springs, CO)

Most of my years my business travel has some unexpected twists and turns, and I certainly wasn’t expecting Colorado Springs to be my top travel destination for the last few years, with almost three weeks spent there since 2019. But I rather enjoy Colorado Springs. It’s a bit of a funky mish-mash, since there’s two “downtowns”, the actual downtown (where I stayed), and to the west Old Colorado City that got absorbed into Colorado Springs in the early 1900s. And there’s a lot to do with Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods park nearby. And then, after hiking and exploring, there’s a good selection of restaurants, diners, breweries, and the like that I discovered on my first trip out this year; and followup trips really gave me a chance to explore downtown Colorado Spring’s culinary offerings. In this case, King’s Chef Diner.

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The Fairlee Diner (Fairlee, VT)

(Closed) Every once in a while, I’ll revisit a favorite place around the Upper Valley and realize that I’ve never actually reviewed it here. Indeed, since moving to the Upper Valley in 2001, I think I’ve been to the Fairlee Diner at least two dozen times, and I was prepared to do one of my “health check” reviews where I check in on an old favorite that I’ve review before, only to find that I’ve not reviewed it (actually, looking at notes, that’s not completely true: I did review the Fairlee Diner for one of my Diner Day reviews for the long-defunct UVScene website… anyone remember that?). But it’s time to remedy that.

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