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.

The concept at The Carter Payne is a shared space. I’m not privy to the exact details of the arrangement, but it’s much like some of the “food halls” that have shown up with communal dining space in a lot of cities recently: there’s a common seating area, and a series of vendors. On my visit, four full time and one part time vendor: brewery Local Relic, cocktail bar Araucana, wine bar Crusade, Breakfast for Dinner (BFD) offering brunch on weekends, and Immerse Cuisine, offering light dining any time Carter Payne is open. It’s a nice concept: the businesses all complement each other, and, in a nice touch that’s lacking from a lot of these sorts of concept: all of the vendors run a single tab, know each other’s products, and share tips communally, including back of house. So instead of having to order separately at each counter, you can do like I did and order and pay for everything in one simple tab.

On this visit, I started with a beer from Local Relic, a pleasant Pecan Porter. Local Relic has a nice microbrewery model: they don’t have regular beers on tap; each recipe is basically single-batch-and-done, so there’s always an interesting list of beers available. Bar manager Andy walked me through the impressive list of over 20 taps (most of which were at least as unique as my Pecan Porter), encouraged me to pick up a few bottled Belgian-style beers, and I was soon sitting at one of the tables, listening to some soft jazz coming from the nearby record player (with its own library of records), and relaxing.

After a bit, another of the staff, Tabitha, came by to check on whether I needed anything for dinner and describe the specials. There were a lot of things on the menu from Immerse Cuisine tempting me, like the charcuterie plates being enjoyed by several tables, a good-looking tartar, or the soup being enjoyed by the next table over while they gushed over the sourdough “pebble bread” breadsticks… But having walked to Carter Payne from my hotel a mile away during some rather brisk, windy weather, I ended up getting attracted by one special, the firecracker tofu ramen.

As the firecracker tofu ramen arrived at my table, at first I was a bit dismayed; usually when I order a “ramen” it’s a bowl of thin, springy noodles, while the noodles here were distinctly thicker and udon-like. But any dismay I had evaporated once I started to actually eat the dish: everything else about this soup was spot on. Two generous slabbed of well-marinated and very spicy five-chile tofu were seared to perfection and perched atop the soup. The soup itself was a nice, rich, lemongrass, ginger, and nori broth that was not sparing in flavor, and there was a nice assortment of mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, broccoli, and bok choy, making this the perfect way to dispel the chills from my walk. Added all up, despite the odd choice of noodle, this was probably the tastiest single item I ate in 2021.

As I finally finished the big bowl of soup and selected a second beer from Local Relic, Tabitha again swung by and asked if I was interested in dessert, like perhaps some profiteroles. There are fewer questions more certain to elicit a hearty “yes!” from me than profiteroles, and these did not disappoint (although my photography does not do justice: dark sauce and dim lighting are not great for photography): nicely crispy profiteroles, a good, rich, vanilla-bean-laden ice cream, and a house-made ganache sauce that nicely enrobed everything without letting the profiteroles themselves get soggy. A great end to a great meal.

If there’s a regret, it’s that I didn’t find out about The Carter Payne until after I had already dined on the Sunday of my arrival, and I was leaving on Friday. The other food vendor, BFD, offered up what looked like an amazing brunch menu that probably pairs quite well with the cocktails and wine. I’ll have to put it on my short list for my next Colorado Springs visit.

Overall, I adored The Carter Payne: it was everything the recommendations had let me to expect, and a very flavorful meal. I hope the model continues to be successful.

One Response

  1. Tabitha 11 Jan 2022 at 15:19 #

    It was truly a pleasure having your visit our establishment (The Carter Payne)! Our menus change frequently, so visit again soon for more delicious offerings! Safe travels and happy dining.
    : )

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