The Colorado Springs Festival of Lights is a city tradition near and dear to my heart. I can remember, as a little girl, having a pre-parade party at my parents’ house complete with fudge, Christmas cookies and hot cocoa before bundling up in layers and layers to sit on Tejon Street and watch the floats and bands go by. Although the parade was always fun, spending hours trying to get warm afterward was not. Our family had a tradition of going to Gunther Toody’s for chili-cheese fries after the parade (this was when the only location in the Springs was at the corner of Academy and Austin Bluffs in what is now a dental office). As an adult, I still love chili-cheese fries, but there are options way closer to downtown to grab a drink or snack before heading home or heading out for the evening.
Here’s a round-up of some great local restaurants to check out after the Festival of Lights:
Snack On: Blonde Lager & Smoked Gouda Soup
Who says no to cheese soup, ever?
Sip: Phantom Cider
It’s Captain Morgan mixed with hot apple cider and it’s good. From personal experience I definitely recommend this one.
Snack On: Almond Butter Cake or the Shrimp Soup
The Almond Butter Cake is heaven. It’s very dense and super satisfying. I haven’t actually tried the Shrimp Soup here, which is a spicy Brazilian soup made with coconut milk and ginger, however my friends constantly RAVE about it and it seems to have made a name for itself here in the Springs.
Sip: Maggie’s Hot Toddy or Spanish Coffee
The Hot Toddy is a warm tea-like drink with Grand Marnier and the Spanish coffee has rum, brandy, Grand Marnier and Kahlua before it’s added to coffee and topped with whipped cream. I don’t know about anyone else but I think the Spanish coffee sounds like it would warm you up REAL quick!
Snack On: Shepherd’s Pie in a Bread Bowl
It is so good and big enough to share! It has 100% Colorado ground sirloin, fresh veggies, is topped with potatoes and cheese AND it sits insead of a bread bowl. You might have to unbutton your pants afterward, but you’ll be happy you got it.
Sip On: Guiness
Or any type of stout beer for that matter. There are lots of ’em! Jack Quinn’s has many, many, MANY types of whiskey on shelf. So if that’s your poison, Jack Quinn’s is your place.
Snack On: One of the six types of Mac & Cheese
They have Buff Chicken Mac with buffalo chicken and bleu cheese, Garden Mac with veggies, Straight Up Mac with LOTS of cheese, Chili Dog Mac with a hot dog and buffalo chili, Mac Daddy with pork green chili and shredded beef, and Nacho Mac with what appears to be taco toppings. I say go for the Buff Chicken Mac.
I feel like I need to say that I have been to Lucha Cantina only once and was not at all impressed with my meal. In all fairness, it was the week it opened and I haven’t been back since so it could have been a fluke. This restaurant has pretty good reviews so I’ll let you decide. In terms of the Mac & Cheese though, I feel like if a place is offering six versions of one dish, it has to be pretty decent, right? It’s hard to mess that up.
Snack On: Bunny Bites
These are exquisite. I feel like Satan eating them because they’re called Bunny Bites (poor little Thumper!) but yum. They’re friend rabbit bites served with mixed berry honey mustard. The Rabbit Hole also has such a cozy atmosphere.
Snack On: Steak Fingers
Southside Johnny’s has a ton of great food options, but my friend Faye would tell you there’s only one thing to order here and that’s the Steak Fingers. Think the best chicken tenders you’ve ever had, but instead it’s battered and deep-fried steak. They come served with spicy ranch.
Don’t forget to bundle up and get to Tejon Street early for the parade. It is scheduled for Saturday at 5:50 P.M. in downtown Colorado Springs. The route I found said it begins at Tejon and St. Vrain and ends at Tejon and Vermijo, but that could always change so make sure you check before finding a spot to sit.