Apr 16, 2021 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield | Photo courtesy of The Warehouse website
Eating out is life or death. Restaurants are being choked off by an indefinite pandemic, and palates across the country are growing bored and restless. A night out is the only cure. In the face of a tasteless fatigue, it’s time to push back. I’ll ramble around the Springs and find which restaurants are worth the risk and which aren’t. Dining in or taking out, I’ll be hungry, and I’ll write about it.
The Warehouse Restaurant
25 West Cimarron Street, Colorado Springs, Colo.
4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
The Warehouse Restaurant is a great place to blow your paycheck, ogle the uniquely odd Colorado Springs elite, and above all, eat a delicious meal no college student could ever truly afford or deserve.
The Warehouse brands itself as a gallery restaurant, and while there is a sizable art gallery — disappointedly full of Adirondacky birch landscapes and sub-par collages — the actual dining room is more like a refined pub or speakeasy.
Exposed brick and funky wall art set the scene of a semi-casual date night. The music is soft, poppy, and uninspiring. In fact, it creates a vacuum-like feel to the place that can only be filled by delicious food. Luckily, the food served here is up to the task.
The first thing you notice when you walk in is a beautiful copper bar, gleaming with a seductive call that makes you feel like some swanky, prohibition mobster. If you don’t have a reservation — they’re all-but required with reduced indoor capacity — sitting at the bar makes for a great time with quick drinks, no wait, and with the same food and service.
The dress code is squarely semi-casual. The customers didn’t get the memo. The crowd is split into two factions of equally-upsetting eyesores. You’re surrounded by a strange, disgusting mix of L.A. wannabe influencers, with mouths slightly ajar and lips with one-too-many fillers, unapologetically spitting into FaceTime. These types can be easily identified by their strange beige hats that stay on indoors and violent, electric highlights usually reserved for truck stops and weekday strippers.
The rest of the room is full of the semi-ragged flannels, tired looking trucker hats, grease stains, and facial hair that never quite grows in — the signature of daytime alcoholics and recently divorced fathers. It’s best to keep your eyes on the food and drink, where the real artistry of this restaurant lies, and let a well-disciplined imagination block out the rest.
The rest of The Warehouse experience demands a certain degree of self-respect and good company — no Applebee’s-style binge drinking, no grease-mongering, no stomach-clutching gluttony.
Leave your chronically disappointing friends to their broken-in couches and take-out stenches and make a good impression with that special someone you’ve been wanting to get to know.
I’ve said it already, but the food is decadent. No flavor is haphazard or out of place and the executive chef is equal parts creative and masterful.
Drinks are similar, and if you are more accustomed to the nightly mingling of plastic-bottle rum and a two-liter coke or Evan Williams from the mason jar, this might be a shocking way to drink.
As a part-time Mezcal fiend, whenever I see it on the menu, the Southwest Margarita gets my wholehearted endorsement as a seasoned drinker. The chili salt, hints of orange, and pina-chili cordial put a great distance between this art and your distinctly unfriendly Kirkland Margarita Mix.
It has a small, initially disappointing appearance, but quickly silences criticism with a stiff blow and might of a strong double. The Warehouse Old Fashioned is equally good and twice as strong, if you’re into that specific kind of self-abuse.
The dinner menu is inspired and inspiring. A classic starter, like calamari, is stripped naked of the tired drapings you would expect and made purely exciting with a soy caramel glaze, pineapple ginger aioli, watermelon radishes, and shishito peppers.
Don’t question the madness of it all. Embrace the crazed lunacy and come out of a feeding-frenzied blackout with your tongue in the drippings wondering where your decency ran off to.
The “Apps” are just the beginning and the entire menu is so mouth-watering and mind expanding that this experience demands multiple trips. You can’t go wrong and recognizing this restaurant as a singular oasis of inventive fine-dining, I had no choice but to indulge it and submit to its siren-calling with some form of suicidal bliss — a homicidal offense to my wallet.
Seduced by the nightly special, and ignorant of its cost, after a short wait I was in a western-style standoff with a 45 day-aged beef short rib, scalloped potatoes, roasted poblano and red onion, brown butter, and a lobster claw, knife and fork ready to draw and kill.
I don’t know what kind of godly blessing or devilish deal I’d cashed to deserve such a feast, but I bought the ticket and would do my best on the ride that followed. Every element on the plate was beyond scrutiny and I was truly humbled by the pristine sight before me.
The potatoes met the steak with a creamy embrace where pepper and onion cut through with their respective slow-burned sharpness. The lobster claw nearly made a religious fanatic out of me and I slowly felt myself dissolving into blind chants and manic praising of the beauty and freedom that sat under my utensils.
The lobster carbonara, my company’s choice, rivaled my own dish in bitter competition. The pasta and egg surrounded the lobster in what can only be described as absurd richness.
Needless to say, the shock was mind-altering and my well-cultivated cynicism had long ruled out the possibility of such culinary genius.
The intoxicating trance of it all only crumbled at the sight of the bill when I was reminded that everything has a cost in this world, and luxury is reserved for those who pay. America’s hideous form came rearing back at me with a cruel, redoubled vengeance as I paid the bill with teary eyes and the unmistakable confusion of a child lost in Costco. Even still, I could hardly complain.
The culinary experience of The Warehouse can only be likened to an intense psychedelic experience — something with the force of DMT or Ayahuasca, not an ill-advised blackout drunk tab or two of acid. There is something fantastic, religious, and mind-blowing going on here. Even the comedown-esque, wallet-emptying expense of the meal does little to fragment that sense of wonder.
Come here as you are and you’re sure to leave belly-up with a new vitality and the distinct, heady buzz of falling in love. Shake yourself from your swinish trough and live a little; love a little. The Warehouse Restaurant can give you that, and that’s worthwhile, at any cost.