May 7, 2021 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield

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.

Urban Steam

1025 S. Sierra Madre St., Colorado Springs, Colo.

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner

8 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Dine-in and Curbside Pickup

Rating: 4/5

The brunch phenomenon is here to stay. As much as I and others find the hipster culture it caters to loathsome and depraved, from the tacky suede fedoras and neckbeards to the artery-choking pants and homemade jorts, let’s just enjoy the day drinking, voluptuous and hearty breakfast-esque platters, and shut up for a while.

While good brunches are everywhere, filling around 80% of the Sunday morning Colorado Springs buzz, and a regrettable 40% of my Instagram feed every weekend, a truly great brunch is elusive. A quick and delicious foray to Urban Steam and the hunt for an amazing brunch may finally be over.

Urban Steam is a feeding plot for the hungriest locals the Springs can muster. The crowd is united by that singular drive and all other descriptors are a mixed bag. The patrons are young and old, well-dressed and casual, blue-collar and college types.

The atmosphere is as eclectic. The restaurant itself takes the charming character of some boozy, post-industrial art cafe, and every piece seems personal and intentional. Banksy prints line the walls, upbeat classic rock fills the air, repurposed welding masks make for accent lights and big garage doors swing open to smooth out the indoor-outdoor barrier, joining an opportunistic parking lot patio to the brick-lined interior.

The bar is something to behold. Like a refurbished factory-style alter, its backdrop is a utility shelf with more booze and variation than you’ve ever seen. It’s a simple place of worship, and the object of that devotion is clear-cut: Espresso, Waffles, Whiskey, Good Times. The bar and cocktails are taken as seriously as the coffee and food, and everything comes off as the product of something genius and meticulous. A brunch without the bullshit.

A walkthrough is somewhat intoxicating, and if you arrive without a gnawing appetite, that won’t hold out for long. Within 10 minutes of sitting, I was stewing in sights and smells that inspired mania. Had it not been for a bizarre but fun Fail Army compilation looping behind the bar and an open kitchen to ogle for modest distraction, I may have gone mad after that seductive siren.

The waitstaff knows it, too. They’re polite but a little slow and slightly scatter-brained. A side of bacon was forgotten with my order, and though I was there for only a short meal, I witnessed two separate mishaps — a drink knocked over and the clatter of silverware falling helplessly from juggled plates. I chalked it up to a cheap laugh. 

Everyone at Urban Steam is smiling through masks and joking around. The waitresses call you “Hun” with comforting endearment and — apart from one Germanic looking lady manning the waffle station in a state of near-constant distress — you’d hardly guess people are at work.

The maskless kitchen is worth a quick note, but hunger and an optimistic orientation on a sunny Sunday led me to hope they’re all vaccinated. 

A couple sips into the 20-ounce habanero-infused vodka specialty, “bloody hairy,” and ill-will is chucked aside. The Bloody Mary, a caliber I’ve only ever encountered at Arapahoe Basin, is bolstered with two quarter-sized olives, an eight-inch submerged slab of maple bacon and a classic hot pepper. This one’s worth the price. Again, no bullshit.

The food is as good, and I’ve got two strong recommendations: the chicken biscuit, soaked in Nashville hot sauce and paired with sausage gravy and the Monkey Wrench Waffles.

If you want an ass kicking and the Bloody Mary wasn’t sadistic enough, the chicken biscuit gives material deadliness to the sin of gluttony and is a tasty binge. The chicken is crispy, spicy and plays nicely with a maple-soaked biscuit. This is fork and knife food, but even then, the dish is unruly at best — in the best way. 

The real overindulgence lies in the white sausage gravy. This Southern classic should be slathered and lathered with reckless abandonment. It’s the Midas touch of the meal and would taste amazing simply shoveled from bowl to mouth for the more slutty and shameless diner. 

The Monkey Wrench waffles are delicious, maybe more so than the chicken, in the opposite kind of way. The waffles are voluminous and stacked high, obscured by a delightful mix of bananas, walnuts, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. 

Despite this towering of tastiness, the dish is surprisingly light and portioned perfectly. This is a meal you can walk out of with an honorable strut, as opposed to the rolling crawl that I usually fall victim to.

Good food and drink make for good spirits and good days. Both are provided at Urban Steam in an environment that necessitates a smile. Stop by and reclaim brunch. Urban Steam gets it all right.

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