Friday, January 26, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 38

Gold Tooth Annie’s Restaurant in Fountain, CO

You know how it is when you see a friend that you’ve missed for years, and the conversation picks up easily from the last time you met?

It’s familiar and comforting, yet exciting and mixed with a chorus of anticipation.

In Fountain, that old friend came back to its downtown with the long awaited re-emergence of The Original Gold Tooth Annie’s. A sign had announced for weeks its return to the flabby and lifeless restaurant choices in this 18,000-member community south of Colorado Springs. For Fountain, dining out has centered mostly on delivery pizza and a handful of chain food meccas along the Highway 85-87 corridor.

And then, Gold Tooth’s re-appeared after a six-year sabbatical, and the scent of Michael Hudgins’ barbecue became Thursday night’s fragrant perfume that everyone seemed destined to wear. The smoking meat gets its start early on Thursdays and by 5 p.m. – when the downtown City Hall has to peel the aphrodisiac smell from inside its office walls – the frenzy of barbecue begins for a limited three hours. Get there early and the meat has a nice chew to the bone; by 8 p.m. it simply slides off the ribcage. At Gold Tooth Annie’s it’s no marketing slogan: you really CAN have it your way.

BBQ is as personal as Mexican food tastes. It kinda depends on where your roots were planted when you first tasted its flowery ambrosia. Dry rub or wet. Sweet sauce or spicy. Texas or Tennessee. Beef or pork. Gold Tooth’s has a day-long smoking that gives it that prideful Western states flavor. There’s none of that cooking in sauce all day ending up with a piece of meat that lacks flavor. Instead, the Gold Tooth platter of ribs is respected in its own right (that means naked with hours-long smoking and dry rub spices) and served with a gusty sauce spooned alamode or on the side. The star of the smoker are two – not just one - five-rib portions per platter for the half order (full order also available) at a price that makes you feel honored to take a ten-spot from your wallet.

But if gnawing on a rib is too messy for your five year old or intimidating for a first date jitters, then try the combo plate. It’s a civilized way to enjoy Michael’s smokin’ and spiced chicken, brisket and sausage. While ribs taste best with a bit of chew, brisket should be enjoyed with only the pressure of a fork to spear the bite sized morsels. A great brisket is simply that tender, and Gold Tooth Annie’s has laid claim to the definition of tender. The combo plate has a bit more sauce when served – a truly appreciated covering that has a nice earthy touch and not a sticky sweet, molasses laden concoction made popular in the Southeast. But like noted before, BBQ is a personal thing based on where your mamma grew you up. Our only advice: take a walk on the Colorado/Texas side and give Gold Tooth your full sensory attention. You might as well succumb, since the perfume will last on your hands, your clothes and emerge from your pores throughout the night. But what a way to fall asleep without Ambien.

The thing about Gold Tooth’s is that barbecue is only a once a week treat. On Friday, the menu gives prime rib the nod and the rest of the week is less structured. Leila Hudgin just cooks what she feels like cooking that day. You could get a hamburger at any time (and I imagine they are great on the fresh baked honey wheat bun) but walk past the hand-lettered sign outside the restaurant and you will see what is cooking – and baking – that evening. Meatloaf. Catfish. Pork Tenderloin. It’s like stepping into Leila’s kitchen at home. She is the chef in the Gold Tooth twosome. A woman who treats home cooking with a reverence for the simplicity and flavor of food she learned from her growing up years in Salt Lake City. Mormons are simply some of the best cooks in this country. Michael grew up in Colorado Springs and when they opened the first Gold Tooth’s it exploded on the Fountain culinary-starved scene. But make no mistake. Fountain knows good food. They consume some of the best when traveling up to the Springs. It’s just nice to have it back in their own hometown again.

The Hudgins loved their baby they initially birthed in downtown Fountain, then Leila became ill and she has fought a personal battle with leukemia for a couple of years. The return of Gold Tooth Annie’s is her victory over illness.

A specialty chicken salad in a tomato cup brings lunch goers from all over. It’s delicate flavor is not overshadowed by heavy mayonnaise dressings or too pungent curries as it often found in many competitors. It’s not overpowered by grapes and nuts and apples and celery and all the other filler ingredients used in lesser concoctions that call themselves chicken salad. No, this actually gets it’s flavor from chicken – moist, fresh, light chicken and a little celery in a tomato that solicits a comment for its actual tomato flavor. And when you pay the $5.95 for Leila’s Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomato, you get a homemade fresh baked roll of the day.

Leila can also bake.

Her baked goods make Gold Tooth’s a continual gratifying treat. The homemade fruit pies have crusts that flake under fork pressure and the carrot cake makes you glad that someone has finally discovered a way to make veggies a sweet, moist ending to a meal instead of a dry, lard laden afterthought. Yes, five servings a day of carrots can taste good.

Dessert should always be enjoyed as the indulgence that it is, and Leila’s baked goods make you remember that indulgence is never bad when the cream puff is shared among friends.

Location: Downtown Fountain at 108 West Ohio.

Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Sunday Closed. Everyone needs a rest!

Phone: 382-9378

Specialty: Those wonderful white styrofoam take out boxes. Good Tooth’s is so good and so plentiful you can’t eat it all and you want to savor some for later. Officially the menu states their specialty is “home cooked meals and fresh baked breads where no one is a stranger.”

Menu Choices: Burgers, salads, sandwiches and homemade soups are always on the menu but the evening entrée changes daily. Call ahead to see what’s cooking or make it a surprise and walk on in.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too long and flowery. It's a critique not a poem.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It jsut seemed un organized and went from a resaurant critc to a sob story. Nothing wrong with personal info but separate it from the food info

7:31 PM  

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