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Colorado Springs’ South Tejon Street has been a slow work in progress as part of the city’s Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal plan. What was once an overlooked area of downtown is now a hot spot for great food and craft beverages — a result of the hard work and inspiration of some of the city’s best entrepreneurs and creatives.
Joining other new South Tejon favorites is CO.A.T.I, a new food-court style marketplace at 516 S. Tejon Street. The name (pronounced “Ko-Ah-Tee”) refers to the coati, a South American raccoon known for its playful spirit and curiosity, and was chosen to remind all who enter to leave behind their notions of what “should” be, to try new things, and challenge the status quo.
CO.A.T.I is home to an eclectic mix of vendors, called “pods,” meaning regardless of your unique palette, you’re sure to find something that suits your fancy. These pods include established businesses, as well as up-and-coming restaurants taking part in CO.A.T.I’s Culinary Incubator Program. Before branching out into their own spaces, these restaurateurs are able to dip their toes in the Colorado Springs market and test new and exciting culinary concepts. In addition to amazing food and drink, CO.A.T.I also offers fun events like free yoga in the morning and live music at night, finding unique ways to draw our community together.
We recently visited the space, eager to embrace the spirit of culinary adventure — after all, there’s no better place for a foodie than a food hall with seemingly endless options — and of course, we had to try as many dishes as possible!
We found ourselves thoroughly impressed. From the thoughtfully chosen design elements to every last bite, the team behind CO.A.T.I spared no expense. A powerful fusion of urban architecture, feminine punk design, and the South American tropics subconsciously empowers guests to embrace their rebellious side.
We were greeted by exposed brick walls and lofted ceilings restored to their original glory, and to the left, the large neon pink coati himself — reminding you that while you may be in a historic Colorado building, you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in a happy frenzy of flavors from around the globe.
Our first stop was Anju — Korean Street Eats, another brain-child of Chef Andres Valdez, founder of local favorite, Pig Latin. We ordered their BibimBowl, a popular Korean rice dish rice topped with melt-in-your-mouth kalbi beef short ribs, sauteed carrots, mushrooms, and greens, kimchi, egg yolk, their delicious bibimbowl sauce, and gochujang butter. We savored each flavor and by the end, wished we could do it all over again!
Next, we hopped over to Ephemera for some “Elevated Cuisine” and opted for the pork belly sliders, topped with a rich habanero herb marmalade complemented by pickled onions and a mildly sweet blackberry aioli. Let’s just say, two weren’t enough! We’ll be back for more soon.
Our dinner adventure wouldn’t be complete without some “soulful” home cooking from Luchals. They’re known for their seafood, like the Catfish Po Boy or the Shrimp Basket, but we couldn’t help but get some of their uniquely flavored wings. You can choose between buffalo, garlic parm, honey garlic, cajun, sweet heat, lemon pepper, old bay, and smoking bbq. We asked for their personal favorites and got the honey garlic, a perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the cajun, transporting us straight to Bourbon Street.
We ended the night with cocktails at Rival Bar where we toasted to good food and new experiences. We ordered the Bread and Roses and an Occupy Old Fashioned, though it seems like you really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu.
CO.A.T.I, we learned, is so much more than a restaurant or a simple “dinner out.” A visit to CO.A.T.I means options for everyone and an experience to remember. Kids are welcome — there are even chalkboard tables for them to enjoy — but it’s also a culinary playground for adults, something Colorado Springs has long been craving. It’s proof that 2020 doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and perhaps, this is just what we needed!
Explore the rest of CO.A.T.I’s pods here!
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