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Little East district of Colorado Springs

Bijou Street Asian district between Tejon and Cascade Avenue
I’m already months late in mentioning a new addition to downtown’s ethnic fare. It’s an Afghan restaurant called RUMI’S KABOB, in the location of the old Persian Grill. Rumi’s joins the Everest Nepal Restaurant, the Taste of Jerusalem Cafe, the Pita Pit, Everest Tibet Imports, and the Hookah King, to define Bijou Street’s LITTLE EAST.

Rumi’s lunch buffet offers your best introduction to Afghan cuisine. Here are the fundamentals: Challau, a boiled rice baked with cumin seeds; Daal, lentils; Sabzi, sauteed spinach; Banjan, pan-fried eggplant; Kadu, baked banana squash; and Sheer Birenj, rice pudding seasoned with cardamom. For a crack at deciphering an Afghan menu, two chief curries are Kourma and Lawang. Personal recommendations: for starters Aushak, the Mantu entree, and Jalabi for dessert.

These words would seem as strange to us as items on a Vietnamese menu, another land from which Americans returned without any real sense of the language.

Without probably even meaning to, the block of Bijou between Tejon and Cascade Ave is becoming the city’s vibrant center. Besides Starbucks, it boasts thoroughly functional stops like Gertrude’s House of Hair, now expanded to a spa, Bargain Comics and Bijou Tattoo, and downtown’s only convenience store, the Bijou Minimart. And what is any SW city street without Mexican food at 3 Hermanos? On floors above you can Jazzercise, or attend the region’s smokiest AA meetings. All this, and still a half dozen retail spaces are vacant, awaiting investment in Colorado Springs’ cultural mecca.

I nearly forgot to mention the alley between the Saks and Majestic buildings, off of which lie the Rubbish Gallery, the Modbo, and the eternal speakeasy, 15C.

As the exodus gateway to the Bijou Bridge and Interstate 25, the block offers weekday commuters a briefest taste of urban gridlock. What an additional metro thrill if the city erected an archway, like Chinatown’s famous gate, to distinguish the attraction. What a metropolis we would seem to become, if there was a distinct ethnic identity inside and apart from Colorado Springs that wasn’t Anglo.

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