FORT COLLINS, Col. — While probably best known for its craft beer scene, Fort Collins has an ever-expanding gastronomic vibe that is refreshingly nuanced. Having evolved past mega-chains, the “Choice City” has seen some innovative mom and pops and eclectic eateries that are catching the attention and palates of foodies everywhere.
In no particular order, here is an Americanized “tapas” shortlist of some of the newest taste-tempting offerings:
- Small plates paired with wine, one of life’s pleasures at Little on Mountain. Photo by Ron Stern
This neighborhood eatery on Mountain Ave. in Old Town is easy to miss but is hard to forget. Using locally sourced providers, their menu is packed with freshness and vibrancy, while being nutrient-rich at the same time. Each dish from the twelve or so items is well thought out by their chef and provides that right off the farm taste sensation.
Their menus are based on seasonally available items from local farms and may include palate-tempting favorites such as house-made pasta with tomato, basil, and chevre goat cheese or succotash layered with lobster, corn, squash, and tomato.
The quality of the food here is only rivaled by their 5-star, personalized service, and attention to detail. Each server goes well beyond the norm to make sure their customers have an extraordinary dining experience.
Little is open from Tuesday – Sunday, with breakfast 8:00am – 11:00am and supper 4:00pm – 8:30pm
- Sweet and hot little circles of Joy at FoCo DoCo. Photo by Ron Stern
FoCo DoCo – Fort Collins Donut Company
Located in the hip and trendy outdoor eatery called The Exchange in Old Town Fort Collins, transplant Megan Barghols fell in love with the coffee and donut culture of the Pacific Northwest. Not finding any locally owned small donut shops at the time, however, she decided to change that.
Her small shop fits perfectly with the other eateries in this open-air plaza where you can find tacos, ice cream, and craft cocktails set among converted shipping containers. “There’s a lot about our donuts that aren’t traditional,” she says. Using a robot donut maker, they fry them to order and serve them hot! They have eight flavors along with some changing ones and most of the toppings are locally sourced.
Some of the flavors you can find based on the season include coffee-glazed with expresso beans, lemon poppy seed, and a local favorite called FoCo Cream, which is her take on Boston Cream using Nutella as the chocolate.
FoCoDoCo Is open at 7 am, Mon-Fri and 8 AM on weekends.
- Choose the best from each country’s chocolate beans. Photo courtesy of Nuance Chocolate
Toby and Alix Gadd became “certified chocoholics” more than a decade ago after stumbling across a chocolate museum on the outskirts of Costa Rica. They decided to apply everything they learned to a small retail location in Old Town Fort Collins called Nuance Chocolate.
Nuance is one of only about 50 true Bean to Bar chocolate makers in the United States. They select the best cacao beans from ethical sources around the globe, do their own roasting, and grinding, then create their truly unique bars that range from single-origin to sweet, rich truffles.
If you are a chocolate lover, you probably haven’t tried anything like these flavors which include dark and milk chocolate from different countries, all beautifully labeled and packaged.
Stop by and become an instant believer! Check their website for hours.
- Freshly flown in seafood is available at The Regional. Photo by Ron Stern
If you love home cooking, particularly some of your best comfort foods that taste like home, then head to The Regional in downtown Fort Collins. Working with local and national suppliers, they create memorable meals that are big on taste and easy on your budget.
Their menu does change based on seasonal availability, and they offer both small and large plates. These might include creamy shrimp and grits, oysters flown in several times a week, crispy fried chicken with fries as well as Coho Salmon, and flank steak. They also have some local favorites such as their Hazel Dell fried Oyster Mushroom with a tasty dipping sauce and money-saving crowd-pleasers like a burger, beer, and a shot for just $10.
The Regional is open 4-8 p.m. Sun thru Wed and 4-9 p.m. Thurs thru Sat with Happy Hour every day from 4-6 PM
- Deliciously made pastries from a master artisan baker. Photo by Ron Stern
Oh, the decadence! Part restaurant and part bakery, the latter is where the magic happens by one of the last artisan bakers named Jean Claude Lucas. Having apprenticed in Brittany and Paris, he knows everything about how to make authentic cakes, pastries, baguettes, and croissants.
The queues start early as people’s blood sugar drops and they line up to glare into the brightly lit pastry cases. Here you can gaze at classic slices such as Black Forest Cake and ganache-covered chocolate domes filled with sponge cake, chocolate mousse and passionfruit. The lady in front of me literally covered her eyes so she wouldn’t be tempted to buy more than she intended.
A big sign on the wall tells the tale:
“The artisan baker is an endangered species in the baking industry. Here we bake traditionally. No preservatives, no artificial flavors; no ingredients you can’t read.”While you are waiting, you can drool while you watch videos of Claude’s confection artistry as he creates his masterpieces. They only take cash for these treats. And be sure to plan on coming early before their treats sell out!
Fort Collins has come a long way since the early days of its culinary limitations.
Now you have your choice of some of the tastiest bites anywhere in Colorado. So head north, my friend (from Denver, that is) to a land filled with satisfying eats.
FTC Disclosure: These were sponsored visits. However, all opinions herein are the author’s.
— Headline image: Pasta from Little on Mountain. Photo by Ron Stern.