22 January 2011

Hot (food)Spots in Fort Collins, CO

Fort Collins is a great place to visit--hiking and whitewater rafting on the edge of town, unique boutiques, some decent clubs with local bands, and great food and beer.  Here are my favorites, if you're looking for somewhere to start:

Lucille’s Creole Café: 400 South Meldrum

If you’ve been to New Orleans, you’ll get the same classic brunch experience from Lucille’s.  Each Lucille’s location (FoCo, Longmont, Boulder, Denver) has a slightly different menu.  The FoCo shop features more vegetables than other menus while keeping all the heavy, greasy stuff that makes Sunday morning feel so cozy.  Order up a plate of Beignets with your chicory coffee (costs a little extra) while you wait for fluffy biscuits and homemade marmalade with egg dishes chocked full of spicy sausage, shrimp, and flavorful sauces straight outta NoLa.  Be ready to wait, though--the line is always out the door on the weekends.

The Bean Cycle: 144 N. College

There are plenty of funky coffee shops in Fort Collins.  This one makes a mean brew and orders up the best pastries from local bakeries in the area, plus it’s run by a sweet family and shares space with a non-profit, lefty bookstore.  Why not give them your money when it’s time to perk up?

Rasta Pasta: 200 Walnut Street Suite A (corner of Walnut and College)

This place is pure college town: grungy little corner shop with old furniture and mismatched silverware, plastic cups, and cheesy Rasta nostalgia to boot.  If you have an allergy to Bob Marley worship, don’t go.  But if you want a huge plate of tasty pasta for cheap, embrace your hippie past and come on in. Sauces range from simple, elegant white wine and garlic (and be forewarned: they love garlic!) with fresh tomatoes to Jamaican jerk chicken, and you won’t need another meal for a looong time.  Great after a hike at Horsetooth.

Coopersmith’s Pub and Brewing: 5 Old Town Square

This gastro pub is definitely for grown-ups, though it welcomes a wide range of guests.  Try every home brew you can handle--they’re all well-crafted and balanced--or get a Scotch flight and learn why the stuff can be so expensive (and revered).  Typical pub grub gets some extra touches: the pub fries are lovingly breaded and seasoned, personal pizzas with hand-tossed crusts feature a wide array of fresh toppings, and the quesadillas are stuffed with smoked salmon and brie.  There are a lot of microbreweries in Fort Collins, but I think Coopersmith’s does it best.

Lulu Asian Bistro : 117 South College Ave

I stumbled upon this place after a Christmas day hike because I was peckish and nothing else was open.  What a pleasant surprise--the happy hour beers were a great deal, martinis were creative and tasty, and the food is very well-done Asian with a little modern flair.  Very capable preparation, and a great blend of cozy bistro and sleek bar.

Taj Mahal: 148 West Oak Street

If you like Indian food, you probably fall into one of two serious camps: fans of Taj Mahal or fans of…that other place.  I’ll tell you why I love Taj Mahal.  Each dish is amazing--meat is fresh and well-cooked, sauces are all distinctive and flavorful, appetizers are all carefully prepared and wonderfully balanced, and the kitchen wants nothing more than to tailor your dishes to your tastes.  The building is getting a make-over outside, but the inside is the same as it’s always been and open for business.  I know people who drive from Wyoming to eat here, and I know why. (I once ate so much there that I almost passed out.  No joke.)