What cities would you put on a list of great food towns in the United States? Chicago, Illinois? Nashville, Tennessee? Austin, Texas? While these cities are worthy of being included, after our family’s recent trip to Fort Collins, Colorado, we think this friendly, mid-sized college town should also be on it. In fact, thanks to the different cuisines (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, French, Greek, etc.), not to mention desserts (e.g., donuts, ice cream, cupcakes, etc.), that we ate during our time in Fort Collins, I think the town is a cultural foodie’s dream.
I’d visited two other cities in Colorado years ago, but I had never been to Fort Collins, a town that was named by Forbes last year as one of “14 places to visit in 2019.” So, I knew nothing about the food scene there. However, the four of us ended up visiting almost three dozen eateries during our trip, which lasted just over two weeks. The family food tour included a wide range of places, from inexpensive, quick-service places that serve quality food to cozy, sit-down restaurants with palate-pleasing food, to bustling, preservative-free breakfast eateries. But, I didn’t want this post to be 5,000 words long. So, I opted to share with my readers the names of some of my favorites and have included details about them below.
Fort Collins had many options for fans of Asian food and the two that we ended up going to didn’t disappoint. First up was Lu Lu Asian Bistro which is located at 117 S. College Avenue. The menu features Chinese, Japanese and Thai food, so we were able to select from a wide variety of entrees when ordering our dinner. Our selected entrees included chicken and assorted vegetables in a black bean sauce for me; shrimp pad thai for my oldest daughter; orange chicken for my youngest daughter; and a stir fry that contained pork, green pepper and onions for my husband (see the above cover photo). We each received either white- or brown rice with all of our entrees, but I added fried rice to our order because it’s one of my favorite dishes to eat. So, what did we think of our food? It was delicious, looked beautiful and tasted very fresh! We would definitely go back again the next time we have a chance to visit Fort Collins and we encourage you to consider dining there if you ever have the chance. By the way, if you have younger kids, you’ll be happy to know that Lu Lu Asian Bistro has a kid’s menu that features several different entrees.
Several days later, we went to Tokyo Joe’s, a quick-service Colorado-based, Japanese restaurant that prides itself on serving all-natural food that has not been fried. (FYI, they only grill or steam.) We had dinner at the one located at 3581 East Harmony Road, one of more than two dozen Tokyo Joe’s locations in the state. My hubby likes poke bowls, so he “created” one that contained Ahi tuna and a variety of toppings including sesame seeds, cucumber, and onion on a bed of chopped greens drizzled with Tokyo Joe’s Nikko dressing. I chose the Yakitori Bowl, which was layered with chicken, ramen noodles, and veggies and topped with cilantro, crushed peanuts and Joe’s Yakitori sauce. My oldest daughter ordered the MoJoe Bowl, an entree filled with chicken, pineapple, egg, vegetables and rice topped with a sweet and spicy sauce. My youngest daughter has been fascinated lately by the idea of having a meal served in a bento box and finally had a chance to create her own at Tokyo Joe’s. Filled with chicken, white rice, veggies, potstickers and a teriyaki dipping sauce, it was the perfect dinner for her that evening. In addition to the food being fresh and tasty, the service at the restaurant was good. And, even though my girls are too old to order from the kids’ menu, I noticed that the restaurant has smaller bento boxes, as well as macaroni and cheese, for younger diners.
If you’ve ever read my About Me page, you may remember seeing that I am obsessed with Mexican food. So, I was thrilled to learn that there were lots of Mexican restaurants around town. We first picked up meals from a few quick-service places during our stay. The first appeared to be a mom-and-pop type of place near our hotel; the second one was an area franchise of a popular chain; and the third one was a local place that is known for its tasty food and support of traveling performers. But, the Mexican meal that I enjoyed the most was the sit-down dinner I had when we went to Blue Agave Grill at 201 South College Avenue.
I knew as soon as I saw the menu that I wanted to order the Grilled Chili Lime Chicken Tacos which were made with seasoned chicken, serrano avocado salsa, onions and cilantro tucked into three corn tortillas. They were served in one of those cute metal racks alongside cilantro rice and black beans. My oldest daughter also ordered tacos. But, she was a little more adventurous than I was and selected the Mango Fish Tacos. While they were also served with rice and beans, the makeup of her tacos was quite different as hers contained pieces of tempura-battered tilapia topped with Asadero cheese, ancho-orange slaw, pepper lime crema and a colorful mango salsa. If tacos aren’t your thing, don’t worry. There are plenty of other items on the menu for diners and, if you’d like for the chef to make a minor adjustment to something you found on the menu, your request would likely be honored.
For example, my youngest daughter wanted a chicken burrito, but we didn’t see one on the menu. So, the server said she could order the steak burrito–which was made with rice, black beans, buffalo green chili and white cheddar topped with lettuce and tomatoes–and replace the steak with chicken. My daughter said it was so good that it was probably one of the best burritos she’s ever had. (And, trust me: even though she’s only 17, she’s eaten a LOT of burritos!) There were also several options for my husband, who’s been eating a lot of salads lately. He chose the Ahi Tuna Salad and thought it was outstanding. I will sometimes sample my husband’s food when we’re dining out, but I never tried the Ahi tuna either of the two times he ordered entrees featuring it during our trip. However, I must admit that the tuna pieces in that salad, which were seared and covered in a two-color sesame seed crust, looked beautiful alongside the spring greens, avocado, wasabi, vinaigrette and other ingredients.
If you like French fare, you will definitely want to set aside time to have breakfast, brunch or lunch at La Creperie and French Bakery, a family-owned business at 2722 S. College Avenue that takes pride in serving food that is fresh and preservative-free. We headed there to have brunch one Sunday after attending a local church service and ordered from the breakfast menu, an appetizing collection of savory and sweet items that will satisfy bistro fans of any age.
My hubby, oldest daughter and I all ordered galettes. Made with a thin crepe that is 70% buckwheat and 30% white flour, the galettes can be filled with a wide variety of ingredients. For example, my hubby chose the spinach galette, which was filled with bacon, mushroom, tomato, bechamel sauce, and swiss cheese. He asked if sausage could also be included and his request was granted. My oldest daughter and I both ordered the chicken-spinach galette, which contained chicken plus the veggies, sauce and cheese that were included in my hubby’s galette. However, I was intrigued by the roasted potatoes that were in the four cheese galette. So, I asked if I could add that ingredient to my galette and was told that I could! Just thinking back on that meal (which included the best, fresh-squeezed orange juice that I’ve had in about 20 years!) makes me smile.
My burrito-loving youngest daughter didn’t initially know what she wanted when we arrived at the restaurant. However, as soon as she spotted the breakfast burrito–a thin, buckwheat crepe with scrambled eggs, swiss cheese, and sausage–on the menu, she knew what she wanted and she ended up being very pleased with her selection.
Speaking of selections, we also checked out the La Creperie bakery before heading back to our hotel and found trays of beautifully-crafted pastries and colorful macarons. Although we saw more than a half dozen items that made us salivate, we behaved and only purchased a pear almond croissant, a Nutella croissant and a chocolate mouse-filled eclair and everything we ate was delicious! We also were surprised with a free chocolate croissant (ironically, one of the items I was going to buy anyway) as a sort of “peace offering” since two fruit cups we ordered didn’t find their way to us until we were about to leave. Oh, and if you do decide to eat here, make sure you have cash or be prepared to get cash from the wood-encased, on-site ATM inside the front door since the family-owned establishment doesn’t accept credit cards.
By the way, we were able to exercise self control when scanning the pastry cases at La Creperie bakery because, by the time we went there, we were beginning to feel guilty (but only a little!) about all of the times we had already enjoyed delectable treats and desserts since arriving in town.
First of all, we had already picked up donuts from Colorado’s only Peace, Love & Little Donuts store, which is located at 632 S. College Avenue. While the tennis ball-sized base donuts were already made when we arrived, one of the workers told me that they are constantly making these cake donuts throughout the day and toss out unsold ones after only a few hours. Toppings are only added to a donut after a customer places an order, which in our case included apple pie, chocolate chip, cinnamon, chocolate chip cookie dough, and honey glazed donuts. All of the donuts tasted exactly as we imagined they would be–amazing!
I also had been to Fort Collins Donut Company, or FoCo DoCo as the locals call it. Located at 234 N. College Avenue (Unit A1), FoCo DoCo is an occupant of the new open-air plaza called The Exchange that is home to several popular eateries and other establishments. Like the above-mentioned donuts, the powdered sugar and cinnamon donuts that I ordered from FoCo DoCo were smaller than most donuts I’ve eaten, but it didn’t matter. Because they were freshly made after I ordered them, they were still warm when they were handed to me a few minutes later! I’ve eaten a lot of donuts and the FoCo DoCo donuts were literally some of THE BEST donuts I’ve ever tasted! My two visits to these two Colorado donut shops has me wondering, “What are Coloradans putting in their donut recipes?!?!” and “Can some be shipped to my home every month?!?!”
I must reveal that I hadn’t initially planned to go to the donut shop the evening that we went there. I was actually hoping to get ice cream from Old Town Churn, a popular frozen dessert place that is adjacent to FoCo DoCo. But, upon finding out from the gracious worker at Old Town Churn that their ice creams contain carrageenan (a seaweed-based food stabilizer/thickener that I have to avoid), I headed to FoCo DoCo. (I was told that the sorbet doesn’t, but I opted to get another dessert that evening.) However, that didn’t stop my hubby and girls from ordering and enjoying two-scoop ice cream bowls from Old Town Churn. Between the three of them, they ordered such delicious flavors as Salted Oreo, Matcha Honey, Vegan Chocolate Oreo, Expresso Fudge and FoCo Choco (translation: loads of chocolate!). So, thanks to these two establishments located at The Exchange, we all enjoyed our desserts that evening!
While I was (sort of) joking about having donuts shipped to my house, I did find one place in Fort Collins that is willing to shipping some of their sweet treats to my home and that is Nuance Chocolate. My family and closest friends (and anyone who has read my aforementioned bio) knows I like chocolate as much as I like Mexican food. But, it can be challenging to find gourmet-quality chocolate candy and beverages. This is why I was so excited to discover Nuance Chocolate at 214 Pine Street…and later learn their candy bars can be ordered online!
My girls and I knew going in that it wouldn’t be easy to just pick a few items, but knowing what to buy was even harder than we thought it would be. Nuance has single-origin dark bars, flavored dark bars, milk chocolate bars, flavored milk chocolate bars, and even white chocolate bars. There was also an assortment of truffles and beverages, including a French-style hot chocolate and sipping chocolate. But, after spending some time in chocolate fantasyland, we gathered our wits and decided we would buy two different dark chocolate bars. The 70% pure dark bar we selected was made with cacao from Fiji, while the flavored one (65% dark) we bought was made with cacao from Ghana, vanilla beans and peppermint oil. In addition to buying the bars, each of us ordered a cup of the French-style hot chocolate to go and it was delicious. I also ordered a cup of Nuance’s yummy sipping chocolate for myself and let my hubby, who stayed in the rental car while we were inside, taste both of my drinks when we returned to the car. We all chose to wait until we were back in our hotel room to try the candy bars and they were definitely worth the wait! So, it you’re a fan of authentic chocolate that is responsibly and ethically sourced from different countries, use the above link to visit the website and see if there are a few candy bars you’d like to have shipped to your home.
For information about other restaurants and food shops in this foodie-friendly town, check out the restaurant tab on the Fort Collins Convention & Visitors Bureau website.