Dan and Michelle Landes, owners of WaterCourse Foods, describe their story on their website as "one of perseverance and patience." Flexibility has helped, too—when Dan was about to unlock the front door on opening day and Michelle saw that they’d forgotten to stock the register with money, she bolted home to empty their change jar.
Flexibility marks the kitchen as well, which aims to fill plates with so much homey flavor that even carnivores don’t notice there’s no room left for meat. The chefs accomplish this by way of boldly seasoned veggies such as sweet potatoes, smoky mushrooms, and fire-roasted corn, which star in some dishes and serve as accents to proteins including grilled tempeh and country-fried seitan in others. The sense of reveling in the earth’s bounty spills from the plates onto the dining-room walls, decorated with delicate murals of animals and woodland scenes that resemble the results of a collaboration between John James Audubon and Beatrix Potter.
In its journey from lunch-and-breakfast spot to full-blown restaurant complete with bakery and bar, WaterCourse Foods has won acclaim both locally as a neighborhood favorite and nationally as a must-see for vegetarian travelers passing through town. Fodor’s called the portobello Reuben and seitan-based buffalo wings “amazing,” and Westword named WaterCourse 2012’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant while noting that it still hasn’t reached its peak—the place “just keeps getting better” while it “caters to any palate.”
For WaterCourse Foods, resourcefulness means finding new ways to serve not only diners but also the environment. Old fryer oil is shipped off to be converted into biodiesel, to-go dishes come in biodegradable containers, and diners who roll up on bikes or drift in effortlessly on gusts of wind get a 10% discount. Practicing what they preach beyond the restaurant, the Landes family supports local and international causes through programs such as Nonprofit Mondays, giving up to 15% of their Monday sales to select organizations. When they leave work each evening, they go home to their urban organic permaculture farm, run largely on solar power.
The super-premium ice cream at Glacier Homemade Ice Cream & Gelato—which represented Colorado on Serious Eats’ list of America’s Best Ice Cream—is proof that less is more. Their chief concern is “overrun,” a term that refers to how much air is mixed into each batch of ice cream. Some less delicious ice creams can contain up to 50% air; however, Glacier’s flavors contain only 5%–7% air, yielding richer flavors and a creamier texture.
Also lauded by outlets such as the Denver Post and Colorado Daily, Glacier has a catalogue of more than 800 flavors, up to 60 of which are on hand and ready to scoop at all times. Their ice cream wizards create a new flavor every two weeks, resulting custom tastes such as chocolate raspberry truffle, caramel Oreo, and espresso chocolate buzz with a double-strength coffee base. They also craft premium Italian gelatos with skim milk, producing rich frozen treats with half the fat of ice cream in flavors such as chocolate hazelnut, peanut butter fudge, and pistachio.
No matter the flavor, Glacier uses fresh ingredients such as hand-squeezed limes, ripe strawberries, and homemade chocolate. They’ve also committed to staying Colorado-local whenever possible, receiving produce from local food producers in Penrose, Rocky Ford, Palisade, and even stocking local Umpire State Coffee, local Jerry's Nut House, imported Italian candy and using local produce like apples, melons, and peaches.
The Dusty Boot Steakhouse & Saloon welcomes hungry guests to dig into burgers, steaks, and Mexican-inspired specialties. In the dining room, more than a dozen TVs tune in to games as diners sip tequila, margaritas, and other drinks. Meanwhile, the chefs wrap filet mignon in bacon, slow-cook slabs of pork ribs in tangy barbecue sauce, and garnish fish tacos with fresh cilantro. Diners not in the mood to build their own burgers can pick one of the specialty burgers, which include a breakfast burger with bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg, and the Fatty melt—a burger, sautéed mushrooms, and onions between two grilled-cheese sandwiches.
On the weekends, the Dusty Boots' staff wakes up early to the sound of their rooster's idiotic radio show and cooks up breakfasts of three-egg omelets and latke reubens, which include two potato pancakes smothered in corned beef, sauerkraut, thousand-island dressing, and melted swiss.
From the break of dawn to the arrival of the witching hour, the hiss of the espresso machine and the aromas of fresh-brewed coffee and spicy chai tea permeate Alley Cat Coffee House’s expansive space. Manning the counter 24 hours a day, the shop’s friendly baristas never stop topping off cups with ginger tea—made from 5 pounds of fresh ginger—or melting rich Ghirardelli chocolate into mochas, lattes, or carefully positioned open mouths. Morning customers nibble on a healthful breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, and late-night visitors wash down turkey melts and hummus with a thick milkshake.
Alley Cat’s interior is almost as diverse as its menu. A ceiling collage draws eyes upward to the colorful paintings of fish placed mere inches away from a photo of Mel Gibson chit-chatting on the phone. Beneath, sleek leather couches and plush chairs face traditional café seating. A separate room decked in simple earth tones makes an ideal study spot, fortified with wireless Internet, printing stations, and test answers carved into the tables.
Three green leaves and a small, blooming bud rest upon the globe. It?s an appropriate logo for Wystone's World Teas, given that they carry more than 150 loose and whole-leaf teas from around the world. These are the ingredients the tea bar?s teatenders use to craft beverages such as Japanese green teas. Tea also spills over into the bar's menu which includes a tea infused oatmeal, grilled pear salad, and turkey sandwich. The sweet notes of the beverage even flavor such desserts as the African Rooibos carrot cakes, which come topped with Caramel Rooibos?tea cream frosting.
Private and daily tea tastings give guests the chance to learn about the drink's preparation, origin, and three purest forms: dry leaf, infused leaf, and leaf that looks a little like Larry Bird. During these one-hour sessions, participants sip on five to seven different teas while snacking on chocolate, cheese, and fruit. Wystone also sells teapots and glassware in-store and online and gives back to the community by donating a portion of their profits to the local nonprofits they feature in their store on weekdays.
Neon-blue lights illuminate Clutch Gaming Arena, where 50 gaming PCs and five Xbox 360 stations await eager players. Gamers can choose from more than 300 games, matched with a huge variety of energy drinks, nonalcoholic beverages, and snacks. After a day racing in Ducati World Championship or blasting newbs in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, patrons have the chance to play the spectator; the facility broadcasts national and international tournaments on a massive projector. When it's time to get back in control, gamers can take part in Clutch's own casted, cash-prize tournaments for popular games such as League of Legends and StarCraft II.