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.
Movie Tavern transfixes one's taste buds and imagination by blending all-digital cinema with premium seating and sit-down dining. Moviegoers are encouraged to arrive 45 minutes prior to showtime, so that they can leisurely peruse an extensive menu of chef-inspired American cuisine, from kobe beef sliders to pizza and sandwiches. Nimble and unobtrusive servers slip in during the show to deliver orders, and can be called on for more drinks or dessert with the push of a button. At select locations, guests can opt to sip margaritas or signature cocktails at the bar before heading in to see a show. Audiences get to enjoy first-run films every week, retro cinema every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and breakfast food paired with early morning movies on Saturday and Sunday. While geared toward adults, the family-friendly establishment also serves finger food for kiddies along with film-inspired dishes. Guests can head to the bar or straight to the movie without ordering food, giving them some latitude in shaping their night out.
Additionally, Movie Tavern treats audiences to myriad benefits with their membership program. Anyone can sign up for free online to receive one free movie ticket on the spot and one free ticket every year on their birthday, as well as invites to screenings and other special events.
Plenty of college students study business. They study business, though, they don't start one of their own. UW students Jason and Rob, however, didn't sit around waiting for graduation. In the middle of an early 1990s night, they surveyed the phone book and agreed that they were tired of the sub-par pizza available to them. Boldly, they started making pies of their own. No business plan. No product testing. Jason and Rob took their pizza to the people, and a business was born.
Today, they're out of college and their Falbo Bros Pizzeria serves its inventive twists on New York-style thin crust, Chicago-style deep dish, and stuffed pizzas in 13 locations across three states. Fresh batches of hand-rolled dough don gourmet toppings such as giardiniera, artichoke hearts, and meatballs. The Falbo kitchens toss specialty pizzas such as the Zeus, whose black olives, spinach, feta cheese, and pepperoncini are baked with the heat of a lightning bolt. Chefs also bake meatball subs and top salads of artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and grilled chicken with piquant blue cheese dressing. At Falbo's Fort Collins outpost, taps pour local beers from New Belgium and Odell in a seasonal beer garden, and cans of soda offer an alternative fizzy refreshment.
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 ranging from Japanese green teas to tea-infused cocktails. Tea also spills over into the bar's menu of breakfast, lunch, and light-dinner fare, since many dishes––including breakfast burritos, paninis, and Greek pitzas––are accompanied by Kenyan tea-roasted red-bliss potatoes or tea-smoked chicken. 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, gelato, 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.
Since its inception as a single Fort Collins eatery almost 20 years ago, Big City Burrito has spread its wings across Colorado and Nebraska, presenting a menu of create-your-own burritos, tacos, and the like composed of fresh fillings and made-from-scratch tortillas. Just as all buildings start with a steady foundation of flour and water, all burritos begin with a good tortilla. And Big City offers half a dozen options, such as tomato-chili and jalapeño-cheddar. After picking a tortilla, customers can start relaying their order to the kitchen crew, be it for a burrito packed with chicken mole and topped with mild pico de gallo or a carne asada taco with a dollop of salsa de lupe—the restaurant’s special blended hot salsa. Customers also can choose to have the decadent fillings and salsas served simply atop a plate of rice and beans or stuffed inside a fresh-made quesadilla. Besides crafting meals day and night, Big City also serves breakfast burritos for both adults and kids and offers catering services, which include burrito bars and boxed lunches for large groups or corporate events.