Tonight we enjoyed a delightful dinner at one of the newer restaurants in town which I have been hearing about. It is called Restaurant 415 and it is located on the edge of Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. The building is just down from the coffee house where we attend church on Sunday and we watched the building being remodeled from a Laundromat to something that looked intriguing. Once we realized it was the new restaurant our friends had raved about we had to give it a try. The building reminds me of something from the 50’s or 60’s.
Tonight seemed like a good night to try restaurant 415 since our good friends were visiting from Denver and another friend was having his last dinner with us before going off to learn Farsi and Tajik languages this summer. I am really glad we did! The large windowed room was not very full when we arrived, we came early to get a spot. We had hoped to sit on the back patio with the beautiful water fall but it was full. However, as the night wore on the restaurant filled, and the patio emptied as there was a bit of rain. This place can get noisy in the center of the room when it is full, but I like the energy and the retro feel of it. I think the side tables are quieter.
I have heard about the exciting menu here, some call it adventurous and Denver Post labeled it as hipster-homey. They use local sources whenever possible and there were great vegetarian and organic choices. I also noticed there were lots of options so one could order a tasty, unique meal that was reasonably priced —great value to quality ratio here!!! My daughter got to try this place last night during the First Friday Gallery Walk. She really loved the various small plates she and her friend shared. Reading through the offerings made my mouth water and it was hard to choose just what to try. Since they have an assortment of inexpensive small plates that can be shared, we could try a bit of many different menu items. Of course, these small plates could be combined with a salad or soup and used a one’s main dish, too. So many possibilities!
We ordered Brussels sprouts with a hint of orange, garlic and parmesan shavings from the $3.60 small plates. This had a nicely blended medley of flavors and the Brussels sprouts were neither over-powered nor over powering. I liked the way they were cooked.
From the $5.45 menu we chose Mac and Cheese with sharp white cheddar and gruyere topped with bacon and breadcrumbs. This creamy, cheesy, richly decadent dish had a wonderful flavor and was the favorite of some people at the table. I make Mac and cheese with these ingredients so it was not as unusual to me but still delicious. My mom wanted to lick the dish, she liked it so well! My husband thought it needed a bit more pasta in it.
One of my favorites was called WHEN PIGS FLY - house-made fried chicken, orange-scented waffles with bacon-thyme maple syrup. This dish made meal for me, it was so delicious. I loved the crisp, tender waffles infused with a subtle orange flavor alongside the nicely flavored chicken strips that were cooked tender and crispy without an overabundance of batter. I really loved the flavor of the syrup, a delightful maple bacon blend. One popular reviewer said the syrup was too thin, but I think that the flavor was big and a little went a long way. I would love to have this again sometime.
Our last small plate was ORGANIC CRISPY POLENTA with cream cheese, cheddar, jalapeños, corn, tomatillo salsa. It was full of great flavor and textures but I was getting full and could only manage a couple bites, saving room for the main dishes we were going to sample. The others all loved how spicy it was and the creamy cheese surrounded by light and crispy polenta but I will have to come back and try this one again so I can enjoy it more. It was good but maybe next time I will try it alone or before I make a pig of myself on When Pigs Fly J
We took a little breather, sipped lovely beers (they have a wonderful assortment of local beer on tap) and cocktails while we enjoyed a little people watching, which in Fort Collins always includes saying hello to people we know! I love our city, we will almost always run into someone we know- tonight there were four such greetings.
Yet it is small city of around 130,000. This mostly happens in Old town, my favorite part of the city. As I said, my daughter was out for the gallery walk which brings such a crowd to visit the galleries and listen to music in the square. Yet, people for all the crowds, people are still nice, friendly and talkative. Even tonight, we got to enjoy live music in the square for free, complete with dancing. So cool J
Okay, back to the food. We decided to share three mains between us since we went crazy with the appetizers. My favorite was the SHRIMP & GRITS - grilled shrimp, roasted red pepper sauce, sautéed greens, and organic polenta. Honestly, every aspect of this dish was delightful. The shrimp, which I am very picky about, was perfectly done and well flavored. I loved the grits or polenta. You know, I have read about the difference between polenta and grits but I am neither southern nor Italian so I don’t have a refined palate on this. I really loved the grits in this dish, so creamy and seasoned nicely. The greens, which I believe were chard, were so delicious we agreed we could have eaten a plate of them!
I wanted to try a pizza and the Papa sounded different. Their chewy and tender dough is made in-house with locally sourced organic flour topped with gruyere cheese, russets, yams, carmelized onions, olive oil and garlic. I enjoyed this pizza and really loved the crust!
Okay, as you can imagine, even with just a couple bites of each item, I was filling up! The last thing I tried was the Blackened cauliflower steaks with roasted red pepper sauce, sautéed greens, and organic polenta. This is a vegetarian dish, not a beef steak, but blackened it looked a lot like a steak with pops of color from red pepper and herbs. I did enjoy the flavor but I only got a bite as I was bit slow getting some on my plate. I will have to try this one again to give it a full review but I did notice it was not bitter, which is what I would think blackened cauliflower would be. Everyone at the table seemed to enjoy it. Of course, excellent greens and polenta here, too.
We were saving room for margaritas at the Rio so we skipped dessert. Interestingly, the co-founder and former co-owner of the near by Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, is one of the five owners here, along with his daughter Amelia, who is the chef and Seth Baker, Justin Bernhardt, and Sean Olander, who I believe are all young. Perhaps this is what gives this restaurant the vibe of being very hip and contemporary/retro yet with the seasoned feel of veteran restaurant ownership.
I am so glad we took the time to visit with our friends. I almost always cook at home when Litto comes up to visit so it was fun to try something new. I have been eating out often since the kitchen remodel started and much of it has been disappointing. The experience at four fifteen was so wonderful I have plans to come back for lunch next week! This night, however, was wonderful! After the lovely meal we enjoyed we stopped in for delicious refreshing margs at the Rio and since the college kids are gone for the summer, it was not that crowded! We then took a nice walk through old town and listened to some free music on the square.
For those of you who live in Fort Collins or Denver, come try Restaurant 415 on Mulberry at the edge of Old town. For the rest of you, come visit our friendly little city. I will be your tour guide.