Fort Collins is one of the fastest growing metros in Colorado. With that growth comes new business that’s transformed the city into a tourist destination rather than just a college town. This past year, more than 60 restaurants, coffee shops and bars have opened. Within the walkable city, there are two things that stick out — Fort Collins’ Colorado pride and it’s willingness to welcome the future while preserving its past. Three of the newest and most anticipated businesses to open reflect both of these ideas giving good reason to plan a 2018 staycation up north.
Ginger and Baker
Similar to Jessup Farm, Ginger and Baker has something for everyone. There are multiple businesses inside the old mill that was built around 1905. A modern addition was built on the side of the mill and together the buildings included two restaurants, a teaching kitchen, a wine cellar, events space, market and bakery. Located on 351-359 Linden Street, Ginger and Baker is bustling on a Friday afternoon after opening in late November. The project took three years to complete
The three-story mill used to be a hub of commerce for the town where people in surrounding areas would come to buy and sell goods. “It was a destination in the community right in the heart of Fort Collins,” said owner Ginger Graham. “ It’s been that way for over 100 years and I thought it could still be if we could bring it to a new use.”
The building itself dictated the design. Graham made it a point to weave pieces of the historic brick building throughout the space. An old pulley system has been transformed into a rustic chandelier. Chicken feed scoops are used as wall hangings for plants. The old signage is on display. Photos of the building throughout the years line the steps leading to the Cache restaurant on the top floor of the new building. Graham also purposefully positioned certain parts of Ginger and Baker to where they were similarly used in the past. For instance, the retail aspect of the store near the front entrance where she sells locally made soaps, candles, coffee, home decorations and other goods is where farmers were able to purchase animal feed when the building was a working mill.
“The coffee shop [is located] where grain was mixed and bagged and farmers would have their morning coffee,” she said.
Graham weaves her own history into the business, too. Raised in rural Arkansas, Graham’s family grew almost everything they ate. She learned at a young age that food and the kitchen bring the community together. That’s why the teaching kitchen on the bottom floor of the mill is one of Graham’s favorite parts. The kitchen hosts everything from whiskey and honey tastings to pie baking and calligraphy classes. Graham plans continue to experiment with the kitchen’s offerings.
“You learn a lot of things at your mother’s kitchen table, not just how to cook. I learned my alphabet. I did my arithmetic. I learned cursive. I learned my manners,” Graham said. “…That’s where our lessons about life came from— respecting adults and being helpful. So I always thought that a teaching kitchen can be that kind of place for the community.”
The pies from the bakery tell her story as well. Graham wanted to highlight pie because she says most people have a memory connected to dessert. For her, it was her father picking fresh strawberries for her mother’s strawberry pie.
“He would eat so many she would always say, ‘Roy there is not going to be enough for your pie!’ It’s a great memory as a child—and it’s really a great pie,” she said.
The basement of the mill where the wine cellar is located may be one of the most beautiful spaces in Ginger and Baker, but it didn’t look that way when Graham bought the place. An old pile of molasses used for feed had to be carried out in buckets and the original limestone walls had to be scrubbed. The end result is a stunning cellar with the original wooden beam and post structure balanced with delicate chandeliers. The room can be booked for private events and tastings.
The upstairs event space leading to the rooftop bar that sells craft cocktails matches the cellar’s coziness, with stunning wood beams and vaulted ceiling.
The two restaurants are located in the new building. Shaped like a pie slice made of glass, natural light floods the rooms. The two restaurants offer different experiences. Head chef Deborrah Traylor is the “Baker” part of Ginger and Baker. Graham said she keeps the menus as Colorado as possible by sourcing from local farms. The Cafe, located downstairs offers casual comfort food and breakfast all day with items such as breakfast pot pie and a house-cured honey ham and turkey grinder.
“If you come to Fort Collins, one thing you know is you have to stand in line to eat breakfast on the weekends so we wanted to add a brunch destination,” Graham said.
The Cache, named after the Cache la Poudre River, offers a fine dining experience with items such as lamb shanks and Colorado Trout.
“When you come here, we want you to experience Colorado,” Graham said. “…You can experience Colorado in the art, in the food, in the building and in the welcoming atmosphere of the people because Fort Collins is a really friendly town.”
The Elizabeth and the Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market
Where Ginger and Baker embraces the past, The Elizabeth Hotel on 111 Chestnut Street embraces the present.
“Fort Collins is very, very big on music,” said general manager Scott Sloan.
And art, too. The hotel, which is operated by Sage Hospitality, nods to art and music throughout the property such as the piece near the elevators that is made out of cassette tape. T. Rex’s “The Motivator” plays over the entryway speakers near the front desk. The glam rock is almost as glamorous as the spiral staircase and ceiling medallions leading to the 164 guest rooms and suites designed by DLR Group.
Each of the white and red double queen or king standard rooms are around 330-square feet. They all have art that was sourced from Colorado artists though NINE dot ARTS and their very own record player with a few throwback records. Sloan purchased 1,000 records from a collector who was selling their 10,000 records. Guest can also find more vinyl at the music library where there will eventually be instruments available for guests to strum and drum.
There are three themed luxury suites. The Rams Suite is an homage to CSU with forest green walls with gold touches, the university’s colors. There is sculpted ram’s head and hardback books and other collegiate elements reminiscent of a library. The Music Suite is complete with a baby grand piano. For those with no musical skill, they can use the high-end record player to listen to on the large outdoor patio facing the city. The Beer and Bike Suite mirrors Fort Collins’ love of beer and biking.
For business and parties, there is 3,500-square-feet of meeting space in the Chestnut and Walnut ballrooms.
And the hotel offers a mix of bar experiences with Sunset Lounge and the Magic Rat Live Music. Sunset Lounge has indoor and outdoor seating and offers a beautiful view of Old Town. The bar is higher-end specializing in craft cocktails and there are no draft beers. For a brew, guests have to visit the Magic Rat Live Music, a vintage-style bar that offers live music at least once per week. The bar also offers fun snacks like beef jerky and signature cocktails.
“It’s got a great comfortable feel through the entire hotel,” Sloan said.
The restaurant is the busiest place connected to The Elizabeth. Open the doors leading to the Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market the sound changes from the staff quietly preparing for an event to dozens of conversations filling the air. The restaurant is someone reminiscent of a train station with the mercantile feel. But general manager Megan McGinness said, “We want you to feel like you’re in you’re living room, if you’re living room was filled with really cool stuff.”
The Emporium market sells local goods from dog biscuits and Bubba’s Fine Food paleo snacks out of Longmont. A small corner of the space is dedicated to Bowerbird Coffee made with beans from local roaster Peritus Coffee. The wine market selling new and old world wines are priced at standard liquor store prices. Diners can either order from a counter for quick service or sit down for regular service.
“We find that lunch this day and age it’s really hard for people to make that commitment to be seated and have that timeline,” McGinness said. “If you want to grab a coffee and a fritter and I want to grab a french dip and a glass of wine, you can do both of those things at ease and both in the same timeframe.”
The American brasserie’s menu was created by chef David Anderson. Anderson said for the deli menu he was focused on fresh, bright flavors and items that could be good all year round. Then he could include daily specials that are more seasonal. Items like the pulled pork sandwich and tuna sandwich made with Oregon albacore are some of his favorites. The kitchen serves signature items such as mussels and fries and elk Wellington.
The items pay “homage to French technique with a lot of Colorado flair,” McGinness said.
The Emporium is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Places like Ginger and Baker, The Elizabeth and The Emporium are building on the already defined aspects of Fort Collins such as the city’s Music District, an industry and arts hub, and the Old Town historic district. The new additions are transforming Fort Collins from a college town into a destination city. Visitors can expect more businesses like these to come as the state projects the city’s growth to continue.
Correction: The Elizabeth is managed by Sage Hospitality not Sage Restaurant Group.