By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer
Nothing says romance quite like a delicious meal and these four Northern Colorado restaurants serve up more than just food, they serve up food made with love.
Fine Dining Romance in Windsor
Chimney Park Restaurant & Bar has elevated the art of fine dining in Northern Colorado and it has become a destination for foodies across the state and beyond. Its refinement will impress even the most discerning dinner date.
Chef-owner Jason Schaeffer’s pedigree includes Per Se in New York and The French Laundry in Napa Valley, so perhaps it’s not surprising that his restaurant, located in Windsor, has gained national acclaim making the top 100 restaurants in America list compiled by Open Table and a listing on the Distinguished Restaurants of North America.
Schaeffer is a classically trained chef interpreting world cuisine, so whether feasting on happy hour appetizers at the bar or partaking in the five-course tasting menu, patrons at Chimney Park are in for an epicurean experience. The Charred Spanish Octopus with olive oil potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, broccolini, pancetta and gremolata is just one example of the creative fare here.
Many of the dishes are influenced by the local product available such as mushrooms from Hazel Dell Mushroom farm, located just five miles from the restaurant.
“It’s an ingredient, chef-driven menu,” says Schaeffer. “We also cook with the seasons and we are even influenced by the weather. For instance, we may change the fish on the menu to something more summery if we have a sixty-degree day in the middle of winter.”
The historic building that houses Chimney Park recently underwent a facelift that included a lot of behind the scenes upgrades, but also a remodel of the entrance and the addition of a gorgeous quartz bar top. The new, lighter and brighter look is picture perfect for a romantic dinner.
A Farmhouse Romance in Fort Collins
A romantic meal doesn’t have to be cliché and sometimes chicken and waffles is the ticket to romance. Just ask the patrons of The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm at Jessup Farm Artisan Village in east Fort Collins. Chicken and waffles is a favorite menu item at the restaurant that celebrated two years in business this past October.
Owner Jesse Doerffel has been involved in the project since the Jessup Farm Artisan Village was in the development stage.
“I’d always wanted to find a really funky building that had a lot of history as well as warmth and charm, and I’d always wanted to have chickens,” says Doerffel. “When I saw the renderings and vision for this building, it was just perfect.”
Today, in addition to the restaurant, the village is home to multiple businesses from a coffee shop to a brewery to a barbershop.
The restaurant’s chicken and waffles and herb-brine pork chop are the most popular items and mainstays on a menu that changes with the seasons.
Doerffel, who had previously opened and operated the food truck, Common Link, has realized her dream of owning a restaurant in a unique, old building. The restaurant sources many ingredients locally and Doerffel’s relationships with local farmers have made that possible.
The restaurant is located in a historic farmhouse and the exposed brick and cozy upstairs make it an ideal place for a romantic brunch. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays and is even better when paired with the restaurant’s 16-ingredient Bloody Mary.
For the Love of Oysters in Greeley
Chat with a few locals and they’ll all point to the Greeley Chophouse as the most romantic restaurant in their town, and as of January 1, the Greeley Chophouse has a new owner. Aaron Wooten, owner of Cranford Tea Tavern on 10th Street in Greeley, is bringing his creative spirit and positive energy to this downtown steakhouse.
In addition to tripling the inventory in restaurant’s wine cellar, Wooten is going to provide patrons with freshly caught seafood.
“I’m talking about fish flown in from Hawaii the day before it’s served here,” he says.
While the restaurant will continue serving up first-rate steaks sourced as locally as possible, Wooten is excited about introducing exceptionally fresh seafood to the menu, including oysters, which is a hard-to-find item in Northern Colorado.
Greeley Chophouse has a quintessential steakhouse feel, and Wooten won’t be changing much when it comes to the restaurant’s interior design, although he’s making a few tweaks. He’s more interested in getting Northern Coloradans to consider the Chophouse as more than just a place to celebrate special occasions.
“I want to capture the people in Greeley and the surrounding area who don’t know the real value here,” says Wooten. “The Greeley Chophouse isn’t just a place to go for your birthday.”
The music from Greeley’s Friday Fest bands can easily be heard from the Chophouse’s 8th Street location and Wooten hopes a new patio will lure patrons to his restaurant during the summer.
The restaurant will celebrate five years in business on February 17, and specials are planned for the entire month of February.
La Belle Vita in Loveland
No romantic dining article is complete without the addition of an Italian eatery. After all, Lady and the Tramp made spaghetti the most romantic food of all and Slate Italian Eatery, located in downtown Loveland, definitely serves up pasta with a side of romance.
Classically trained chef and restaurateur Chris Kline opened Slate Italian Eatery in May 2016. He realized that there was a need for an Italian restaurant in Loveland and believed that the space on 530 Cleveland Ave. was perfectly suited for serving up a bit of la belle vita in downtown Loveland.
“The space screamed date night to me,” recalls Kline. “Italian just made sense.”
Tucked into a narrow space next to a wine store, Slate’s dining area provides an intimate experience that’s perfect for romance. The small bar is also an excellent spot for conversing over wine and a plate of Italian meats and cheeses or prosciutto wrapped shrimp.
Kline operates a scratch kitchen at Slate, which means nearly everything is made in-house including sauces which are often made-to-order. Kline also buys Colorado Proud whenever possible.
“The people who like us, love us,” says Kline. “We have a very loyal clientele, which we appreciate so much.”
Some of the most popular dishes with Slate’s devotees are the bolognese and carbonara. New this year, Kline is adding brunch on Saturdays and Sundays with bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer is the founder of HeidiTown.com and author of Mountain Living’s The Heidi Guide. She specializes in writing about food, festivals and travel.