By Dan England
Downtown Greeley is a nice night on the town, or perhaps a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. But West Greeley is home.
West Greeley is more of an area where I live my life. It’s a place to grab dinner, meet people for coffee for work, eat a quick lunch, maybe shop for a gift and get groceries. It’s not quite as special as downtown. But it IS home.
I took my tour during Memorial Day weekend. The weather was crappy and rainy, and my teenagers were spending the weekend with me, so we decided to binge on the latest season of “Stranger Things” and hit up my favorite spots in West Greeley.
Rather than just one day or night on the town, I want to give you some extra places to hit up when you come here, and I wanted to show you how I treat West Greeley: It is not as flashy as downtown, but it is home.
The same rules apply. We kept it as local as we could, and that’s always harder to do in the shopping centers and strip malls that dominate the suburbs of Greeley. Still, it’s fairly easy to stick to the rules, as long as you don’t need to shop for clothes.
Saturday night I treated the kids to Wing Shack. Wing Shack is local, even if it has at least a half-dozen locations now in Colorado and Wyoming. Wing Shack actually started in Garden City, a tiny town that acts as the Las Vegas to Greeley’s more Branson-like demeanor. The town embraced legal pot dispensaries—Greeley banned them—and has a nice little tax base as a result, in addition to some bars.
Wing Shack is not fancy, but there are many heat levels of buffalo sauce, including my favorite, Barely Hot (I’m a wimp), and a Garlic Hot my daughter loves. The fries are better than they should be, and I have yet to find a ranch dressing as tasty anywhere else. This place is not good for me, as I also have acid reflux, but I eat here, nonetheless.
I went to the one in far west Greeley, next to University Schools, but there’s another location a bit east of 47th Avenue off 10th Street, in a small shopping center. The same owners also opened a place next door called Sexy Sammies, which features chicken tenders and sandwiches that are, ahem, “Sexy AF,” according to the website (you can figure out what it means). The store features food a bit fancier than you might expect, with sauces that go beyond honey mustard (though they have that as well). You can place an order at a kiosk in front of the store.
Just east of Wing Shack is Cables Pub and Grill. I took my ex-wife there for our first date nearly 20 years ago when it was a small place in central Greeley. It has since moved far west and dominates the corner of 20th Street and 59th Avenue. Don’t let the fact that I got divorced stop you. Cables features terrific pasta dishes and lots of other American food, including unique burgers (one, the Firecracker, has Texas toothpicks, pepperjack cheese and Firecracker sauce), sopapillas and pizzas.
The same shopping center also contains Blue Mug, a coffee place in Greeley with three locations. They also recently opened Out of the Blue Brunch across from the Centerplace shopping center, a fancy breakfast and brunch place that reminds me of Snooze, in a good way, but I haven’t been yet.
My favorite Blue Mug is in the Westlake Shopping Center, a busy place anchored by Kings Soopers and surrounded by two amazing parks, Sanborn and Greeley West park. One of my running routes incorporates both parks. I start at Greeley West’s concrete trail that winds me over a bridge and around a nice pond to a back route past a church to Sanborn. Sanborn also has a concrete trail that winds nearly a half-mile around a lake that geese like to take over in the winter
I’ve always considered the Blue Mug a no-frills place that makes good drip coffee, but there are many treats as well, I’ve now learned, including frozen “Mugslides” with flavors such as grasshopper, twisted turtle and one with lavender honey and vanilla. There are lots of teas, smoothies and seasonal specials, including a caramel apple cider that probably makes more sense around Halloween.
This shopping center also has Butter’s, which serves a more rustic but still delicious breakfast, and a Baskin-Robbins, which I visit for nostalgic reasons and the fact that their Gold Medal Ribbon is still good There’s also Game Factory, which has old, awesome games for consoles such as the greybox Nintendo (I got a copy of “Super Mario 3” there) and the locally owned Lolly’s Hallmark Shop. Lolly’s is packed full of literally every cute gift your middle-aged hoarding aunt could want. During a visit the day after Memorial Day, I saw bear coasters, signs with grandmotherly sayings (the pillows have them too), lotions, Marvel coffee mugs and a Golden Girls bottle stopper. When I first came to Greeley and was homesick for my mother’s house in Kansas, I’d come here. That still tracks.
If you head north on 35th Avenue, it will take you past Bittersweet Park on the left, probably Greeley’s most traditional park with two memorials, a big lake and a nice soft but short running trail in additional to its concrete path. If you need some running shoes to traverse those trails, head a bit north to Altitude Running in a shopping center anchored by Safeway and Monfort’s Steak House, Greeley’s original steakhouse that still holds up to stiff competition from the occasional chain (it defeated an Outback Steakhouse in the Centerplace Shopping Center, which contains Target and a lot of other chain stores, though the more local Lucky Fins is worth visiting).
Head west and you’ll eventually run into a small shopping center that has a Chili’s (a chain I actually unabashedly like) and our own Sushi One. Sushi One had a fire a few years ago that nearly destroyed it, but it’s back stronger than ever. It’s one of my favorite places to eat in Greeley: I’ve picked it for my birthday dinner in the past. I’m a basic sushi eater, though—I love California rolls—so I can’t tell you how it stacks against, say, Vegas places.
Farther west off 10th Street is Rule 105 brewery. I need to mention Crabtree Brewing here—it’s located at 2961 29th St. It was one of Greeley’s first craft breweries. Jeff Crabtree opened it in 2004. Craft beer places were more of a novelty back then, but he’s responsible for making it look like a feasible business, and he was also the first to open what are now called taprooms (he called it a tasting room back then). He’s since been overshadowed by WeldWerks and Wiley Roots downtown, but he remains open and it’s a really cute taproom.
Rule 105 used to be called the Broken Plow, and it’s nearly hidden in a strip mall off the corner of 47th Avenue and 10th Street, but it’s a fun place too: Every other Sunday it hosts a panel with limited spots designed to test new off-key beers and discuss them at the end of the tasting. It’s also got a cool stage for live music.
Sunday, I picked up the kids’ favorite breakfast, a bevy of burritos from Palomino Mexican Restaurant, 3390 23rd Ave., Evans. This place has good dinners and a fun margarita menu, but I go more for the breakfast burritos, with a different variety every day.
They offer steak, chorizo, bacon and other typical kinds, and all you have to do is stop in that morning: It tends to be faster than fast food, and it’s much better. They also have a family take-out dinner featuring things like chicken fajitas for less than $40. My kids were happy with the burritos, and so was I.
Across the street is the Greeley area’s best Chinese place, Chili Thai, in a small strip mall. I think a good Chinese place needs to nail crab rangoon, fried rice and sesame chicken, and this place scores on all three. It’s the first to be a suitable replacement for Young’s Cafe since they moved its second location out of Greeley (they remain in Fort Collins). I usually get takeout from Chili Thai, but it’s a nice place to sit down as well.
One other place worth mentioning: Fat Albert’s, 1717 23rd Ave., is one of Greeley’s oldest restaurants and serves an incredible Monte Cristo in addition to its pie, which is the real reason for going.
However, I won’t be going for a bit. I need to work off a few pounds because I visit all these other places way too much.