I went into this evening thinking of this dinner as the “5 Chefs, 5 Farms, 5 Stars” dinner. When I saw the line-up, I was thrilled. I admire and highly ...
Fort Collins is saturated with coffee houses; not just Starbucks on every corner, but a bevy of independent, locally-owned coffee houses. Each one has a different atmosphere and function aside from simply being caffeine pushers for people. Some have spaces to host meetings for groups, some have delicious menus to complement your coffee, some make exceptional high-end quality coffee, and some are the go-to places for study groups. There’s a coffee house for every occasion here.
My office is in Old Town, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. It’s handy though, because if you have as many meetings as I do, you have a nice selection of places to choose from rather than having one as your second office. The other week was filled with meetings again, so I found this as the perfect opportunity to visit The Crooked Cup for the review.
The Crooked Cup opened just over a year ago on Oak Street where Indulge Cafe was. Owned by CSU almni Gabe Armstrong, the coffee house specializes in sugary concoctions with different combinations of syrups and dollops of whipped cream using beans from local roaster, Cafe Richesse. They also have a full menu of bagels, muffins, sandwiches, and freshly-baked desserts, and even offer delivery (which is pretty cool for a coffee house).
It’s a cute small coffee house that has a seating section that’s great for games and conversation. It’s never really busy in there so you’re bound to find a seat at a table, too. However, I think The Crooked Cup is a good spot for relaxing conversation rather than a study space or meeting spot.
My first visit there was a breakfast meeting with my CSU intern. I ordered my usual quad-shot latte and tried their Kolache – a puff pastry with sausage, cheese, and egg. I believe this is the only coffee house that serves Kolaches, and they are one tasty breakfast item, although a little messy with puff pastry flakes falling all over the table. The center is filled with dense scrambled egg and a spicy sausage patty while wrapped in a light puff pastry crust. I really enjoyed this and it’s nice having this option from the standard muffins and burritos you see everywhere else.
My coffee was fine – nothing spectacular. Just a standard latte. You might be more impressed if you order their sugary specialties, like the “Crooked Pirate” – an orange, coconut, and butter rum latte, or the Crooked Spaniard that has habanero sugar. To be honest, I’m never drawn to specialty drinks like this because it’s basically a liquid dessert and I’m more about the effect of espresso in my day rather than getting a sugar high. I guess I’m sort of a coffee purist in that regard.
Because it was a meeting that didn’t require wifi connection, it was a perfect visit. The service was spectacular while we were there, rivaling the service you’d expect at the full-service restaurant (even though you place your order at the counter). I left my first visit looking forward to coming back for another meeting.
And that I did! Although this time wasn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be. After a busy day of constant work and the first moment to breathe and eat at 4:00pm, I ordered their green tea latte and a turkey bacon sandwich. The latte was absolutely delicious – rich, creamy, and earthy. It was a cup of bright green delight.
The sandwich was a pretty standard coffee house sandwich – average and satisfactory – piled high with conventional deli meat and toasted to a golden brown. There’s really not much more to say about it than that.
And the service was yet again friendly and lovely.
However, I didn’t find it to be a great place to pop open the laptop for a meeting. They have their wifi on lockdown where you need the password to connect. I understand why places do this, but I find it to be annoying, especially when a coffee house has wifi connectivity issues. After struggling to connect to their wifi for the entire meeting, we ended up just using our cell connections on our phones to pull up websites. I left feeling like I should have just booked a conference room at my office and had our free office coffee. We would have gotten a lot more accomplished.
The Crooked Cup is not the only coffee house to struggle with proper wifi support, and many of my professional friends tend to avoid those places when they need an alternative place to get some work done. Each coffee house in Fort Collins has a different atmosphere and function – The Crooked Cup is a good spot to pop in for a quick cup of coffee, to satiate a sugar craving for your sweet tooth, to grab a bite to eat in a quiet space, and ideal for conversation – but it’s not a place I’d recommend for trying to get some extra work done. There are two coffee houses a hop, skip, and a jump away that will fill that need for you instead. I find that in a sea of coffee houses in our city, there’s little that sets The Crooked Cup apart from the rest.
The Crooked Cup
147 West Oak Street
Kid Friendly? Sure. They have some Noosa smoothies that would be great for kids, too.
Parking: Old Town street or garage parking.
Healthy Options? Oatmeal, Noosa yogurt, and an assortment of sandwiches are on the menu, but that’s about it.
Budget Friendly? Everything is under $10
Recent Health Inspection: Average
Every day I receive emails and messages from readers asking where to go out for Ladies Night, where is the best place for a low-key dinner date, advice on what to do when you have crappy service, where people can find season items like Fat Tuesday paczkis, and much, much more. I love being your community resource and I try my very best to lead you in the right direction.
It takes a lot of work to make this happen, and yes, a bit of money too. Not only the time and effort it takes to write every week and be on social media for you, but also dining out frequently to get a taste of what’s going on. Rather than putting up a paywall and fund this through reader subscriptions, we opt for funding through our advertisers. I really appreciate that they support the work that goes into writing (and eating) all of this.
If you visit a sponsor because they support Feasting Fort Collins, please let them know! Check out their websites, visit their businesses, and give them a call for services. They are helping me help you!
In a life before Feasting Fort Collins, I was a personal trainer. Shocking, I know, but it’s true. I know without a doubt that my personal training experience is why I’m not a 500 pound restaurant critic. US Career Institute is a brand new sponsor to Feasting Fort Collins. They’re one of the largest distance-learning institutions in the nation, offering a flexible, accredited and affordable personal training certification program.
When I took my certification exam I was working in a Chiropractic office running spinal rehab and scoliosis programs (I was studying Chiropractic biophysics at the office). I knew anatomy and physiology like the back of my hand, so much that I was hired on the spot at the gym and became one of their top biomechanical and sports injury trainers. But, most people don’t have Doctors as coworkers helping them learn quickly, or a clinical job to back it up. You can take the personal training certification courses at home and at your own pace, learning everything you need to know. It’s also affordable, so much that you can make $49 monthly payments if you need to. All in all, it can take as little as four months to complete. Not too shabby!
After you go through their program you’re eligible to take the NCSF exam so that you’re truly certified, and they will pay for your study materials and exam fees that are valued at $300 as a program graduation gift. That’s huge, because these exams are spendy. If you’re interested in a career that helps people work off the dining weight – you will never be out of a job. Go check out their personal training program. Let them know you’re a Feasting Fort Collins reader, too!
Butter Cream Cupcakery is the founding Feasting Fort Collins sponsor! They’ve been with me from the very beginning, which makes them super awesome. Last week we stopped by the store for an after-school treat – the day they had Girl Scout Samoa cupcakes. OHMYGOD. They were delicious! So much that it’s one of my favorite flavors now! Make sure to follow them on Facebook or Twitter to get updates on the surprise flavors. You can also check out their website to get a weekly list of what’s coming up. That way you won’t feel like you missed out on fantastic cupcake flavors!
Matador is another long-time supporter of the blog, reaching the five year point this year, too. They are one of the best restaurants on social media right now. Have you seen their twitter account? No? Well, let me help you with that. Not only is twitter hilarious, but they are just as great on Facebook, where you can see updates about them adding Cheetos to tacos (YES. THEY PUT CHEETOS IN TACOS), new hot sauces that they are concocting, like the Barrel O’ Peppers with Pateros Creek and other fun posts.
Jason Speciner has been a long-time avid sponsor, too! I don’t know about you, but tax season makes me freak out, mostly because it’s a realm of understanding that goes above my head. Ask me about food, blogging, and whatnot? I’ve got you covered. Ask me about rollovers and retirement plans and I’ll look at you like you just asked me to build a space station. Fortunately there are people like Jason out there to help out. He writes a financial planning blog where you can learn along the way. I particularly liked his post about Olympic curling in relation to personal finance. He’s making intimidating topics fun to read. His blog is also on Facebook and Twitter, if you like to catch up that way.
Jennifer Bond at Nancy Bond Insurance is another long-time avid reader and long-time avid sponsor who has joined me on quite a few reviews over the years. First, let me say that some insurance companies suck. Our previous American Family rates kept creeping up to absurd rates and then there were claims for car accidents that never happened on our record. Yeeeaaahhh. And worse? They wouldn’t give us the records to figure out what the hell was going on. Talk about shady. But you know what? We emailed Jennifer at Nancy Bond Insurance and she was incredibly helpful and informative about what we needed to ask for and do. She’s always looking out for people and helping them make the best decisions.
We’ve been big fans of KidsTown for many, many years. They’ve been our go-to sitter for the times I need to go to meetings, Doctors appointments and date nights. I can’t even begin to tell you how important those kid-free date nights are to couples. It’s what keeps you together – seriously. So, in a way, KidsTown can be a marriage saver! As well as a sanity saver. And it’s a blast for the kids, too. Our boys always enjoy their time there, making new friends and excited to see old friends there as well.
Spring Break is coming up this month, which means the kids will be home a little more often while you try to juggle work and schedules. If you find yourself getting stuck and having difficulty juggling it all, swing on over to KidsTown and let the kids play for a bit. You’ll thank yourself. And them! Check out their facebook page for activity updates and special events like their Bounce House parties.
STAMPT is a free loyalty and rewards app by Mobivity, who acquired Front Door Daily Deals (long-time sponsors that have been at the top of the sponsor list). This app works as a virtual punch card, helping you manage all of the “Buy 10 Get One Free!” loyalty cards that clutter your wallet (or get lost in the car), on one single app. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play for Android users. Right now they have offers at Whole Foods, like buy 9 coffees or Bhakti Chai and get one free, or $10 off supplements.
After five years of writing restaurant reviews in Fort Collins and eating at different places three to four times a week, I feel like I know the scene like the back of my hand. I’ve reviewed restaurants all around Colorado, from Denver to Steamboat, and even outside of our Rocky Mountain boundaries, like Washington D.C.
One criticism about me starting this blog way back when was, “What the hell do you know about restaurants?” After dedicating the last five years of my life to this, the answer now is, “a whole damn lot.”
I’ve watched our culinary tastes grow – our palates have expanded and our sense of food adventure has been more daring. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our inconsistency – from food to service. We are without a doubt, consistently inconsistent.
Now, I understand that we live in a college town and the service industry here has a high turnover rate. We do not have many career servers, managers, kitchen staff, baristas, and bartenders. Believe me, I know how difficult it is with turnover rates in business and getting new hires trained and up to speed quickly. It happens in our blog network. It happens in every business. And? Nobody will ever be perfect.
But this is the thing, we need to get better at this. Consistency is why national fast-casual restaurant chains flourish. They have systems and standards set in place so that you get the exact same dish just about Every. Single. Time. This inconsistency is holding our locally owned full service restaurants back (not all of them, mind you – but a good number of them).
When I’m at a restaurant for a review I will always go at least twice. On occasion I’ll go three times if I feel like I wasn’t able to get an accurate assessment from the previous visits. I pay close attention to food consistency to determine my rating. Consistency and quality is what makes it possible to determine a three-star from a four-star rating. However, I’m only paying attention to the food. Over the years my service standards have gradually lowered. I didn’t have high expectations to begin with and at this point my perception of sub-par is someone else’s point of never return.
Because of the nature of the service industry in Fort Collins, I’ve always felt it unfair to let service heavily influence star ratings in reviews. If I did, one or two people having a bad or off day could essentially bomb a review for an entire business. I am probably the most easy-going restaurant critic when it comes to service. That’s not the case with other critics in surrounding cities, as Denver’s 5280 recently declared.
However, what grinds my gears more than service standards is the inconsistency from the kitchen. All too often I’ll review a restaurant after a few visits and find them to be spectacular. Then a few weeks or months later I’ll return just for fun and the food is definitely not on par to what I wrote about in my review. So much that I’ve sent food back to kitchens with four and five-star ratings. If it happens once, I accept it because we all make mistakes. If it happens again, that restaurant is on my hit list for an updated review. This hit list is starting to grow in 2014 because inconsistency is getting out of hand. Not only is this happening to me with my own reviews, but it’s happening with an increased frequency for Feasting Fort Collins readers, too.
Fort Collins restaurant industry – what you may not know is that when you royally screw up someone’s dining experience, not only are they jumping on Yelp to leave you a nasty review, they are emailing me about it at the same time. Every week my inbox is hit with feedback from readers on what’s happening in your restaurants. Much like Yelp, they’re only telling me about the bad and not so much the good. A few times I’ve been courteous and forwarded that complaint to the Executive Chef or General Manager (with the reader’s permission), acting as the restaurant community middle man.
You can’t fix what you don’t know, and with these emails to me the staff has no clue about the complaint – although they should know if something is going wrong when the guest is sitting right there in the chair and promptly make amends.
You should also be reading the social media comments on reviews if you aren’t already. Readers have a lot to say about experiences in your restaurants and they aren’t always glowing.
Feasting Fort Collins readers – I truly appreciate these emails and comments from you because I can only be in so many restaurants at once. It is impossible for me to keep tabs on every restaurant in the entire city and it takes the help of the dining community to keep me in the loop. But, let’s do the restaurants a solid – when you email me about a crappy experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth and a desire to never return, include the General Manager or the Chef on that email to me. Better yet, let the General Manager know about your experience before you leave the restaurant. And if it’s the general manager that was horrid, I’ll bet you a million dollars they’ll make it right if you include them on that email to me.
I think we can all agree that consistency – be it service, food or both – needs to step up it notch in Fort Collins. It’s going to take some community teamwork to make that happen. So, let’s do it.