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 ...
It’s never a good thing when a restaurant first opens and I receive emails from readers that detail underwhelming experiences. Emails that ask me to go in for a “soft review” to help the restaurant get back on track, fearing that if this is their standard, my real review would close their doors.
Yes, this happened. No, I did not do it, because it wasn’t ethical. Yes, I sent the email to the restaurant (with the reader’s permission) because they needed to know more than I did. Yes, this actually happens fairly often.
It’s never good, because I know how much work went into getting this place set up, despite the historical inaccuracies while trying to mesh with our community. The hours of menu planning, the hours of labor in construction, the hours of training people for a new, and hopefully steady job in a very unstable industry. It’s never good, because I end up thinking to myself, “Well, great. This review is going to be loads of fun to do.”
But once I start, I push those outside opinions aside, ready to go in and figure out what’s really going on. That’s the difference between me, Yelp, and the puff pieces in glossy magazine that are selling the restaurants’ ads on the next page. Multiple visits, many dishes, honest assessment.
Mainline opened in Old Town on August 1, 2013, replacing Beach House Grill, while the dining community continued to bemoan the loss of Stonehouse Grille, wishing they’d come back. Their culinary goal was to create southern comfort foods with a Colorado twist. They remodeled the space, creating a contemporary, sexy atmosphere with clean lines and elemental accents.
Even after all of that, they apparently got off to a rocky start. They opened to crowds they weren’t exactly prepared for. They had to retool kitchens and try to catch up with expectation. While they made a lot of money, even compared to Denver standards, they also left more to be desired when it came to quality and consistency.
When I was emailed about the plans for the Breckenridge-Wynkoop restaurant (that had yet to be named at the time), I was excited to see some Denver flair come up our way. While it wasn’t a “FoCo Grown” business, I do think restaurants from Boulder and Denver making their way up here helps to raise the bar overall. I didn’t have any opinions about the beer aspect of the restaurant (I’ll leave that up to Dave at Cheers Fort Collins to review), but I had been following Executive Chef, Christopher Cina on Twitter for quite some time, enthralled by his gorgeous food photography, and intrigued by his culinary creations. I had high hopes. It was quite disappointing to hear what readers thought upon their first visits.
My first visit was for a lunch meeting. We were seated upstairs in the treehouse, and nearly the only ones around. The meeting started late, so I only had the chance to try one quick dish. I ordered the crawfish cakes – cucumber and red onion salad with Louisiana remoulade.
They were tender, flakey, succulent patties, and the remoulade was aggressively spiced – in a good way. It’s a small plate that’s ideal for priming your palate and increasing your appetite.
I returned again for dinner with Andrea from Serving Up Fort Collins to talk about her cooking demonstration at the Front Range Food Show. We started our night with cocktails. I ordered the Ole - Espolon Tequila, grapefruit juice, passion fruit pepper shrub, and lime juice.
Their cocktail list is creative, intriguing and well put together. I thoroughly enjoyed my drink, sipping a lovely mix of peppery tequila and tangy grapefruit juice.
After perusing the menu, Andrea ordered the Pimento Cheeseburger -pimiento cheese, maple bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion. It came with a side of fries. She also ordered the Southern Wedge Salad – smoked bacon, red onions, baby tomatoes, blue cheese, and housemade hot sauce.
She wasn’t thrilled with the pimento cheese, but the burger was cooked perfectly, and the salad was generously sprinkled with bacon and loaded with fresh ingredients.
I ordered the Asparagus Salad – grilled jumbo asparagus, poached duck egg, cornbread, and bacon-sherry vinaigrette. Our server warned me that this wasn’t exactly a salad and it only had a few asparagus spears (if it’s not a salad, then why is it under the “Soups n’ Salads” section of the menu?). I decided to order it anyway because it seemed like a unique dish that you can’t find anywhere else.
My salad was essentially a thick square of cornbread with a few asparagus spears and a poached duck egg. Hardly a salad and better placed under the small plates section of the menu. While the idea of the dish seemed compelling, the execution was a letdown. It was flavorless and excessively rich with a very dense slice of cornbread.
I returned for a third visit because I wasn’t able to really explore the menu on the last two visits, only ordering small plates. I needed one more under my belt to give them a fair rating, and frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I anticipated it to be another boring, average experience. At this point, I was set on publishing Mainline as a three-star review.
Bill and I decided to have a date night dinner there on a Saturday night. The restaurant was busy with a waiting list, tables full of smiling people, the bar packed with people chatting, and romantic lighting setting the mood. We had a 15-20 minute wait before we were sent a text to alert us that our table was ready (I love that restaurants are doing that now).
This time I started off with a Convertible – Leopold Brother’s Peach Whiskey, coconut, pineapple and lime juice, mint syrup. It was delicious! A sweet, tropical drink that resembled more of a dessert, but I expected that (and enjoyed it).
We also ordered the Gulf Oysters with barrel-aged hot sauce as an appetizer. The oysters were plump, velvety, and creamy with just a small pearl of hot sauce on top as to not overpower the delicate flavor of the flesh. The hot sauce really didn’t spice it up much, it just added a nice little zing that left the slightest aftertaste on my tongue. I was impressed and my opinion started to turn around.
For our entrees, I ordered the Shrimp Po’ Boy – fried rock shrimp, Louisiana remoulade, shredded lettuce, and tomato on a baguette. Their remoulade is ridiculously good. It has such a nice spicy kick and it adds a great creamy layer of flavor to each dish that it’s a part of. It made this sandwich fantastic. I ended up eating it with a fork, scraping out all of the crispy shrimp because the baguette was a bit awkward to eat while wearing lipstick. The bread was a large mouthful. Had I not feared that it would smear all over my face, it would have been fine. It was quite messy, though.
Bill ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles with watercress and watermelon salad and Breckenridge whiskey syrup. This is where my jaw dropped and I looked at him in awe. “You got the best dish tonight, no doubt,” I told him.
The fried chicken was plump with juicy meat, resting upon a light and fluffy waffle with a subtle sweetness. There was a chicken breast, but also a bone-in chicken thigh. I’m glad they offered both because part of the problem with other chicken and waffle dishes is that they lack bone-in cuts. While it’s a little more messy because you have to use your fingers, it adds so much more flavor. And let’s not forget about the watermelon and syrup. My god, this dish was incredible.
“Well, now I’m in a pickle,” I told Bill at the table. “I was set on this being three stars, but this meal pushes it over the edge. Four stars is probably generous, but three cuts them too short. This is another time I wish I could do half-star ratings.”
If you ask people their opinion on Mainline, I’m betting they feel the same as I did after my dinner with Andrea – it was uninspired and nothing to be excited about. But, there’s something to be said for trying again. People are quick to judge on one plate or one experience and say a restaurant is not worth going to. But, that’s the difference between me, Yelp, and the puff pieces in glossy magazine that are selling the restaurants’ ads on the next page. Multiple visits, many dishes, and an honest assessment.
Mainline may have left more to be desired in the beginning, and some dishes look better than they really are, but it’s still worth a second visit. You may end up finding something jaw dropping.
The Mainline Ale House
125 South College
Kid Friendly? It is, people brought their kids with them. Although, I feel it has a more adult atmosphere.
Parking: Old Town street or garage parking.
Healthy Options? Plenty of small dishes and vegetarian options, and a few gluten-free options/
Budget Friendly? Small plates average $7-10, entrees top out at $22.
Recent Health Inspection: unknown – it hasn’t been published
There was a lot of social media chatter about Small Business Saturday this past weekend. We decided to go out just because it was Saturday and we needed to get out of the house for some fun, not specifically because it was Small Business Saturday.
“Isn’t just about every day ‘Small Business Saturday’ in Fort Collins?” I asked Bill as we drove down Riverside, a road lined with various locally-owned businesses.
Sure, there are retail options that small businesses have a difficult time filling here in town, but when it comes to food and fun, there’s no better option than Fort Collins Grown. We pretty much unintentionally nailed Small Business Saturday.
Our first stop was at Big Al’s for a late lunch. I ordered the 60/40 burger and the truffle fries. Every single time I eat there I think, “Hmmm, maybe I’ll order something different today.” Nope. It’s always the 60/40. And it probably always will be.
Our next stop was to Rocket Fizz for some movie candy (not a small business) and then Pinball Jones – who was PACKED to the gills with people playing pinball. I love that they frequently rotate their games to always keep it fresh and interesting.
Then we headed on over to Starry Night for an afternoon pick me up. It was also packed full of people with little room to wait for coffee to go. It looked like downtown was small business hoppin! Even though they were packed and rushed (and dealing with people complaining about too much foam in cappuccinos), I appreciated the latte art in my to-go cup all the same.
After that, we headed to Kidstown to drop the kids off, Wilbur’s for a bottle of tequila for the bar at home, the Haunted Game Cafe for the Cards Against Humanity expansion pack, Bad Grandpa at Cinema Saver 6, and then date night dinner at Mainline – for the review (so look for that this week).
Maybe it’s just me, but this would have been a typical weekend for us – just a little bit busier. Small Business Saturday really is just about every day in Fort Collins; it’s pretty fun. And it made for a great “Eat Of The Week.”
Fort Collins is an amazing place to live, and it’s evident from the multitude of articles from publications claiming that it’s the bees knees. Although, we already live here, so it comes as no surprise to us.
All of the bloggers in The Scoop Blog Network write about the aspects of Fort Collins that they love the most – the history, people, arts, food, outdoors – you know, the stuff that makes our city enjoyable. We create places online for people to learn about what makes Fort Collins “Fort Collins” and you know what? It’s all of us that make our city what it is.
So, all of us at The Scoop Blog Network are celebrating that! We’re hosting a “Celebrate Fort Collins” giveaway from December 2nd through January 3rd. We’ve partnered up with a plethora of people who represent the businesses and resources available in Fort Collins to create one incredible prize pack for ONE lucky network reader.
Here’s How It Works
We’re using this lovely Rafflecopter system to collect your entries. It will show you how much time is left to enter, how many people have submitted entires, and how many entries you’ve earned.
Each reader will get one entry for every blog account they follow, five entires for telling us what your favorite blog is and why, and another five entries for every time you tweet this contest to your friends on twitter (entrants can do this once a day).
The more entries you have, the higher your chances of winning! One super lucky reader will be randomly selected and emailed to pick up the most epic prize pack given away in Fort Collins.
We love blogging about Fort Collins and we’re excited to celebrate living in this great city with you!
Good luck, high-fives to our awesome readers, and thanks to all of the businesses who support us and made this giveaway possible!
Thank you to all of these businesses for donating to the giveaway and supporting The Scoop Blog Network! If you’d like to donate, it’s not too late. We would be happy to include more items. We’ll keep everyone updated on new items added to the prize list! Just email Kristin at Kristin@thescoopblogs.com for details.
- Feasting Fort Collins 4th Anniversary Wine made by Vintages
- All Star Cleaning Services
- Merele Norman
- Bear Arms
- Matador Mexican Grill
- Butter Cream Cupcakery
- Stella Dot
- Feisty Spirits
- Orchidee Salon and Spa
- Rodizio Grill
- Edge Optics
- House of J
- Next Door Food and Drink
- Local author, Jay Wilson
- Local author, Shawntel Wilson
- Jason Speciner, CFP
- Common Link
- Local author, Lauren Hoff
- Braindrops Play Therapy and Wellness
- Nancy Bond Insurance Services
- Silver Grill
- Music Together
- Caffe Ole