With the constant cycle of restaurants opening and closing, I often wonder what makes some of the Fort Collins classics stand the test of time. We have some restaurants that have been operating for well over 30 years, and some of them aren’t that wonderful when it comes to taste and quality. So, if the food isn’t particularly fantastic, then it must be the relationships they maintain with their customers, right? Maybe it has something to do with nostalgia? I believe this is so for Charco Broiler.
Charco Broiler has been a steakhouse staple in Northern Colorado since 1957. On the outskirts of the city on East Mulberry, it’s a restaurant that is hard to miss. With interesting architecture and an enormous bright yellow sign with a steer head logo, it certainly looks like it has been around for generations. In their early years, they began as a coffee shop with a small kitchen. As the years went on, they grew with eleven additions and eight remodels and morphed into a steakhouse with a multitude of awards, and a staff that has been around for ages – some for 25 years!
The Husband and I stopped by for a dinner date without the kids a little while back. We were seated in a dimly lit comfortable booth, surrounded by rustic south-western style decor of cowboys and Native Americans. It felt like we were in a 1970′s time warp.
I started with a glass of house merlot and a bowl of green chili.
The green chili was thick and savory with a good amount of heat to it. It was certainly one of the better bowls of green chili that I’ve had in Fort Collins. Deep smokey green chili flavor, tender bits of pork, and a well rounded spiciness – it was delicious. The Husband liked it so much, he stole it from me.
The Husband skipped an appetizer and just went with the bread that our server supplied at the table. It was soft, sweet and warm, and very easy to fill up on before the entrees arrived.
For his entree, The Husband decided to go with the Triple/Double burger (two patties and three different cheeses) and fries. He really enjoyed this gigantic juicy burger with a distinct grilled flavor. I don’t believe it’s the best burger in town, but it’s respectable and worth eating.
I decided to go with a petite New York strip and a lobster tail with a side of mashed potatoes.
This is where dinner went downhill for me. The steak was ordered medium rare, and came out that way, but was tough and flavorless. I practically never add salt to anything – at home or a restaurant (especially a restaurant) – but there was so little flavor to the steak that I had to season it myself with the signature garlic salt provided at the table. And even then, it wasn’t great. I was left wondering why on Earth they had won so many awards for their steaks. This was not noteworthy in the least, and it was touted to be their most flavorful of cuts!
The lobster tail was also disappointing – tough, rubbery and over cooked. I suppose this is the risk you run when ordering seafood in Colorado, and this was a gamble that I lost. Overall our dinner was an average mix of good burger and sad steak.
I came back again for breakfast with The Toddler on a weekday morning. While not too busy, the place was filled with grizzled regulars – truck drivers, industrial workers, and local farm workers – all whom were known by name and seemed to be part of the Charco Broiler family. During breakfast, the Charco Broiler ditches the steakhouse feel and takes on a diner atmosphere with tables of old men in trucker hats drinking mugs of black coffee and eating omelets.
I went with a bottomless mug of coffee – which tasted as you’d expect diner coffee to taste, and a skillet breakfast of eggs over easy, smoked sausage and potatoes.
This is what Charco Broiler should be known for – the classic diner breakfast. Simple, but still packed with hearty smoked flavor, this skillet breakfast hit the spot. There’s no better way to eat this than with eggs over easy, otherwise you’re going to end up with a relatively dry meal.
The Toddler ate a Kids’ Scramble that consisted of a huge pancake, scrambled egg and a slice of bacon. He devoured it. The pancake was soft, buttery and lovely. It was a down home comfort meal for sure, and we thought it was great, especially considering the portion size and the cost was less than $5.
The Charco Broiler has been around for longer than most other restaurants in Fort Collins. I’m not convinced it’s because they have a great steak, but it’s because they have a community of loyal customers that have been coming by for many years. It’s the fact that they are known by name, have “the usual” every week and it’s a part of their daily life. There’s comfort in the food.
For me, Charco Broiler isn’t known as an award winning steakhouse, but a classic diner with a hearty breakfast.
1716 East Mulberry Street
Kid-Friendly? Yes, with a decent kids’ menu, especially for breakfast.
Parking: Lot parking
Healthy Options? They do have a few low-cal options and very few vegetarian dishes
Budget-Friendly? Dinner is average pricing of $15 a plate, breakfast is budget friendly under $10.
Recent Health Inspection: Average