The Sweetheart City now has an extra helping of savory.
2012 was a big year for Loveland. A handful of quality restaurants, breweries, and distilleries have opened up, creating a tremendous amount of value in taking the 20-30 minute drive out (which sounds minimal, and I suppose we’re spoiled here in Fort Collins). Now there are flavors, events, and delicious experiences that are unique and unlike what you’d find in Fort Collins. I see that Loveland has been blossoming into a destination spot for when you’re looking for something a little different than what’s in Fort Collins.
Over the last two months I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Loveland exploring the downtown scene, restaurants and breweries. With the exception of eating and drinking and a few yearly events, I still haven’t found any entertainment options in the area, but I’m entertained by the menus enough. One of the gems of the Loveland dining scene is Next Door Food & Drink, and each time I’ve dined there we’ve spent a few hours tasting tapas, sipping cocktails, and enjoying the company of friends while the time slipped by.
Next Door Food & Drink opened almost exactly a year ago right next to the Rialto on 4th street. Owned by Jim and Jennifer Edwards, their restaurant offers a large menu of creative tapas alongside an extensive wine selection. Executive Chef Ricky Myers worked with Executive Chef Jason Schaeffer from Windsor’s Chimney Park Bistro (a chef I greatly admire in Northern Colorado) to create an upscale menu that focuses on locally sourced ingredients.
On my first visit, I was joined by my dear friend, Katrina for a girl’s night out together. She was smart and made reservations for us, which I didn’t think we’d need. How wrong – yes, you should make reservations, especially on a weekend night. After being seated by the front window at a small table with short leather chairs (that were kind of uncomfortable), we started our evening with a cocktail. I had the Colorado Cobbler - Dancing Pine Distillery’s spiced molasses rum, peach schnapps, agave nectar and a splash of soy milk, served on the rocks.
It tasted exactly like peach cobbler in a glass. It was rich and creamy, sweet and decadent, with a lovely balance of spice – the perfect dessert cocktail.
Now, being a food writer in a tapas restaurant can be dangerous. Tapas menus are a great way to share plates and try a variety of dishes, but when you’re a critic working on getting an accurate assessment of the menu, it turns into ORDER ALL THE THINGS!
Which is pretty much how I felt when ordering with our server.
We started with Fried Avocado with tomatillo green salsa; Duck Confit Taquitos with chocolate mole, sour cream and cilantro; Rioja Braised Short Ribs with horseradish; Polenta and Goat Cheese Fritters with black pepper gastrique; and the Hazel Dell Mushroom Tart with goat cheese and puff pastry and balsamic reduction.
Each and every dish was absolutely delicious. The Fried Avocado had a firm crispy crust, but the avocado wasn’t melted into mush. It was just a little warm and velvety. The tomatillo salsa was a great accompaniment providing a nice tang.
The Duck Confit Taquitos had the distint gamey flavor that comes from duck (which I love), and the chocolate mole helped to balance it so as not to become overwhelming.
The braised short ribs were the star dish of the evening. Melt in your mouth and delightfully saucy!! I would have loved a little extra horseradish, but I’m kind of a freak for that stuff. If I were to order this again, I wouldn’t share it. I’d make everyone order their own and slap hands away. It was that good.
The Polenta and Goat Cheese Fritters were like little balls of fried rich and chewy goodness and the Mushroom Tart was over-the-top with delicate puff pastry drizzled in sweet balsamic reduction and stuffed with the earthy flavors of mushroom and cheese.
That visit made me want to drive out to Loveland more often.
I came back again with The Husband, and Brett and Robin from Butter Cream Cupcakery for a double-date night.
While sipping on their Red Wine Flight, ordering tapas was just like before – wanting to order every single thing from the menu.
This time we ordered the Bacon Seared Bay Scallops with butternut squash puree; Bacon-Wrapped Medjool Dates with marcona almond; Fried Avocado (again), Braised Short Ribs (again), Smoked Salmon with potato cake, red onion, creme fraiche and fried capers; and Braised Pork Belly with sweet and sour sauce.
I was impressed with each dish just as I was during my first visit. The Bacon Seared Bay Scallops went quick as everyone loved the gently flavored squash puree with the crunchy bacon crumbles and soft bits of scallops.
I almost missed getting a photo of the Bacon-Wrapped Dates before we ate them all. The contrast between crispy bacon shell and tender creamy center is always enticing and enough to make you forget what’s going on around you.
The Smoked Salmon was another one of those dishes that if I were to order again, I wouldn’t share. I especially enjoyed the potato cake that was a crunchy and salty hashbrown.
The Braised Pork Belly was very similar to the Braised Short Rib – melt in your mouth, lovely gelatinous layers of flavorful fat all drenched in a subtle sweet and sour sauce. It was awesome.
And, as if the tapas weren’t enough, we decided to order dessert and espresso.
We shared a chocolate peanut butter pie, a lemon raspberry cheesecake, and zeppoles – Italian fried doughnuts covered in powdered sugar with nitro milk stout caramel and raspberry dipping sauces.
That was some seriously sinful indulging. I think the zepploes are a really fun treat and the nitro milk stout dipping sauce walked the line of being it’s own dessert. It’s one of those sauces you can cover anything and it will taste amazing. Awesomesauce, indeed!
Each time I’ve been to Next Door Food & Drink, I’ve been thrilled with each and every dish. It’s a delectable experience that is truly worth the drive from Fort Collins. Loveland really has been blossoming into a destination spot for when you’re looking for something a little different, and the next time I go out for a fun Ladies Night or a romantic date night, Next Door Food & Drink will be at the top of my list!
Next Door Food & Drink
222 East 4th Street, Loveland
Kid Friendly? Sure, bring your kids everywhere, but I wouldn’t call this a family dining restaurant
Parking: Street parking
Healthy Options? Small plates means fewer calories and easy portion control, there are some vegetarian options
Budget Friendly? It can get pretty spendy if you ORDER ALL THE THINGS! It’s easy to get over $20 per person.
Recent Health Inspection: Good