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A place like home

Fort Collins lures the day-tripper

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A buffalo Reuben could make your Sunday.
  • A buffalo Reuben could make your Sunday.

Picture the perfect Sunday, whatever it means for you. Up early, sleep late, don't shave, brunch out, leisurely hike, afternoon movie, evening cocktail, an easy dinner, maybe late-night tea or coffee.

Imagine your favorite spots in town: couples huddled around host stands awaiting a two-hour breakfast, a gorgeous, sun-strewn trail, melting ice cream dripping down your hand, sofa pillows beckoning like quicksand.

Now ask yourself if you could have this type of Sunday if you weren't in your hometown. Could you have it on another day of the week?

Last week, I happened upon a lovely early weekend that started after work on Thursday and carried through to Saturday night (the absurdity of a waiter's schedule). My somewhat-Sunday began when I received an invitation from a friend to come check out Fort Collins for a couple nights and a day.

Allow me to share what could easily be accomplished in a day, which will feel just like one of those perfect hometown Sundays. A departure time from Colorado Springs of 8 a.m. and a relative return time of 8 p.m. should allow ample time to hit up five worthwhile Fort Collins destinations any day of the week.

What's the payoff? For me, it was an amazing brunch: a short hike, fish tacos, a stroll downtown, ice cream and an unforgettable buffalo Reuben. For you, trade any one of these activities or meals for another of your choosing -- sushi, clothes shopping or art gallery hopping. Fort Collins offers more than enough for a fickle palate.

Act 1: Enter Lucille's Creole Caf, nestled unassumingly in some trees across from the downtown Fort Collins post office. Think Adam's Mountain Caf with a N'awlins flare, worth every minute of any possible wait. We sat in warm midmorning sun on the patio, feasting on one of the many offered eggs Benedict-style dishes and a giant bowl of fruit oatmeal. Our hip waitress buzzed about blowing confectioner's sugar from the tops of our enormous beignets.

Act 2: High noon sun glares off ripples in Horsetooth Reservoir. My friend and I restrain her chocolate lab all the way up gentle foothills on the edge of residential neighborhoods. We yield the dusty trail to mountain bikers. Everyone is friendly and says hello to strangers -- the sign of a good town and good people. The reward for our spent energy is a lovely view down into the sizeable lake; a few kids scramble on giant rocks that lead down to the water. Homeland Security propaganda babble has it that if Horsetooth were bombed, a mini tsunami would crash down upon the city and kill thousands, but this fear is the farthest thing from my mind as I take in the scenic valley.

Act 3: A cute, multicolored chalk drawing of a cow depicts various cuts of meat above an impressive list of animals and a tantalizing display case. Welcome to Choice City Butcher and Deli, home of the half-pound Colorado Buffalo Reuben: 12 layers of sliced meat (I counted), sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese, between authentic Jewish rye bread from New York -- a bargain at $9. I reflect over soiled, empty parchment paper and an empty bottle of Sunshine Wheat at meal's end: "I wish we had this place in the Springs. ... I'd live there."

Act 4: A walk down the main strip in Old Town (heart of the city) reveals something like a micro-Pearl Street in Boulder. Between College Street and Linden Street, kids play on exquisite sculptures, and open shop doors suck tourists in like vacuums. Every town needs a blocked-off street, like Beale Street in Memphis, or this one, to pique interest and provide a safe haven for explorers.

Act 5: Send some fish down your tummy to play poker with the buffalo, but save room for the walrus. Let me explain: dinner of fish tacos at La Luz, located on Walnut Street, followed by dessert at Walrus Ice Cream, just around the corner -- think on a par with La Casita and Josh & John's, respectively. Grab some coffee for the ride home, as the food coma will be tough to shake.

Congratulate yourself if you manage to feel the magic of hometown Sunday while out of town. It's no fault of Fort Collins if you fail.

Fin.

-- Matthew Schniper

capsule

Choice City Butcher and Deli, 104 W. Olive St., Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 970/490-2489.

La Luz, 200 Walnut St., Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Breakfast burritos served until 10:30 a.m. on weekdays. Mexican sit-down breakfast served on weekends until 1 p.m., 970/493-1129.

Walrus Ice Cream, 125 W. Mountain Ave., Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Sunday, noon-11 pm., 970/482-5919.

Lucile's Creole Caf, 400 S. Meldrum St., Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., 970/224-5464.

Horsetooth Reservoir, visit www.co.larimer.co.us/parks/horsetooth.htm.

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