Tim Van Schmidt
Writing about Avogadro’s Number this week is more than just a recommendation — it’s a personal thing.
I have celebrated important dates there, filled up with good food in the restaurant, and have seen some hot nights of live music in the showroom.
The first sandwich I ate when I moved to Fort Collins was at Avogadro’s Number. The first place I played music out live in Fort Collins was at Avogadro’s Number. Avogadro’s Number, or just plain Avo’s, has been a favorite haunt for me since the very first days of moving here in the fall of 1980.
I think it’s safe to say it: Avo’s is a longtime NOCO institution and there are plenty of good reasons to warrant a serious tribute. Let’s see, there’s food, environment and live music for starters.
For me, it all started with something called “The Creamation,” a meal-in-one sandwich that served as dinner on a number of nights when Avo’s had just a single dining room. That is until I discovered the Avo’s tempeh burger — with tempeh made on site — and I never went back.
I even earned a meal at Avo’s in the early days by playing my first gig in Fort Collins there in a “sing for your supper” deal that included a drink and dessert too.
Avo’s has a longstanding tradition of supporting local music and is famed for a long-running bluegrass jam as well as other jams and open mics. Regular gigs by local groups The Poudre River Irregulars and Just Jazz Quintet have also established a strong jazz vibe at Avo’s.
Avo’s has expanded plenty over the years, growing from that one dining room to a bar, an indoor showroom, an outdoor stage and a spacious patio.
Moving around Avo’s is an experience in itself. Throughout the restaurant, patrons can enjoy some very cool murals that have taken shape over the years, featuring the art of NOCO muralist Susan K. Dailey. In the original dining room are awesome macramé weavings by Mark Rosoff. The patio area has a treehouse and a running fountain.
The bar on the far side of the building is a friendly neighborhood hang-out.
The showroom in between the restaurant and the bar has hosted countless nights of a wide diversity of live music, from local singer-songwriters to touring acts needing a gig at an intimate venue while traveling through.
Avo’s fills the bill and I’ve enjoyed such performers as world music duo Willie and Lobo, acoustic blues master Chris Smither, and the raucous Asylum Street Spankers– playing, among other things, washboard and musical saw — in the showroom. Also, reggae greats The Melodians, Savoy Brown’s Kim Simmonds, Eliza Gilkyson, Anne Hills, and Bananafish.
An interesting moment in Avo’s showroom came during a set by folk icon Eric Anderson. Anderson was joined on stage by the great violinist Scarlet Rivera, who remarked about how different it was playing at Avo’s compared to her first time in Fort Collins — backing up Bob Dylan at Hughes Stadium in 1976 for the Rolling Thunder Revue show that ended up being released as Dylan’s album, “Hard Rain.”
My favorite of all the touring bands I’ve seen at Avo’s over the years has been Bonepony. This dynamic Nashville trio fused bluegrass, rock, and soul into what they called “stomp music,” complete with a “stomp shoe” that made your chest rattle with the beat.
The regional acts that have also filled the Avo’s showroom with good tunes range from The Bluegrass Patriots and Pete Wernick and Flexigrass to Colcannon, The Patti Fiasco and Euforquestra. “The Zen Cowboy,” Chuck Pyle performed often at Avo’s.
Other memorable shows include a live radio broadcast with Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, a down-home evening with Wyoming bluesman Spencer Bohren with the subdudes’ John Magnie, a performance by the incredible 17-piece mandolin group Mandomonium, a tripped out Tuatha gig, and lots of sets by friends such as Lloyd Drust, Pamela Robinson, Russ Hopkins, Jerry Palmer, Jennifer Friedman, and so many others.
But further, Avo’s has acted as a community center of sorts. I’ve attended wedding receptions at Avo’s, memorial services, environmental slideshows, and poetry readings. In 2016, Green Party candidate for president, Jill Stein, held a stirring rally on Avo’s patio.
Avo’s has been serving food continually throughout the pandemic and their live music schedule is just starting to fill up again. Upcoming dates include the Just Jazz Quintet on May 21, Pickin’ Pear on May 22, Church of Beethoven on May 23, and After the Fire on May 30. Their site is avogadros.com.
Hopefully, calling Avogadro’s Number an “institution” doesn’t put off new residents or visitors to the area. It’s not one of those stuffy-type institutions. Avo’s is an institution of good times.
Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. Check out his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”