By Lincoln Greenhaw
Journalists are supposed to prioritize information, so with that in mind let me get some important points out of the way here at the beginning. The Restaurant 415, conveniently located just south of Old Town, makes a contemporary version of chicken and waffles, and it is the best I have ever eaten. In addition, chef Amelia Mouton makes macaroni and cheese that has more in common with crème brulee than would seem ethical, or indeed possible.
Such experimental small plates flit back and forth above the heads of boisterous customers at the restaurant – a large-windowed space reminiscent of 1950s Los Angeles. In combination, the adventurous menu and retro atmosphere are somehow seductive, comforting and inexpensive.
“I think we’ve created a space where food and atmosphere can be married and be happy,” Mouton said.
One might expect classic cool jazz like Dave Brubeck to pipe from the speakers, but the seemingly traditional atmosphere is the brainchild of a new generation of restaurateurs in Fort Collins. Mouton, along with her associates Sean Olander, Justin Bernhardt and Seth Baker, coaxed the concept into being with the help of Amelia’s father Andre Mouton, an original owner of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.
“For me, the greatest thing is these guys,” Andre said, looking at the rest of the owners. “Having young people energizing and running this new place. You don’t get a lot of that in town.”
The group has a precise vision for the restaurant and its role in downtown Fort Collins, placing an emphasis on local and organic ingredients. They seem to want it to be as functional a part of the community as the Laundromat that once occupied their current space.
“We’re really looking to utilize all the great organic and local farms,” Amelia said. “We can say this came from that farm, and the community can see the vegetable in action. We really want this to be a restaurant where people feel comfortable asking questions about the community.”
“A lot of new restaurants pop into town, and it’s all about the penny,” Baker added. “It’s less about having fun and being happy where you are. We’re moving away from that. We want to be a neighborhood eatery.”
The Restaurant 415, located at 415 Mason St., is open 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm Tuesday through Sunday.