Amid the chain restaurants and six-lane roads, an independent neighborhood gem emerges.
THREE YEARS AGO, I was delighted to discover Jim and Jennie Edwards’ Door 222 in Loveland, which I happened upon by happy accident. Door 222 and some other creative eateries, distilleries and breweries helped Loveland up its food game in recent years, and now Fort Collins fans of Executive Chef Matt Smith’s creations can find his touch at Locality Kitchen and Bar, the Edwardses’ latest restaurant located on Harmony, just west of Front Range Village.
Locality is a more three-course dinner concept than tapas and small plates, though there are some delightful appetizers from which to choose. “The offerings are creative and seasonal,” Jim Edwards says, “but the experience is more traditional than what we offer at Door 222. We wanted a neighborhood feel, and southeast Fort Collins dining was primarily chains. We knew we could fill a void.”
The concept behind Locality is to create a farm-to-table experience—that’s a loaded and buzz-wordy term, but it’s clear that the food Smith works with is about more than the newest trends. He’s much more interested in the relationships he’s forged over the years with local farmers such as Fossil Creek Farms, “where product is valued.” “I’m excited to work with them,” he says. “They grow really quality stuff, and they’ve been doing it a long time.” These partnerships yield the best produce, seafood, and animals—heirloom pumpkins from Buena Vida, Alamosa Striped Bass and spring lamb from Motherlove Organic Farm are only a few examples. But it’s the word “relationship” that both Smith and Edwards come back to time and again.
For Smith, the relationship is with the food and the people who grow it or raise it. It’s about using the whole animal, nose to tail, or creating new dishes with Colorado produce. The food is beautiful, but not at all stuffy or formal. It’s hearty, tuck-in-and-devour deliciousness that follows the seasons. And as part of Locality’s commitment to sustainability, freshness and locally sourced food, plans are in the works for a hydroponic wall that will grow herbs, vegetables, and microgreens in house year round.
For Edwards, the idea of relationship has a different focus. Locality is a place to foster a sense of community among the patrons and the staff. It’s not unusual to see diners leaving after a meal only to stop and chat with several other folks on their way out. “It’s become a gathering place for southeast Fort Collins residents,” Edwards says. “I’ve seen it take someone 20 minutes just to get out the door because they keep seeing someone else they know.”
In making a place “where everybody knows your name,” Edwards also credits his staff. “I have learned to hire the right people,” he says. “You can teach someone with limited experience the restaurant business, but people skills are either there or they aren’t.”
His words ring true. My experience at Locality was stellar in part because of my server, Sadie. I enjoyed a Tuesday happy hour and a good book, dining alone. Too often, single diners are given short shrift. Not so at Locality. Sadie took the time to give me some history, recommend a good wine and, when I asked for help choosing between appetizers, she recommended the gnudi without hesitation—“Hands down, my favorite item on the menu.” She did not steer me wrong, and even brought a spoon so I could get every bit of saucy goodness from the bottom of my bowl.
The décor at Locality follows the warmth of the service, with exposed HVAC and brick paired with warm greys and browns, wood and leather, local art and more than a bit of the owner’s own sweat equity. Edwards fashioned the booths and created the batten-board wainscoting himself, and also created a bar top and shelves from reclaimed semi-trailer flooring. Smith’s wife, Nicole, (find her work on Facebook under “Woodsmith Girl”) is responsible for the earthy, distressed tables throughout the restaurant and the sliding barn doors that create a separate dining space in the back for private parties. As with the food, one can feel the investment in the building itself—a community coming together to make a relaxed space where diners might want to linger and feel at home.
Keep an eye out for pairing dinners throughout the year, where Smith creates specific dishes to complement specially selected wine and beer. These are opportunities for diners to learn more about the food they are eating and are also a chance to experience innovative beer and wine choices. Future plans also include bringing farmers in to do presentations about the food they’ve grown and that Smith prepares.
Locality Kitchen and Bar is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and they serve brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Happy hour specials daily, 4 to 6 p.m.
2350 East Harmony Road #1, 970-568-8351, localityfoco.com
Locality: What to Drink
The bar is as distinctly Colorado-focused as the menu, offering eight local taps from Horse and Dragon, Zwei, Odells, Grimm Brothers, New Belgium, Black Bottle and Funkworks.
Spirits from local distilleries make for some creative cocktails, like a blackberry gin fizz, using Lyon’s-based Spirit Hound Gin, or a Forager’s Old Fashioned, created with Tincup Mountain Whiskey.