Lucile’s spices up local restaurant scene

When I returned to Colorado in 1990 from my out of state hiatus, I decided that I should live in Boulder, as I thought it held the greatest chance ofbeing a “cool” place. After six months, I decided I actually loathed it. I was paying California-sized living expenses and not enjoying any of the Golden State’s social orcultural benefits. Sure it was pretty, but a view of the Flatirons only goes so far. A quick relocation to Fort Collins yielded immediate rewards, but I was sad to leave behind a few things. One of them was Lucile’s Creole Cafe nearthe Pearl Street Mall. Lucile’s does breakfast and lunch like few places in the charted universe. I was getting in the habit of perching there three
mornings a week and contemplated commuting from Northern Colorado after the move. It’s that good. Fort Collins over time has acquired the other things I missed from my time in Boulder (an Alfalfa’s, good French bread, real coffee and great pizza)
and now has completed my wish list with the imminent arrival of a Lucile’s at 400 S. Meldrum St., across from the Lincoln Center. It has not opened as of this writing, but local partner Tony Hanks told me that it should be by the weekend of Jan. 28. My taste buds are shaking like
a terrier hearing the jingle of car keys. Specializing in Cajun and Creole cooking, Lucile’s was founded 15 years ago by Fletcher Richards and has been a huge success in Boulder. The weekends see the restaurant serve between 400 and 500 people a day, and in the summer, folks congregate outside on the lawn reading the
morning paper, sipping coffee and waiting for one of the coveted tables. Richards started Lucile’s (named after his mother) and a couple of years later hired chef Mickey Samuels. Using recipes from their respective families
and those developed along the way, the true taste of Louisiana comes through in the food. Hanks, who hails from Karlan, La., assured me that the
current Lucile’s recipes will be used in Fort Collins as well. Karlan is located below Lafayette, smack dab in the heart of Cajun country, so I figure Hanks must know his way around a plate of red beans. Some clarification of terms may be in order here. A Creole is a descendent of Spanish or French Europeans who settled among the peoples of the
West Indies and the southern parts of North America. A Cajun is a descendent of the French Canadian peoples who emigrated to Louisiana from
Acadia. Creole food is generally more refined, elegant and subtle; Cajun fare tends to be more spicy, robust and rural in nature. So, with Cajun food you see the blackening spices, gumbos and jambalaya, and Creole cooking deals more with the tomato sauces, spinach and
lighter cuisine. The subtleties are lost on me; I simply like it all. The menu at Lucile’s is brisk and straight-forward. Breakfast is thankfully served all day, and items include Eggs Sardou (poached eggs atop creamed
spinach and gulf shrimp), Pain Perdu (New Orleans-style French toast) and the usual list of Southern suspects: grits, red beans, wonderful sausage
gravy and some of the biggest buttermilk biscuits ever to fit on a plate. One of the highlights at Lucile’s is Cafe au Lait. Delicious half coffee and half steamed milk served in giant hand-painted bowls. Maybe it’s a
gimmick, but it works. Lunches feature Etoufee, Creole, Gumbo Po’ Boy sandwiches and various salads. And of course they have beignets, those wonderful sopapilla-like
donuts. I asked Hanks if locating Lucile’s at the corner of Meldrum and Magnolia amidst the ghosts of so many failed restaurants scared him, and he assured
me it wasn’t a big concern of his. On the contrary, he figures that the location between downtown, the university and the Lincoln Center will be ideal.
He thought restaurants sometimes have a good location but may miss due to timing or formula. The location chosen in Fort Collins is very similar to
the one in Boulder, right down to the fact that they are both in elegant old houses. Lucile’s is slated to be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends. The restaurant will seat 65, and when summer
makes its rounds, the outside patio will hold another 25. I’m praying they will start some sort of frequent-flyer program for breakfast junkies.