Fruit tarts are among the restaurant’s specialties. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

Savory meats nestle in Aussies’ pastry pouches

FORT COLLINS — In a neighborhood such as Fort Collins’ Campus West, which is dominated by its proximity to a university, how can businesses survive when most of those tens of thousands of students and staff go home for the summer? Especially shops as specialized as purveyors of Australian meat pies?

For Waltzing Kangaroo, the answer has come easily.

“We’re not 100 percent reliant on student business,” said co-owner Steve Phillips. “What happens here is that we only slow down twice a year. When school lets out, we’re slow for about a week until everybody’s gone. A lot of locals from the east side, who won’t come here because of all the students, finally come out and fill us back up all summer. Then just before school starts, they go away again — and then we’re back to the student business.”

Those savory meat pies don’t just draw locals, either. On one early June day, a woman named Donna who was visiting from the Australian city of Melbourne sat alone at a table, savoring a mid-morning meal of a sausage roll filled with herbs and spices, washed down by a traditional “flat white” espresso with velvety milk.

“This is just like back home,” she said, “especially this espresso. Here in America they make them so bitter, but this is silky smooth.”

Colorado State University’s international students also provide a faithful customer base, given that large numbers of them come from the Pacific Rim — including 34 percent from China and 3 percent each from South Korea and Taiwan.

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If you go

Waltzing Kangaroo

1109 W. Elizabeth St., Fort Collins

970-568-8817

waltzingkangaroo.com

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Still, Phillips has had to change little to cater to American tastes, he said, “because the two cultures are so similar. But we did have to change the names of a few things. Nobody knew what Mornay sauce was, so we had to call it ‘white cheese sauce,’ and instead of chicken satay, we had to label it ‘chicken and Thai peanut sauce.’

“We’ve also added a pork and green chile pie for local tastes,” he said, “and for Cinco de Mayo, we do a southwestern steak pie with oven-roasted poblanos and jalapenos.”

Steve Phillips is co-owner of the Waltzing Kangaroo, an Australian restaurant in Fort Collins. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

In August, when CSU’s football Rams are about to face the in-state rival Colorado Buffaloes, a special meat pie is named for CU’s iconic mascot. “The Ralphie is bison with mushrooms and garlic in a red wine gravy,” he said, “so you can eat the opposition!”

The recipes for the traditional meat pies come from Phillips’ youth in Terrigal, a town in the state of New South Wales on Australia’s east-central Pacific coast about 90 miles north of Sydney. The son of a pastry cook, he was familiar with gourmet meat pies and classic Australian sweets, and built on that knowledge by becoming part owner of a nearby bakery. By 2007 he was working full time at the busy Pie in the Sky Bakery in Erina, where about 40 different varieties of savory meat and vegetable pies were all made from scratch. Bones and vegetables were roasted for stock, then meats were cooked in the stock for hours or even days until tender, and the puff pastry and shortcrust were made fresh daily.

Phillips had met Aimee in 2004 while skiing at Colorado’s Keystone resort, and they were married two years later. By 2012 the couple was considering moving to America, but had to decide where to start a business. They first eyed the Lake Tahoe area in California’s Sierras, then turned their attention to Colorado.

“We rented a house in Denver for a month and thought we were going to open there, but it was so expensive,” Phillips said. “We looked around Boulder and then visited Fort Collins — and it took us just about two hours to decide Fort Collins felt like the right place. It just did. It was a gut feeling.”

Waltzing Kangaroo opened in March 2016 in its nearly 1,400-foot space, and has about 12 employees on its payroll. It’s open for breakfast with many of its meat pies, quiches, sweets and coffee drinks available, and by 11:30 a.m. it begins offering “tucker boxes” which pair a pie with a side dish and salad or two hot sides such as sweet potato mash, mushy peas, or mashed potatoes. An extensive menu of sweets includes a variety of fruit and custard tarts, apple turnovers and profiteroles — choux pastries dipped in chocolate ganache and filled with crème patisserie.

Catering is available, as well as delivery through GrubHub.

“We use no MSG and no high-fructose corn syrup,” Phillips said. “We make everything from scratch, every single day.” 

A chicken, avocado and bacon meat pie, with sweet potato mash, mushy peas, ginger beer and profiterole occupy this diner’s plate. Dallas Heltzell / for BizWest

FORT COLLINS — In a neighborhood such as Fort Collins’ Campus West, which is dominated by its proximity to a university, how can businesses survive when most of those tens of thousands of students and staff go home for the summer? Especially shops as specialized as purveyors of Australian meat pies?

For Waltzing Kangaroo, the answer has come easily.

“We’re not 100 percent reliant on student business,” said co-owner Steve Phillips. “What happens here is that we only slow down twice a year. When school lets out, we’re slow for about a week until everybody’s gone. A lot of locals from the east side, who won’t come here because of all the students, finally come out and fill us back up all summer. Then just before school starts, they go away again — and then we’re back to the student business.”

Those savory meat pies don’t just draw locals, either. On one early June day, a woman named Donna who was visiting from the Australian city of Melbourne sat alone at a table, savoring a mid-morning meal of a sausage roll filled with herbs and spices, washed down by a traditional “flat white” espresso with velvety milk.

“This is just like back home,” she said, “especially this espresso. Here in America they make them so bitter, but this is silky smooth.”

Colorado State University’s international students also provide a faithful customer base, given that large numbers of them come from the Pacific Rim…