Sitting comfortably between the Fort Collins Utilities Building and the Fort Collins Municipal Court is a new little food spot—The Butterfly Café.
Owners Mike Falco and Ali Hatcher are serving craft breakfast and lunch items, as well as a variety of espresso options.
The 400-square-foot space may seem unconventional for a new restaurant, but Falco and Hatcher are no strangers to serving food from a quirky spot in the city. That is because they are also the owners of another Fort Collins favorite located in an alley—Dam Good Tacos.
About two years ago, the two started to think about different concepts for little restaurants. Their concept for the Butterfly Café was designed specifically for the building.
The building itself has some historical significance in Fort Collins. Due to its V-shaped cantilevered roof, the structure was nicknamed “the butterfly building.” It was built in 1964 and used to be the product testing laboratory for the Poudre Valley Creamery.
After some public deliberation, Fort Collins decided to lease the building as a public-private partnership to Falco and Hatcher.
The Butterfly Café had its soft opening April 10, but the grand opening with a full menu roll-out will take place May 1.
However, customers are encouraged to come and try out some of the unique things the café has to offer, such as the Dragon Latte. It contains two shots of espresso with steamed, spicy cashew milk, which is made in-house. Almond milk and pecan milk are also made in-house by Falco and Hatcher.
“We have a simple menu, but we do everything on it really well,” said Hatcher, who earned her master’s in public health from Colorado State University. “In the space, we (require ourselves) to make everything fresh daily. I think that’s a service to our customers because they get to experience food that is fresh and made right in front of them.”
Committing to the idea of local ingredients, Falco and Hatcher currently use coffee from the Coffee Registry, milk from Morning Fresh Dairy and croissants from La Creperie. Vegan, vegetarian and meat options are all offered at the Butterfly Café.
“We’ve been doing that at Dam Good Tacos since the beginning and we think it’s important to pay respect to all the dietary needs and restrictions,” Falco said. “We pride ourselves on being able to offer something real nice regardless of what your dietary needs might be.”
At 33 years old, Falco never thought he would be the owner of two restaurants. Much of what Falco knows about cooking comes from the time he spent working with a classically trained French chef at the first Dam Good Tacos location in Basalt.
As for 31-year-old Hatcher, cooking has always been a large part of her life. Growing up in her family meant a lot of cooking and a lot of big meals. Her many years of travel in Central America introduced her to a variety of cuisines and she worked as a private cook in Santa Cruz, California.
Though Hatcher is knowledgeable about cooking, her true passion is for coffee. During her days working on a coffee farm in Hawaii, Hatcher learned the entire process from tree to bag.
“I love the ritual of (coffee) and I love opening in the morning and being a place where people can come get their coffee and start their day,” Hatcher said.
Running a business is no easy task, but the two agree that their experience at Dam Good Tacos over the last five years has set them up for success at the Butterfly Café.
“We both have entrepreneurial spirits,” Falco said. “That’s how we see the world, so it was a natural fit to come into a space and figure out how to make it come alive.”
However, it is not the experience of running Dam Good Tacos alone that the duo draws upon.
“When you have a business, you are pulling from every skill and experience you’ve ever learned, from things you learned as a kid, to the places you’ve traveled, to the degrees you’ve received,” Hatcher said.
For Falco, one crucial experience he pulls from is the time he played football at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
“That was so hard,” Falco said, recalling his grueling early morning weightlifting sessions and practices. “We were held accountable at such a high level…That regimen has really helped me to run a business.”
Now the two are up at four in the morning every day—a time that their dog finds objectionable. It may be uncomfortable some days, but the passion for the restaurant overrides that.
“If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing,” Falco said.“You might not even be learning.”
Collegian reporter Zach Bermejo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zach_bermejo.