Celebrating 90 years with Silver Grill Cafe


The Silver Grill Cafe, located on Walnut Street in Old Town, is the oldest restaurant in Northern Colorado. Silver Grill provides a homey environment and is a master at comfort food from mouthwatering Cinnamon Rolls to savory Chicken Fried steak dinners.

Grant Coursey, Staff Reporter

Walking the streets of Old Town Fort Collins on a weekend morning, you might notice a line of people taking up space on Walnut Street. Summer or winter, rain or shine, there will be a morning line gathered around the unassuming brick building that houses one of Fort Collins’ most popular breakfast restaurants, the Silver Grill Cafe.

The Silver Grill Cafe is Fort Collins’ oldest operating restaurant and is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, operating continuously since 1933.


While the times have marched on, technology has improved, and the restaurant has changed hands four times since its founding, it still has the same classic feel of a diner from ages past with its historic wood floors and hand-painted signs faintly visible on the brick walls. That classic feeling is the goal of owners Alan and Jackie Jantzen, Alan Jantzen said.

“To be surrounded by that (history), it reinforces what we wanted to bring to Silver Grill,” Alan Jantzen said. “Really allow people to come into this beautiful downtown space but feel like they stepped back 50, 60 years in time and have good homemade, handcrafted breakfast or lunch. It’s a cool feeling.”

The Silver Grill Cafe was started by Leonidas “Flossie” Widger, who sold it to his son in 1949. Flossie’s son sold the restaurant to John Arnolfo in 1979. Arnolfo ran the restaurant for the longest of any one owner, 42 years, and was responsible for the restaurant’s expansion into surrounding storefronts to create the space it inhabits today.

Arnolfo is also responsible for the creation of the Silver Grill’s most famous attraction, its delicious cinnamon rolls, which are baked fresh every night. 

Arnolfo invented the monster rolls in 1986 at the peak of the ’80s cinnamon roll craze. With no background in baking, the experience was largely a process of trial and error — the first attempts closer resembling hockey pucks than pasties. 

Now the restaurant sells 10,000-12,000 rolls a month, Jantzen said.

Jantzen bought the restaurant in 2021 right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and is still close friends with the previous owner, but his affection for the restaurant stems back to high school when he would eat there when traveling through Fort Collins.

Even before he bought the restaurant, Jantzen said he loved to pick up a cinnamon roll to take back to his office when he was in Old Town or to connect with friends over breakfast there.

“I worked (for) 30 years downtown,” Jantzen said. “I really worked there for 30 years so I could be here. That’s what I was doing. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what was going on.”


Jantzen said the restaurant feels like home when he eats there and that the atmosphere is due in no small part to the staff and their amazing work.

“The expectation of the restaurant is so great, and when people go away with a memory or a story to tell or they can’t wait to come back even if they are visiting, … there’s just a feeling,” Manager Theresa Wright said. “If you can send people away with that feeling and we didn’t disappoint them —they came here for that feeling and they are leaving with that feeling — that’s why I do what I do.”

The restaurant’s importance to the Fort Collins community is another driving force behind the staff’s commitment to the business.

After teaching preschool for two years, new hire and Fort Collins native Kodey Bakken said he was looking to get back into the restaurant industry, and the hometown feel of Silver Grill is what made him decide to apply for the job.

“I love it,” Bakken said. “It’s a great restaurant. Everyone here is super friendly. I already love the customers. I have already seen so many locals, people I know. Three of my former students came in here for breakfast today. I feel connected to the community working here, definitely.”

This commitment to community and quality service has created noticeable results with a near-constant line out the door and high praise from local regulars.

Al Underwood, ex-president of the Fort Collins Newcomers Club, a club designed to help new residents of Fort Collins get out and meet other newcomers, said the organization had been coming to breakfast at the restaurant twice a month for two years.

“They have been really nice to us,” Underwood said. “None of the restaurants locally take reservations for breakfast. But we tell them a day ahead that we are going to show up at 9 o’clock with 16 people, and they are always ready for us. They do a real nice job and help us out.”

Jantzen said he felt honored that Arnolfo was willing to sell him the restaurant a year and a half ago and was excited to celebrate the restaurant’s last 90 years while preparing it to run for another hundred.

Reach Grant Coursey at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @GrantCoursey.