Students should consider local alternatives to chain restaurants

Laurel Thompson

In my last column, I addressed the easily-overlooked issues regarding corporate coffee being served at “Intermissions: Proudly Serving Starbucks” in the Lory Student Center. While it is important to support local and student-run businesses on campus, the issue extends far beyond coffee shops and the LSC.

Compared to other cities of its size, Fort Collins has one of the most diverse and abundant restaurant scenes, making it home to hundreds of businesses, both locally and corporately owned. Since there are so many options relating to each ethnic style of food, and are all in relative proximity to one another, it is easy to choose local alternatives to big chains when deciding where to eat.


For example, Red Lobster is usually the only seafood restaurant that comes to mind for people in Fort Collins, considering the overwhelming number of advertisements and complications our landlocked state causes for fish lovers. However, there are several other higher-quality seafood restaurants that follow local and ethical methods in their small businesses.

Although it is impossible to get truly local exotic fish and sushi, Jeju Sushi and Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar offer higher quality seafood at a comparable price than the mass-produced fish that Red Lobster ships all over the country. Unlike Red Lobster, Jax’s menu features some of Colorado’s best fish in addition to the coastal delicacies shipped by partners Seafood Watch, The Blue Ocean Institute, Sea to Table and Fish Choice, who all practice sustainable methods in their fisheries. In addition, Jax uses “farm-fresh produce” from the local Quatrix Aquaponics, Garden Sweet and Native Hill Farm in their salads when seasonally available.

Jeju, on the other hand, emphasizes not only quality of exotic seafood, but the history and value of the Japanese culture. This can especially be seen through the shop’s sushi etiquette, which emphasizes technique and respect regarding how to eat certain dishes — and finishing all the food on the plate — because it is extremely rude to waste food in the Japanese culture. Because of this, and the wide variety of sushi, entrees and sake, Jeju is a valuable experience for those looking for a traditional Japanese meal, which is especially unique in Fort Collins.

While seafood might not be the best example of exclusive Fort Collins food, it best illustrates the accessibility of non-chain local businesses as alternatives to the giant corporations that commonly run them out of business. Yet not only are they accessible, local businesses typically embody the values of the Fort Collins community –  like sustainability, organic food, fair treatment of animals, community, nonprofits and farms, which make for high-quality food that is irreplaceable at the franchise level.

Regarding other types of food, some of my favorite local alternatives to chain restaurants are Dam Good Tacos, Choice City Butcher, The Wild Boar, Thai Pepper, Restaurant 415 and Pizza Casbah – several of which have been featured on the Food Network. 

So next time you choose where to eat, remember that for every IHOP there is a Silver Grill, for every TCBY there is a Kilwin’s and for every Starbucks there is always better coffee.

Collegian Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at, or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.