I started writing this article before this fantastic 5 episode podcast was released, all about the local Colorado Springs food scene, from the restaurant chefs to the farmers and local producers. It is an insightful commentary about the struggles the market faces and features interviews with the chefs and producers trying to shake the stigma of Fast Food Nation and the insidious creep of corporate chain restaurants.
I grew up somewhere it was easy to shop locally. Restaurant and national grocery chains were limited, and most of the “chains” were locally owned, operated, and very, very regional. And despite the push to corporatize my hometown, there are still more local restaurants than large chains.
I also come from a family that went to the turkey farm to stock up for Thanksgiving and the winter; that went to the butcher shop to buy our “hamburg” and steaks. Supporting the local food suppliers was just part of life in our community. Everyone went to Raymond’s and Mike’s.
But I do not live in a place like that anymore. I’ll say it. I live in a local food/restaurant desert. I knew there were a lot of chain restaurants in Colorado. However, I was not expecting the sheer volume of fast food spots I’ve encountered in Colorado Springs. Over a dozen national fast-food chain restaurants are within a mile of my home. And neighborhoods like that are so common around here, I don’t even feel like this gives away my location. In a city as large as Colorado Springs, it is far more difficult to find locally produced fresh and prepared food than I’ve experienced in any small town in New Hampshire. It has been hard to grapple with as someone who loves excellent local food.
Today I will go over some of the best spots to find locally grown, produced, and prepared in Colorado Springs. I’ll do another article in a few months with some of my favorite restaurants in the Springs, but that deserves its own article and more of my own time since I’d like to try at least a half dozen more spots around town before committing a list of my faves.
Farmer’s markets have become a huge source of fresh produce and locally-made goods for me and my kitchen.
Located in Bancroft Park in Old Colorado City every Saturday from June until October, this farmer’s market is full of all the best local products. I’m amazed at what new item finds its way into my hands each time I visit.
The Colorado Farm & Art Market runs twice weekly on Wednesdays at the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum downtown and Saturdays at the Margarita at Pine Creek from June through October. Allowing you to shop for local food and art. Everything sold at this market must be grown or produced locally.
I’m not sure if they’ll be back after the summer hiatus (their site says yes, but I have anxiety, and they haven’t sent any updates)… but the SoCo Virtual Farmer’s Market was invaluable to me throughout the pandemic. I bought so much wonderfully delicious local food, and it was so easy since I could shop online every week and schedule a pick-up on Saturdays. I hope it comes back majorly.
These shops make it incredibly simple to eat locally at home.
Ranch Foods has two locations, one on Fillmore near the old North End and one more east on Town Center Drive. The location on Fillmore carries a slightly more extensive selection of locally made goods. In the last three years, I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve bought butter, eggs, and milk at a regular grocery store. I bought some chicken at Costco once, but all the meat I’ve cooked home has come from RFD. It’s like you can taste that the owner cares about his employees and his animals. And you’ll often find him, the owner, Mike Callicrate, stocking the cold cases or weighing out a customer’s preferred cut of meat. More importantly, I think RFD’s prices remained consistent and well-stocked throughout the pandemic. As a result, we never lost access to bare cooking essentials like dairy, meat, fresh vegetables, and a rotating selection of locally made bread, pastries, and grains.
Bread & Butter has a (whispers) gentrified bodega vibe. Minus the cat and the cigarettes. At least, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat in there. At Bread & Butter, you will find tons of locally made items like pantry staples, produce, meat, and baked goods. There’s a little overlap with what you’ll find at RFD but with a more extensive selection. Bread & Butter also has a beer and wine department, as well as serving up fresh coffee. Bread & Butter is located on Nevada Ave in Downtown Colorado Springs.
Situated between downtown and Old Colorado City, this market is full of locally-made (when possible) food, body care products, and bulk products with a specialty focus on the organic and natural. While I have my personal feelings about the whole “organic” trend and its overuse, Mountain Mama has been at it for over four decades (the store opened in 1979). So if I’m on the lookout for organic and local, I’m going to put more faith in a locally operated shop that’s been around longer than I have over, say… a store that rhymes with Swole Fools.
Favorite Producers to Buy Directly From
While I pick up Sawatch products from one of the local grocery stores mentioned above, occasionally, I’ll order directly or make my way to one of the farmer’s markets to get my Aged Gouda fix. Lately, their aged premium gouda has been my favorite splurge for my breakfast sandwiches. You feel like you’re doing something terrible when you eat it because it’s so good. It has to be a crime to enjoy that cheese as much as I do. I also love their butter. I exclusively use their European-style butter in my kitchen. When the grass-fed version is available, I scoop it up. As many as my wallet will allow. Now that the weather is starting to cool down, it’s perfect to have some cheese shipped to you. You can thank me later.
I generally wouldn’t consider myself a candy or chocolate lover. Don’t get me wrong, I like chocolate, but when presented with the option between ice cream and a ribeye, I always go with the ribeye. That makes my opinion on candy that much better because I won’t just throw any old sweet thing into my mouth, which is why I’m going to tell you that Bon Bon Bombardier is one of the best confection makers. They are creative and inventive with their candies and chocolates. I particularly love the simplicity of their pine pollen (I think? It’s been a while since I got my hands on one) salt chocolate bars. They also make gourmet s’mores kits, and hell, yes—my favorite post-grilling dessert.
Snowberry Bakehouse is one of my favorite pandemic finds. Early on, I looked for many ways to support local businesses. So, I heard about a local bar/event venue that was doing deliveries of kits with cocktails and snacks for a stay inside romantic weekend for two. There were evening snacks and breakfast snacks. Cocktails, wine, and coffee completed the box. It was adorable. One of the treats came from a local baker who, I later learned, primarily serviced larger catering clients and restaurants all around the city. The response to their delicious and lovingly crafted “pop tarts” became a monthly opportunity for the public to purchase directly from the bakery. I try to pick some up at every chance I get. Snowberry is also a creative bakery that combines ingredients in a new way that always surprises me.
Although not located in Colorado Springs, Elevation Gourmet makes some of the best-tasting ketchup I have ever tried. Based in Denver, Elevation services many restaurants all over the state and offers direct-to-consumer shopping through its website. I love the original variety. The restaurant variety is a little bland, but if you like Heinz, it’s similar. I prefer the added herbs and spices in the original.
Do you have any favorite food makers, farmers, or producers in Colorado Springs that I missed? What about in your city or state? Let me know in the comments below.