When The Mainline opened in 2013, it wasn’t with too much excitement from the beer community, despite the huge marketing attempt made by the Breck-Wynkoop group. They gave us huge promises of a unique space with upscale food with a southern comfort flair. A list of those involved with menu creation from the Denver Westword lists a half dozen people, none of which I could point out enjoying a pint at another local bar. It was a faceless, corporate business, giving the typical reaction of “meh” from local residents about their experiences.
I went a few times in the first couple months. The massive space was indeed unique. Reused piping creates a “tree- house” effect throughout the building that really brings character to the space. The upstairs bar is filled with all kinds of random things encased in resin that help start some great conversations. A rooftop patio is a not to miss feature of The Mainline. Just try to count the number of unique light fixtures here, just try. But that was where the awe stopped for me.
From sub par food like a shrimp po’ boy containing only 3 pieces of shrimp on an 8″ bun, to poor service from a waitstaff who preferred to chat with each other than work, the first few months at The Mainline was rough for everyone. While I never all out avoided the place after the first couple negative experiences, I never strive to go there either. I would accompany a friend now and then for drinks on the rooftop, occasionally indulging in the Angry Mac n Cheese as that was all I trusted from the menu.
But I wanted to like them, I really did! So when I received an email from a company handling their marketing, asking me to come try out their brunch menu, for free, at first I ignored it. I typically don’t do reviews on this blog anyways, and something about offering me free stuff reeks of desperation. But he was persistent. Even though this person worked for a marketing group, he was excited about the restaurant and the menu. He kept emailing me, which put a face to a business I had considered faceless for so long. Then, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of her drinks at The Mainline stating “I am giving them one more shot, but only because of the Fort Collins Passport“. This opened a whole conversation about The Mainline and why people choose to go there or not. I figured I should give them another chance, too.
We finally found a time that would work and headed out for an early brunch at The Mainline. We were the first one’s in that day. The boyfriend was worried about getting seated and out the door in time for his job that afternoon. He didn’t realize how large of a space The Mainline is and that finding a seat is not going to be a problem. We snagged a seat overlooking College Ave on the rooftop. It really is gorgeous up there, plus you get a good view of some ghost signs you can’t see from street level.
I went in looking for one thing that day, person-ability. I wanted to feel a connection to the people who worked here. I wanted to continue attaching faces to The Mainline and distance it farther from the corporate world of Breck-Wynkoop. I had barely even sat down yet before I got what I asked for. One of the bartenders from the first floor saw me walk in, and made the journey all the way to the rooftop to greet me, “I saw you come in, and had a quick break so wanted to come say hi!”. He had served me previously before a couple times, and remembered me, and going out of his way to say hi is exactly the personable experience I was looking for.
Our server was amazing as well, chatting with us about the different menu items she liked. Our service was quick and the food was original. I ordered the Buttermilk Chicken and Waffles, that came with a giant pile of maple bacon to go with the spiced rum infused syrup. I loved the melted slices of brie on top of the perfectly cooked waffles, the cream helped to blend all of the flavors together. The dish also featured watercress and orange marmalade. If I wasn’t still working on my bloody mary (maybe the service was too quick), my plan was to order a coffee stout to go with this rich dish.
The boyfriend ordered the Pulled Pork Hash that came with their homemade tater tots. The dish looks like a colorless mass, but was actually damn tasty. Some of the color was lost, as it normally comes with eggs and he took them off. It was a mix of pulled pork, sweet potatoes and red peppers that had a kick to it. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the texture of the potatoes, as they were a bit mushy.
We finished out the meal with a Pateros Creek Mainline, made exclusively for the restaurant, and a Pimm’s Cup. We may have enjoyed the Pimm’s Cup a bit, as we fought over the last few sips of its very short existence. I had planned to pair the brown ale aged on bourbon barrel staves with the Chocolate Beignets, but unfortunately there was an issue with the fryer and they weren’t able to cook them properly. I am going to assume the fryer wasn’t hot enough yet. At a year old, this is kind of a silly issue for a restaurant to have. I was disappointed I didn’t get to try either of my anticipated beer pairings choices, but still satisfied in my meal.
All in all, I think The Mainline has gotten a bad rap from their rough get go. Aside from this brunch visit, I also scheduled a meeting with Kim from Grouse Malting and Brewing here. We both enjoyed our experience that day, with delicious shrimp tacos on special and a couple beers over industry chatter. The food is more innovative than what is offered at most places around Old Town. Their mixed drinks are delicious, but expect to have most of your beer choices be Breckenridge and Wynkoop. Plus, their rooftop patio is my favorite in town.