Expect a great selection
of delectable pies, cookies, tea breads and cakes. As we talked
at one of her cozy tables, quirky country tunes played in the
Q. Where did the name Smiley’s come from? Is
it a nickname?
A. Yeah, Brian (Fortinberry, owner of Front
Range BBQ) calls me that. We’ve known each other about
six years. I was a waitress for him there, and we became friends.
I ended up doing catering with them and helping with
Q. How is this place different from the café you
ran previously in Old Colorado City called Amy’s?
A. We’ve got a bigger menu; it’s a
better location. This is more like a real restaurant. That was my
learning experience. I was there not even a full year. It
didn’t have a full kitchen, just an oven and extension
cords everywhere, which wasn’t a good thing. We do a lot
of similar things here: like the meatloaf with sweet tomato gravy
(I’m putting that on the winter menu) and a breaded pork
chop sandwich. We had sandwiches and soups and lasagna over
there, too, but here we do more sandwiches and more meats,
especially as the weather gets colder.
Q. To what do you credit your cooking skills?
A. I just always cooked. My mom never cooked,
so as soon as I left home I just started cooking and working in
restaurants. I learned an awful lot from Stacy Blakeley at the
Pampered Palace on Old Colorado, where Gertrude’s is
now. She was wonderful, and I knew her a long time. I learned a
lot from her. I read magazines and cookbooks and try new
Q. Do you know where that love of cooking comes
A. I like to eat! (Laughs) Maybe it’s the
colors. I’m an artist too. Everything here has to have
color. (Several of her paintings decorate the café, and
you can find more samples at Front Range BBQ. “I call it
doodling art,” she says. “I want to do more of it
but I just don’t have time.”)
Q. Where is home for you?
A. I’m from Jersey and the East Coast: I
lived in Nantucket, Massachusetts for 12 years, Martha’s
Vineyard and the Outer Banks. But I like it here. I’ve been
here since ’91. I used to go off in the summers, but I
don’t anymore. I love the mountains. I’m going to
get back into skiing this year.
Q. What are your favorite products from Ranch Foods
A. Ground buffalo, and the burger. I want to try
the cheeses. I’ve got to try a steak. I love pork and a
Q. How do you prepare the ground buffalo?
A. We made a bunch of meatloaf with it, and
meatballs (CLICK HERE for the recipe.) I
made a homemade roll, and we made a meatloaf sandwich with
onions and cheese. It went over really well. Also we did a
shepherd’s pie with the buffalo in it, pearl onions, other
vegetables and mashed potatoes on top. That also went over
Q. How choosy are you about your ingredients?
A. I like to get fresh local ingredients, and put
that money back into our town.
Q. You do almost all of the cooking here, don’t
A. Yes. But I have my daughters helping me.
Sadie and Emma (they are twins but not identical twins) help me
cook. You learn a lot of things to make ahead. I’m
making soups now to freeze them.
Q. What’s the outlook for small independent
restaurants like yours?
A. It’s hard. Normally this time of year I
thought I would be slowing down but I’ve been even
busier than in the summer. I think the cold weather is part of it.
So I’m doing alright. I’m still here. But you have to
be really careful with the ingredients and labor, because
rent’s high downtown.
Q. What’s your goal for this place?
A. I want to do dinners a few nights a week, get
my beer and wine license. I think it would be nice: it’s
cozy in here, and I could put candles on all of the