Catching a fish and cooking it for dinner can be one of the coolest – and freshest tasting – meals out there.
Most likely, you might expect to find a restaurant with a hook-and-cook program near a marina or lakefront, but sometimes, a little puddle near the house might surprise you.
There is exactly such a small, landlocked pond a short drive from Greeley at Ted’s Sweetwater Grill in the Windsor RainDance community. The pond is one of the man-made bodies of water in the Water Valley development.
Located on the corner of Crossroads and Covered Bridge Parkway, this family-friendly neighborhood restaurant operates its own bait shop adjacent to the restaurant’s patio. Ted’s trout stocks with rainbow trout from a Nebraska fish farm and receives about 500 stocks per week. At any given time, there are approximately 1,000 fish waiting for a hook.
Most people take their catch home after the restaurant has cleaned it up and put it on ice, said Matt Nagel, RainDance’s director of food and beverage. But the grill can also fry your beer mixture and fry your catch, then serve it fish and chips style with French fries and a side of tartar sauce.
Summers are busier, with at least 100 fish caught each week, said Carter Emsing, one of the fishermen working at the bait shop.
“The fishermen are trying to figure out how the trout behave and help the kids who come to fish,” he said.
Any age can cast a spell, though Emsing said the majority of people who fish are children or those who don’t have much fishing experience. After tying the trout, guests are asked to wrap it up and either keep it or if they don’t want to, they can donate the fish to the Rocky Mountain Raptor program in Fort Collins. Guests are not allowed to catch and release.
To fish, a $12 per day pass is required, which includes entry to the private pond, fishing rod, bait and enclosure donated by Scheels. There is a refundable deposit of $40 for fishing gear. The cost of the fish depends on the size of the massive you catch—it’s $1.25 per inch and you pay for what you pull in the water, which Emsing said is between 11 and 20 inches.
It costs $3 to clean your fish to take home, or you can have the chef at the restaurant cook it for you. Drop a line, pull your dinner out of the water and then sit back, relax and think about a jumble of found objects hanging from restaurant beams while waiting for your meal.
For non-hunters, Ted’s all-day menu, designed by Executive Chef John Wightman, is diverse, but showcases ingredients that have been either grown or raised in Colorado.
There is a huge selection of burgers, including Grandma’s Burger, the sweetheart of the house, topped with brie, fig, spinach, pepper and lemon. Fish and seafood keeps the water theme alive, without the need for processing. Try the black shrimp tacos with cucumber slaw, carrots, and spicy Thai aioli, or the trout or walleye tacos.
Landlubbers (non-fish lovers) can have the same tacos with grilled chicken.
Classic bites include a Cobb salad, and shares such as the shrimp and cheese curd cocktail and spinach and artichokes.
After 5 p.m., the menu expands but stays on course with fish, including grilled eye fish or scallops, and a steaming Cioppino filled with shrimp, oysters, mussels, and walnuts in a spicy tomato broth. There are also Colorado raised steak frites prepared with a 10-ounce ribeye and served with truffle fries.
On the weekends, Grills serves brunch with delicious omelets, eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy—all of which comes with a satisfying pile of green chili cheddar fries served hash-style. Your sweet tooth will be perfectly satiated with French toast, and brunch buffs will enjoy another fishy menu option: smoked salmon with capers, eggs and cheese on bread.
The brunch menu also offers burgers, tacos and reuben, because people’s hunger juices have been known to be speeded up at different times on the weekends.
Ted’s Sweetwater Grill was formerly the Colorado Cherry Company, which still operates out of Ted’s kitchen as a rep for baking beloved waffles and desserts. The cherry pie shop in the entrance sells pies, fruit sauces and candy.
Ted is named in honor of Martin Lind’s father, Windsor developer Ted Lind, who farmed the neighborhood where the restaurant now sits, growing wheat, corn, pinto beans and sugar beets, according to the site.
The farm-to-table theme has been incorporated into community living in RainDance; Residents can pick cherries and peaches in season. Behind Ted is an actively planted cornfield. Halloween week comes Oktoberfest with a corn maze and a big family celebration at the restaurant.
But the experience of hooking and cooking slows down time, remembering the days when life was slower and our relationship with the earth around us seemed closer. In a sense, it’s an opportunity to take a little vacation, just minutes from home.
hours: From 11 am to 8 pm Wednesday and Thursday | Friday from 11 am to 9 pm | From 9 am to 9 pm on Saturday | Sunday from 9 am to 8 pm | Brunch 9 am to 2 pm Saturday and Sunday |
where: 2191 Covered Bridge Parkway, Windsor, CO 80550
Contact: For fishing and other information: 970-460-1720 | tedssweetwatergrill.com
other details: Indoor and patio dinner (water view) | Full bar with craft cocktails, beer and wine
RainDance residents get their first five inches of catch for free using their River Resort PIN. Water Valley residents can get the same offer through their registration card | Follow on social media for events | Tent available for private parties | Check the website for additional fishing details