Colorado is blessed with an abundance of fantastic produce (Palisade peaches and Olathe corn to name but two), and the veritable bounty of eating establishments of all shapes and sizes in Durango, from humble street food to fine dining - and everything in between - put it all to good use. In fact, a few years ago, Durango was said to have overtaken San Francisco as having the most restaurants per capita.
There are options here for everyone, but it is the impressive number of places that go above and beyond by offering locals and visitors everything from farm-to-table dining and inventive cocktails that wouldn't be out of place in Napa or Manhattan. In short, gastronomes will find themselves spoiled for choice.
For a great pre-hike breakfast, Carver Brewing is a good choice. Comforting staples done well and served in generous portions. Anything that comes with a hash of some kind is going to satisfy even the greediest in your party.
EL MORO SPIRITS AND TAVERN
A reincarnation of the original El Moro Saloon, it was here that on a frosty day in January 1906 a confrontation between Sheriff William Thompson and Marshall Jesse Stansel over the enforcement of gambling laws in front of the saloon ended with Sheriff Thompson dead. Today El Moro is a great place for a cocktail or a glass of wine before dinner as well as being a great place for dinner itself. The menu is not vast, but it is carefully curated and offers a range of dishes, some that nod towards the history of Durango (the scotch egg and root vegetable shepherd's pie), others that are locally made (the fermented lamb summer sausage), and others that are simply the best products available including cheeses and cured meats from Europe.
SEASONS OF DURANGO
Just down Main Avenue is Seasons of Durango, another welcoming restaurant that serves excellent food. The farmto-table menu uses as many local products as possible, many of which are then cooked on a grill or on a spit fueled by local oak. As the name suggests, the core of the Seasons menu changes every season. Dishes to try include spit-roasted free range half chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetable succotash and the grilled pork loin chop with fingerling potatoes.
The Ore House is a sort of wolf in sheep's clothing, so to speak, but in the best possible way. From the street, the Ore House looks unassuming, quaint and very appropriate for a town like Durango. Even inside it is modest with a warm, family-friendly vibe, but when you open the menu you'll find there is something of a happy incongruity. That isn't to say the decor and vibe isn't welcome, it very much is, it's just that the menu has been designed (and, as it turns out, is executed) by people who really know their onions, so to speak. The steaks are why people come here, and for good reason, but the sides - the brussels sprouts, the crab mac and cheese with hatch green chili, and the asparagus with bearnaise - turn a meal into a feast. And don't forget drinks. The Ore House has great cocktails and a wine list that is, at the time of writing, 16 pages long.
11TH STREET STATION
Casual eats are the order of the day at 11th Street Station, a collection of seven food trucks that come together around Ernie's Bar, a converted service station that stood for more than four decades from the 1920s. Drinks and food range from craft beer, coffee, tacos, pizza, sushi and even Indonesian cuisine.
Well-known to locals, Michel's Corner is run by Frenchman Michel Poumay. The creperie would be described these days as a food truck, and it is, but as it predates the food truck movement, it would be fair to describe it as a pioneer of sorts. Crepes have a reputation as a somewhat bland vehicle for whipped cream and strawberries, but Michel's crepes are a revelation and his Mennonite-built mobile creperie is a bona fide dining hot spot. The pulled pork and pan-fried goat cheese crepe expertly combines the sweet and tangy flavors of the main ingredients while the caramel apple and walnut crepe is perfectly sweet. The corner itself is a lovely place to spend an hour or so thanks to the cascading flowers that fill the square in summer; from mid-October Michel adds French onion soup to the menu which is surely going to be magnifique.
CREAM BEAN BERRY
If ice cream is more your thing when it comes to desserts, look no further than Cream Bean Berry. The scent of housemade waffle cones fill the air at this artisan ice creamery. The salted caramel is superb.
Photos (this page above): El Moro Spirits and Tavern; (below): Steamworks Brewing Co / DATO.; (opposite page above left): The Bookcase and Barber; (oppositepage above right and below): SKA Brewing / DATO