2nd Deli & Spirits owners wanted proper Italian sub, so they opened a restaurant

Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 10:59 PM
Colin Brunson, left, and Zach Williams show off beers and sandwiches at 2nd Deli & Spirits, a new deli in Downtown Durango. Brunson said the restaurant’s menu is based on classics he and Wilson grew up on, such as Reubens and roast beef subs.
A 6-inch Italian sub at 2nd Deli & Spirits. Zach William’s inability to find an Italian sub in downtown Durango was one of the inspirations for the new deli.

You would think Durango residents had never eaten a sandwich before when looking at the line out the door at the new 2nd Deli & Spirits.

The restaurant at 601 East Second Ave. opened on Aug. 13 and things haven’t slowed down since. The concept for the deli was formulated by friends Colin Brunson and Zach Williams, who met while working at J.Bo’s Pizza and Rib Co. Between the two of them, they have worked in the service industry for more than 20 years.

“We basically built something we wanted to go to. I want a footlong Italian and a beer. Where would you go for lunch? All right, I guess, let’s build it. It’s gonna take a minute,” Brunson said.

Luckily, Brunson found the place to do it. Prior to opening his own business, he was working nearby at Gazpacho, which is how he saw the leasing sign in the window at the corner shop.

“Colin hit me up and said, ‘Hey, this spot’s open. We should open a restaurant.’ I said, ‘Hey, I think that’s a terrible idea,’” Williams said.

Williams slept on it, and his unrelenting desire for a proper sub changed his mind.

He is from Burlington, Vermont, and Brunson is from the Kansas City and Chicago areas, where delis are as common as Durango’s bike racks.

“As soon as I moved here, I wanted a footlong Italian sub. I asked, ‘Where do you get one?’ And someone said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean what do I mean? I want a footlong Italian sandwich.’ I started getting a little distressed,” Williams said.

Brunson said the whole menu is based on classics they grew up on, such as Reubens and roast beef subs.

Other items include The Gobbler, made with turkey, bacon, white cheddar, apples and cranberry mayo on a 6-inch baguette; and Our Hot Pastrami, made on Jewish rye with Swiss cheese and spicy brown mustard, among other sandwiches. There are vegetarian options as well.

All items are around $8 to $12 and come with a large side of soup, salad, chips or coleslaw.

Western folk may be confused by the fried bologna sub written on the chalkboard menu, but it’s a nostalgic meal for Brunson. Every Saturday after soccer practice, his stepdad would take him to a German deli in Kansas City where they would order either a sausage or fried bologna sandwich.

“You either had it or you didn’t,” Brunson said.

Williams said the perfect deli sandwich starts with the bread. 2nd Deli sources its baguette sandwiches from local bakery Bread, which they said happen to be the most popular so far.

“The essential to any sandwich is just love,” Brunson said. “It’s making sure your portions are just right. It’s all about proportion.”

“More meat is not the answer,” Williams added.

Williams and Brunson know how to construct a perfect sandwich, but they both admit that their actual construction skills are subpar.

Their friend, Clayton Rundquist, who owns Rundquist Masonry, was over at the deli before construction began and offered some suggestions. Brunson asked him if he would agree to be the general contractor for them.

“Zach and I learned a lot about how we should stick to making sandwiches and let Clayton do all the stonewood and the carpentry,” Brunson said.

The 1,200-or-so-square-foot deli will hold 30 customers. The open space is bright and clean with three wooden communal tables and 12 seats around the L-shaped bar. On a Friday afternoon, the bar is covered with frosty pints. While not traditional in delis, the bar component was something Brunson and Williams knew they wanted to incorporate. “We’re both extremely outgoing social people, so for us to do this without a bar would probably not have worked,” Williams said.

The bar serves six signature cocktails, such as Billy’s Holiday, with Hendrick’s gin, basil and watermelon house-made simple syrups, lemon juice and club soda; and Sweet and Quite, made with Crop organic tomato vodka, basil simple syrup, lime and lemon juice topped with prosecco. The bar also has five taps, bottles and cans, which range from $3 to $5. Well drinks are $5.

Brunson and Williams are quick to give credit to people such as Bo Maloney from JBo’s (who they call a “brather” – a brother/father figure) for advice and help that made the restaurant possible. This includes their neighbors – who they are considering collaborating with in some capacity – at The Bookcase & Barber.

Currently, the hours for 2nd Deli are from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but Brunson and Williams would like to extend the times in both directions in the future. They also want to incorporate bike delivery and large to-go orders for the surrounding businesses, but they want to find their rhythm first. They currently are not selling meat from the counter but are considering doing so in the future.