At 77 and 76 years of age, Frances and Claudine Garcia have reopened a smaller version of Francisco’s Restaurante Y Cantina, an iconic fixture on Durango’s restaurant scene for 46 years.
“We’re back to the same size as when we started in 1968,” Francis Garcia said. “We had one small section, and eventually, we expanded and added two more.”
The Garcias opened the original Francisco’s in October 1968 after buying Joe’s Place, which had only seven tables.
At its peak in September 2013, the restaurant seated 280. It was sold that month to Michelle and Dan Featheringill of Santa Fe and then eventually closed in November 2014. This new version of Francisco’s has about 90 seats.
The Garcias own the building in the 600 block of Main Avenue, and the new Francisco’s will occupy the third of the building previously occupied by Cerda 7 Cantina y Comida.
When Francisco’s closed, the Garcias subdivided the building to make it more flexible for renters. Moose on the Loose, an outdoor wear and gear store that expanded from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Lone Spur Cafe are the other occupants.
Executive Director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce Jack Llewellyn welcomed the return of an “iconic presence on the corner of College and Main.”
Llewellyn said the Garcias’ ownership of the building helped make a smaller-scale restaurant viable for the family and returns a restaurant synonymous with Durango among many regular tourists.
The new Francisco’s will serve all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner. Garcia said it will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sunday for about a month, until the restaurant hits its stride and expands hours.
“The one thing we never lost was the recipes. We’ll serve New Mexican food, and we’re not in competition with any other restaurants. Most of the other restaurants are serving cuisine from regions of Mexico,” he said.
Cuisine will feature red and green chile in burritos, enchiladas, tacos, tamales and other dishes. For breakfast, the restaurant features huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos.
Once the restaurant is more established, Garcia said he may add entrées such as the popular prime rib special on Fridays and Saturdays.
The new restaurant opened Saturday and Sunday, and Garcia said he had old regular customers thanking him for re-opening.
“People who were our customers, it was so nice to see them again,” he said.
Garcia said he wanted to take some time renovating for the re-opening. He still had contacts with plumbers, electricians, refrigeration and contractors who helped get his section of the building back in shape.
The restaurant has hired several former employees – three of whom worked at the original Francisco’s for 27 years. He plans to have 20 total employees, a mix of part- and full-time.
Garcia said he expects various members from the family will eventually be returning to help at the restaurant. His grandchildren, Roger Garcia and Claudia Garcia, have been helping him every day get the new restaurant up and running, he said.
“I’m 77. I have maybe one good year to train people, and then I think my son will be running the restaurant and whichever grandchildren want to help,” he said.
Skip Garcia, his son, helped prepare the property for opening and said he eventually will relocate from Tucson, Arizona, to help with the restaurant.
“My dad had a strong feeling for re-establishing the restaurant for him and for the future of the family, and I think he really felt this was the only opportunity he’d have to take it back if that’s what he wanted to do,” Skip Garcia said. “And people missed it. They kept asking him, ‘When are you going to reopen?’”
Frances Garcia said completing the work needed to open and run a restaurant is a little harder for him at 77, but the effort has been worth it.
“Re-opening, it’s been exciting. It’s better than sitting in my chair watching TV at home,” he said. “How much fishing can you do?”