Herald Staff Report
Durango tourism officials and business leaders like to boast that Durango has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. And La Plata County residents have joked that “Durango is a great place to look for parking and get something good to eat.”
But the Durango dining experience came to a screeching halt four weeks ago when Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham if you’re in New Mexico) ordered the closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Or did it?
Most Durango-area restaurants remain open, offering take-out and delivery services.
Eating out has changed, but it hasn’t gone away. Here is a sampler of the many take-out options. For a list of area restaurants offering take-out and delivery service, visit www.downtowndurango.org/restaurants.
Seasons Rotisserie & GrillWhen I think of Seasons Rotisserie & Grill, one of Durango’s premier restaurants, my next thought isn’t “... and make it to-go!” But here we are, mid-pandemic, with restaurants closed statewide. So I thought I’d give it a try.
I called Seasons about 7 p.m. on a Saturday and got a message with the to-go menu options and a pickup schedule: 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. On Wednesday, Scott Wells, a Seasons manager, returned my call and confirmed my order: duck confit with mashed potatoes, molasses-glazed carrots and cherry demi-glace ($18); a slice of chocolate decadence cake ($6) and a Myrcenary Double IPA from Odell Brewing in a can. Other entrées from Chef Shane included a 10-ounce rib eye, half chicken, salmon filet and lasagna. Meat and cheese plates are also available.
Take-out customers can go to the main location at 764 Main Ave. in downtown Durango or the Mercado Corner Market in Three Springs. Wells, wearing a face mask and gloves, had my order ready in a to-go bag. Inside were three paper boxes and instructions for how to sear the duck, warm the sauce (on the stovetop) and heat the carrots and potatoes (in the oven). It’s not as pretty as plated in the restaurant, but it was every bit as delicious.
My family often dines in at Pop Sushi (42 County Road 250 No. 400, Durango). In addition to the food, which is dependably good, we also enjoy the ambiance, especially the sushi chefs plying their trade and the clatter of cocktail mixing. With dine-in service shut, we did the next-best thing on a recent Saturday and ordered some of our Pop Sushi standards to go, for pickup.
We phoned our order in a little after 6:30 p.m. They said it would take 45 to 50 minutes to prepare soup, edamame and sushi rolls for four. When we arrived at 7:30, we had to wait just a couple of minutes to get our order, delivered with friendly, personal service. The food was just as good as ever. We’ll definitely do this again.
James Ranch GrillOne of the great parts of going to James Ranch Grill (33846 U.S. Highway 550, Durango), besides the tender beef, is gazing just beyond it to the ranch ponds where the beeves always look fat and happy. You still get to do that with to-go orders now, as I discovered recently when I called in an order from their online menu for two of their basic burgers, medium-rare, with fingerling fry sides. The ranch cheerfully took the order and said it would be ready in 10 minutes – which was faster than I could get there, but their timing was spot-on. And don’t be fooled by “basic” – the burgers, perfectly grilled, were delicious, just like they are at the ranch.
Strater HotelAny other time, the iconic Strater Hotel (699 Main Ave., Durango) would consist of The Diamond Belle, the Mahogany Grille and The Office Spiritorium. For now, it’s just take-out breakfast and dinner, between 8 and 10 a.m. and 5 and 8 p.m. The abridged menu consists of four breakfast items, starters, a burger, two sandwiches, a turkey pot pie, two steaks and salmon. They also have beer, wine and very simple cocktails.
I ordered a Pepper Steak Herbert – a 30-year specialty of the Grille – and fries, paid over the phone and was told my food would be ready in 20 minutes. Someone met me at my car window in front of the hotel within a minute of my arrival. The food came in eco-friendly plastic boxes that weakened a bit in transit from the heat of the meal, causing some of the stickier liquid components to slosh out. The entree and sides mixed a bit, but tasted as fantastic as ever.
Sunnyside Farms MarketI hadn’t made it to Sunnyside Farms Market, the craft butcher shop and café (1305 Escalante Drive, Durango) since they moved to their new location, by Home Depot, in December. Now it has stripped out the tables for dine-in service and is offering its menu and specials to go, so I ordered from its online deli and bistro menu: a Sunnyside Burger medium-rare with a side of fries. It was ready and waiting for me inside, hot, in 10 minutes. The service is hard to beat, the meat is terrific and there is also now curbside pickup if one prefers, although going in to pay means you can take advantage of their gourmet deli offerings and frozen entrées, too.
Kennebec CafeThe Kennebec Cafe is a special spot where commuters between Durango and points west can occasionally indulge themselves, and that hasn’t changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kennebec now offers some family meals – a Whole Roasted Chicken, $24; Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, $30; Lasagna Bolognese, $60; Beef Bourguignon, $45. And wine is 50% off. Co-owner Barbara Helmer said the Whole Roasted Chicken and the Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas are proving so popular they might be keepers even after the virulent virus pandemic blows over.
I ordered the Mediterranean Mix, chicken souvlaki, hummus, dolmas, tabbouleh, pita bread and tzatziki, for $18. The order came in paper to-go boxes that did a decent job of keeping the chicken warm on the jaunt back to my home in Mancos. My favorites were the dolmas and the tabbouleh.
Expect to see some construction at the cafe in the next several months, Helmer said; the cafe already had planned to make some changes to the front of the building to make it easier for commuters to come in and get a few pastries and lunches to go.
On a warm Wednesday evening, I decided to sample the brewery’s take-out teriyaki bowl and an espresso stout. I was greeted by owner Kathy Hands (in mask), who also brings orders out to the parking lot if diners desire.
While I’m usually a fan of drinking beer off the tap while listening to the musical acts that visit Mancos, I enjoyed the canned format of the stout – part of the brewery’s “Limited Edition Shelter in Place Series.” The 16-ounce paper container for the teriyaki bowl kept the food warm and was even decorative, with neatly contained layers of rice, sweet onions and colorful peppers topped by parsley.
The best part of a Mexican restaurant is sitting with family and friends to share chips and salsa and sip a margarita. Tacos Nayarit has a take-out option to allow customers the chance to try to recreate the experience at home.
Nayarit’s full food and drink menu is available online through ChowNow.com, including a free margarita or soft drink with a customer’s first online order. We ordered four margaritas ($7.50 each) for the house and shared a carne asada fajita plate ($15.50) and cheese crisp ($7.50). The usual glory of being served a sizzling fajita platter was missing, but it was delicious.
The order was ready within 30 minutes. A few too many people waited inside the dining area at the north location at 2525 Main Ave., but employees wore masks and gloves and happily assisted customers. There is a new south location at 1135 South Camino del Rio. As always, the strong margarita was the best part.
The ContainerClever social media marketing got me to check out the new curbside operation offered during the COVID-19 pandemic at The Container of Food at Ska Brewing World Headquarters at 225 Girard St.
There is a limited sandwich and salad menu online through OrderStart.com along with the full selection of pizzas, Ska six- and 12-packs and even wine. The build-your-own pizza kit (starting at $10) caught my eye. Many additional toppings cost $1 each. We opted for free toppings of basil, chives and scallions and used peppers and mushrooms already in our refrigerator.
At pickup, Ska had customers wait in their cars and would call out ready orders. A masked and gloved employee would send a well packaged to-go bag down a conveyor belt to keep a good 15 feet of separation. Flour to work with the dough ball was provided along with a perfect amount of sauce and mozzarella. The result was incredible pizza. The kit is big enough for two or one extra-hungry person.
Paired with a six pack of Brewstomper Golden Ale, it was a fun home-dining experience.
Boon’s Family Thai BBQA staple of Main Street in Farmington, Boon’s Family Thai BBQ has been faced with ongoing construction along the town’s downtown area since January and, more recently, the business closure orders. But they’re still going strong – providing great service, fast take-out and delivery with GrubHub.
The restaurant’s full menu is available to customers both online and via GrubHub’s website. After calling ahead, (505) 325-5556, the food was ready for pickup within 15 minutes and staff provided hand sanitizer and clean pens during the payment process. The Khao Soi with fried tofu ($11.95) and veggie cakes ($7.95) are just two examples of the many vegetarian-friendly dishes available. The restaurant can also provide gluten-free options.
Overall, the ramen and veggie cakes made for a quick, delicious and cozy meal while binge-watching Brooklyn 99. Bonus for those of us not fond of cooking, there were enough for leftovers the next day.
Porky’s SmokehouseIt’s a new drive-thru window, inspired by a dream, that is helping Porky’s Smokehouse in Ignacio stay afloat, said owner Dayson Goetz.
“Once that drive through opened, I was able to immediately bring back (four) employees,” he said.
Formerly a dine-in restaurant, Porky’s offers its smoked meats through take-out or drive-thru (442-6085). Inside the restaurant, a barrier keeps customers 6 feet from employees. Even the payment system is as far away as its cord will allow to help with social distancing. Staff wear gloves, no masks, and wipe down surfaces with bleach water regularly.
Families buy smoked meats in bulk from the unchanged menu, Goetz said. The food comes out hot and in less than 10 minutes. After trying waffle fries covered in queso and pulled pork ($9), Goetz’s goal holds true: You will not leave the restaurant feeling hungry.
Mill Street BistroMill Street Bistro co-owner Danica Frost calls these the “sad days” while looking at chairs stacked on tables in the empty dine-in restaurant in Bayfield.
The homey, fine-dining restaurant still sells wine and beer. Its menu, which changes weekly, is mostly the same with slightly simpler dishes. But customers no longer come to the bistro for dates or nights out. They call ahead with their order (884-9632), then drive around back to pick it up.
Frost, wearing a face mask, is the only employee who has contact with customers. Cash, she said, requires lots of hand washing. Credit cards allow minimal contact. Hand washing and social distancing, at home and work, is the status quo.
The seared scallops over polenta with red pepper coulis ($12.95) arrived in 10 minutes, nicely warm and satisfying, with a half-off bottle of wine ($12).
May PalaceWhen I went to pick up a to-go order at May Palace (909 Main Ave., Durango) on a recent weekday evening, I had no trouble finding a parking space right out front because the street was deserted. “I’m glad you’re here,” I told the friendly masked man at the register. “I’m glad you’re here!” he said, his eyebrows dancing. I ordered sesame beef and white rice ($10.95) a straightforward semi-Cantonese meal, which from May Palace is dependably tasty, sweet-and-savory comfort food, and enough for two. You can even eat it from the takeout cartons with chopsticks (included) and save on dish washing. Call ahead (259-4836) and May Palace will have your food ready in 15 to 20 minutes, including dozens of other Szechuan and Cantonese entrées, such as beef with broccoli and shrimp with lobster sauce. Plus fortune cookies.
Durango Craft SpiritsThere’s nothing like listening to live music on the Durango Craft Spirits patio on a Friday night in spring. But coronavirus has shut down the tasting room and patio.
The McCardell family hasn’t stopped operation, as customers can buy bottles curbside. The distillery offers great deals each day of the week, with chances to earn discounts on bottles, cases or to receive two free bottles of Fever Tree Ginger Beer. Fun gift baskets also are available for customization.
Durango Craft Spirits also will deliver bottles to your doorstep for free, just call 247-1919. In the last two weeks, we have picked up one bottle each of the Soiled Doves Vodka and Mayday Moonshine ($32 each) and Cinder Dick Bourbon ($57). The moonshine mixes great with anything, and all three can be made into delicious Moscow mules or sipped straight. It isn’t the same as sitting at the bar and sharing stories with friends and the owners, but a smooth glass of premium spirits at home helps ease the tension when sitting home all day.