Japan and Mexico waltz on the tongue with Chipotle Edamame. Greece meets India with Harissa Yogurt Sauce on a Gyro.
If the cuisine at Digs Market Café was a soundtrack, it would be a jazzy Putomayo-type worldbeat. It's a borderless, free-for-all, mish-mash of a menu - and it works.
Digs opened April 15 in a swanky, green-built space at Three Springs, just east of Mercy Regional Medical Center. A fine restaurant plopped in a new, partially built and eerily quiet development may seem like an odd choice, especially considering downtown Durango's vibrant restaurant scene. But chef-owners Todd and Kellie Stevens had their reasons.
"We look for those places that have potential to grow," said Todd Stevens. "We try to create a fun environment with truly interesting food that's off the beaten path, like our food."
The two have spent "most of their lives" in restaurants, he said. They met at a culinary school in Portland, Ore., and have worked in Houston, Crested Butte and Aspen. They later moved to Pagosa Springs and opened The Alley House Grille and Farrago Market Café. Opening a third restaurant in Durango was the next step.
"Pagosa is a tourism-based economy, with great seasons and mellow seasons. We wanted to get into a bigger economy that's a little more stable," said Stevens.
He looked at Three Springs and was inspired by its environmentally friendly building practices.
"We use a lot of renewable things, and we're always looking for more Earth-friendly products, like our corn-based to-go containers, so it was a good fit," he said.
A commitment to sustainability also is reflected in Digs' menu, which incorporates local foods into the global blend. There were beers on tap representing each of Durango's four microbreweries, a root beer float made with Zuberfizz soda and local lamb and cheeses.
The server was careful to recite the names of the local farms headlining the entrée titles, a detail that locavores attuned to sustainability will appreciate.
The food came quickly, and our server was funny and casual. He called my dinner companion "dude," but he also seemed very knowledgeable about the food and the restaurant itself. He was familiar with the taste and ingredients of each item on the menu.
Digs has "light-hearted, broad-swath fusion food," Stevens said. "The idea is that you can try a lot of different styles of food and not get bored - in eating or cooking."
Purists who like their Caesar salad served in a traditional way may be horrified by Digs' Thai Caesar (a large portion for $7), which includes fried capers, fresh ginger and wontons. But the adventurous eater will be delighted.
The couple's quirky style is reflected in the entrée names, too. Was Tobacco Spaghetti Enchiladas ($8) a typo? Tabasco? Morocco? Nope. The server explained tobacco refers to the look-alike texture of roasted, shredded spaghetti squash in the filling. It was served with a creamy tomatillo enchilada sauce, cojita cheese and fresh cilantro. The way it's cooked on the grill and the chipotle chile also gives it a smoky flavor, hence the name.
Like most restaurants in the Durango area, Digs' vegetarian entrée options are limited, but the menu does allow portobello mushroom substitutions in items such as pizza and gyro sandwiches.
The Fried Mahi Mahi Tacos ($8) were perfectly crispy and served steaming hot. The accompanying roasted pepper rouille sauce was spicy and sweet.
A housemade vanilla bean custard-style ice cream and Zuberfizz root beer float ($5) featured walnut brittle on the side. The chunk tasted like grainy brown sugar mixed with nuts, and was oddly chewy and overly sweet.
A full meal for two (two drinks from the bar, one split salad, two entrées and a split dessert), cost $47. A fair price for a meal of this quality.
The market portion of the restaurant includes a deli with an enormous chalkboard menu. At lunch, customers order from the board, take a number and the food is delivered to their tables. For people on the run, there is food to go or take-and-bake at home. Items include sandwiches and prepared salads, such as Grilled Vegetable Garbanzo Bean Salad or White Bean Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad, (each for $6.95 per pound). There also is cake by the slice, pizza to go and raw ingredients for meals, such as pasta and cheese. Digs also offers a full catering service.
The restaurant features an extensive wine bar with more than 40 wines, and interesting drinks like a citrus-flavored homemade sangria. They're doing something right: Digs won "Best Drink" with its Champagne Cocktail at the Taste of Durango event on May 17.