Durango, CO is one of my favorite tourist towns. We lived 65 miles away in the little town of Pagosa Springs, CO from 2000 to 2008. Since it had the closest Wal-Mart and Home Depot we were regular visitors to the town. We had visited the town regularly before then also from Grand Junction, CO for the annual Harley Davidson rally and tax seminars and as a turn-around from drives over the million-dollar highway. We visited Durango on a day trip on July 3 from a short stay in Pagosa Springs and I took these photos.
Durango was established in the 1880s as a support city for Southwestern Colorado mining operations. A narrow gauge railroad was built to Silverton, CO which still operates and is rather famous as a tourist attraction today. The train draws tourists internationally for one of the most scenic rides through high mountain canyons that can be found anywhere. Town has 10 or so blocks of the nicest shops and restaurants you will find in a tourist destination – The entire length of downtown Main St has a historic feel and some of the buildings remain that were constructed before 1900.
This photo is of the Strater Hotel built in the late 1880s. Somehow, I chopped the top of the hotel off in the photo – sorry – but you can see the beauty of the historic architecture. The hotel has been updated continuously over the years and offers luxury accommodations with an extensive collection of antique room furniture as part of its unique character.
A photo of the grounds of the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge rail station at the sound end of Main Street.
I suppose, if the truth be told, our day trip drive to Durango was motivated by a desire to visit the Durango Diner more than anything else. The Diner sits on Main Street near the 10th Street intersection in a very narrow and really deep space in an old building with an entrance from Main Street. Seating is dominated by the long counter you see in the photo. All of the cooking and waitressing takes place within almost arms-length of the customers at the counter. There are two tables on the entrance side at the far end of the photo and 4 booths at the rear of the Diner behind where the camera is taking the photo. The Diner was established in the early 1970s and over the years has become an icon of Durango eateries – Durango being known throughout the Southwest for its abundance of quality restaurants. As far as I’m concerned, the Durango Diner is the best short order breakfast diner in the world. Admittedly, my experience doesn’t qualify me to make that statement, but suffice it to say I love this place. My first visit was in the mid-90s while in town for the Labor Day Harley Davidson rally. Gary was there running the flat-top then, and was still there cooking a chile relleno omelet for Darlene and I to share this visit – nothing else much has changed in those 20 years either. You just have to love that. The Diner has a separate flat-top for the hash browns. On busy hours one short order cook spends a lot of their time managing the cooking of the hash browns because they go on most every breakfast menu item. Each hash brown serving is made from a whole, large baking size potato which has been peeled and pre-boiled. The cook shreds the potato one at a time directly onto the flat-top – each potato making a separate serving and cooked on the flat top individually. I’ve watched the process numerous times from a counter stool less than 5 feet away from where all the action is taking place. They shred the potato and that large mound sits and sits on the flat-top cooking away untouched for so long. I always worry that it is burning on the bottom – early on I wanted to warn Gary to check the hash browns, but kept my mouth shut – and eventually learned that Gary or whoever else was helping him cook them knew exactly what they were doing. They flip the mound of hash browns one time – they flip it and the top is this perfect golden brown and then the other side sits on the flat-top for what seems way too long. But when they take it off and slide it next to our chile relleno omelet the bottom side is a perfect golden brown also. They ladle the green chile over both the omelet and the hash browns. So what you end up with is this crunchy brown tasting bottom of the pile of hash browns with a crunchy brown tasting top of the hash browns and in-between is so tender and soft – then on top of it all is that flavor of the green chile – all I can say is WOW. It’s almost too good to be true. We love the chile relleno omelet and order it over and over, but the breakfast item that is world famous is called “The Cure”. It is that big serving of hash browns that all plates get with an extra-large serving of either ham, bacon or sausage on top of that with eggs to order on top of that with lots of melted cheese on top of that and then smothered with green chile. I’ve had it a couple of times – it’s so good you force yourself to eat it all – then you don’t eat for a couple days afterwards. The Durango Diner – wherever you live you owe it to yourself to eat an order of “The Cure” before you die – so plan a trip.
We finished breakfast and walked the length of Main Street down and back. Noah talked his grandmother into buying him a red, white and blue fidget spinner in some little shop. I guess, why wouldn’t you need a red, white and blue fidget spinner when the next day is July 4th? We drove the 65 miles back to Pagosa Springs – a good day with family – another memory and a few more photos on the hard drive.