DURANGO, Colo. – A new eatery will soon be added to Durango’s revered restaurant community as El Moro Spirits & Tavern is slated to open Memorial Day weekend 2013. Located at 945 Main Ave. in Durango’s Historic Downtown, El Moro will serve lunch and dinner daily, plus brunch on weekends.
“This will be an ‘approachable’ upscale restaurant, celebrating our local agricultural community, as well as the history of Downtown Durango" said Kris Oyler, a principal in the new venture. "The history is one of the fun pieces – El Moro is the name of the saloon that actually occupied the building in the early 1900s.”
Construction is currently underway to transform the space, which most recently housed the Rain Dance Gallery, into a comfortable dining establishment that will have some of the “feel” of the original saloon with bared red brick, tin ceiling and hardwood floors. According to records at the Animas Museum, El Moro was one of 21 saloons in Downtown Durango registered in 1903. The west side of the 900 block of Main was known as the saloon district, and proper ladies would not walk the wooden sidewalks in that block.
“The Durango police force actually used the El Moro saloon as a headquarters back in the early 1900s because it was centrally located,” said Brian McEachron, another of the restaurant’s principals who researched the building’s history at the Animas Museum. “It even had a terrific scandal as Marshall Jesse Stansel and La Plata County Sheriff William J. Thompson had a shootout right in front of the saloon.”
El Moro Executive Chef Sean Clark, who has garnered attention pairing fine foods and craft beers across the country, including creation of the first beer dinner held at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, is also known for raising the quality of the food offerings at Steamworks Brewing Co. to what is called in the industry a “gastropub,” but due to the volume at the brewpub, Clark has not been able to offer local foods on a consistent basis.
“At El Moro, we will be able to and do look forward to working with our regional farmers and creating new dishes even daily, celebrating what is fresh and in season,” said Clark. “This will be a farm-to-table restaurant.”
As a nod to the history, the menu will also include charcuterie (the craft of salting, curing and smoking meats), which will encompass foods often enjoyed by saloon patrons in the Victorian era: picked eggs, beets and fish served along with cold cuts such as ham and salami on sour dough bread.
“We want to celebrate as much history as possible,” said Oyler. “We’re already looking at how to incorporate with the Durango Heritage Festival in October. We might even stage a re-enactment of the shootout between the Marshall and the Sheriff.”
Beer was also big in Durango’s history, considered the drink of choice (and only cost a nickel), thus, El Moro will embrace beer, but take it up a notch, according to Dave Woodruff, general manager of the new restaurant.
“We will carry a large variety of craft beers from around the world,” said Woodruff. “In fact, the entire beverage program will be equally as broad, with a fine wine list and sophisticated spirits to be poured as well. Our servers will be well-versed in pairing beverages with our menu items.”
“They called bartenders ‘mixologists’ in the day,” added McEachron, explaining that they were categorized as either “Standard” or “Fancy,” the latter which connoted greater talent and training. “Our El Moro mixologists will be rated ‘Fancy,’ and we’ll be pouring some very creative cocktails.”
More information on El Moro Spirits & Tavern’s menu and opening celebrations will be available in coming months. The web site and phone number are www.elmorotavern.com and 970.259.5555.