Magnificent 7 Burgers from Durango Colorado
By guest blogger Amy Dodson, ‘I’d Order That’ Food & Lifestyle Photo Essayist and Journaler from the Southwest, based in Durango.
I’d wager that of Durango’s 168+ restaurants, a good majority have their own specialty house burger. Which is why selecting only 7 from this Wild West Southwest foodie town was one tough (and tasty) task. Their magnificence is based on flavor, unique toppings, freshness, and a few other things that factor into burger bliss. (Why only seven? … it’s a western reference.)
The burgers are listed in alphabetical order for a couple reasons. First, here in Durango I am happy to be counted among the folks who are notoriously vocal about our taste in foods and burgers. Crowning a #1? The ensuing debates would make a presidential election pale in comparison. Secondly, when I really thought about it I couldn’t single out a favorite … as you’re about to see why.
No.1 - Animas Brewing Co. / The J.W.
Named after America’s most beloved movie cowboy John Wayne … some big boots to fill and this burger does not disappoint. Because it’s not just a ground beef patty. It’s a unique 50/50 hand crafted locally sourced ground chuck and house-smoked shredded brisket patty. Grilled to order and topped with house sarsaparilla bbq sauce, house-made bun, thick melted cheddar, and shaved onions. With a side salad, or extra crunchy house kettle chips called River Chips. They offer a variety of flavorful craft beers in a casual, family friendly atmosphere. Most likely the historic Durango train will be running and you’ll have a front row seat as it returns late afternoon from the mountains and rumbles right next to the restaurant and outdoor patio. Whistles blaring, steam engine chugging… it’s a big flavor burger and a show! (Website and menu)
No.2 El Moro Tavern & Spirits / El Moro Burger
El Moro offers modern rustic food, a take on the classics with their own house-made locally sourced twists. Made from scratch is key for them, and the El Moro Burger is a mesquite charcoal-grilled, hand-crafted masterpiece. The sharp white cheddar melts over the burger, onto the bottom bun and your plate. Then they top it with thick cut bacon that’s been cured for 11 days and bbq smoked. Topped with juicy heirloom tomatoes, house-brined dill pickles, and their own soft Kaiser roll. I recommend a knife and fork; however, if you prefer to hold it in your hands and lean into it for the full burger deluge with juices running down your sleeve, nobody will object. El Moro is also known for their inventive menu with charcuterie and cheese selections, and specialty cocktails including the Gin Gin (pictured) with prairie gin, house ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice and basil. Located in an historic building that was once the scene of Durango’s strangest shootout between a Sheriff and Marshall, it’s now a restaurant and bar decked out in steampunk décor. A casual fine-dining favorite spot, El Moro and its namesake burger are not to be missed. (Website and menu)
No.3 Diamond Belle Saloon / American Bison Burger
Located in the historic Strater Hotel, the Diamond Belle Saloon is a famous ragtime piano bar where you’re invited to ‘get your wild west on.’ It’s lively with an authentic ragtime piano, saloon girls, barkeeps, and you’re likely to belly up to the bar with a real deal cowboy. Western writer Louis L’Amour lived in the hotel room just above The Belle because he said that the music and sounds helped to inspire his writing. And of equal noteworthiness… it is home of the ‘Bigger Better Leaner’ American Bison Burger. Flavorful, seasoned just right, and while bison is leaner, this one has that tender moist bite that makes for a really great burger. With thick aged cheddar melted on top and house roasted garlic Dijon aioli, butter lettuce (and I recommend adding bacon with an extra side of aioli.) The Belle is a bar with great food, and specialty drinks like The Green Chile Bloody Mary, and The White Chocolate Rum (pictured) dessert in a glass with chocolate coconut rum, white crème d’cacao with a cherry on top. This is a place where everyone is welcome and sure to have a blast while walking into the past. (Website and menu)
No.4 Grassburger / Grass-Fed Beef Burger
When Grassburger appeared on the downtown foodie scene last year, word on the street traveled fast. People were loving this 100% grass-fed burger, and described it as ‘clean,’ ‘fills you up but not greasy’ with a ‘super nice crust’ (a secret grilling technique they won’t divulge.) All year long I’ve heard skiers, rafters, and hikers talk about going for lunch, hitting the slopes or river and working up an appetite to come back for dinner. It’s addictive, with an umami chipotle mayo, choice of cheddar, pepper jack or swiss, tomato, pickles and lettuce, and option to add chopped green chile. Add a side salad, or their hand-cut regular or sweet potato fries … and grab a table on their huge front porch. Another magnificent reason to love this burger … it’s less than five bucks. That, with such pure flavor, it keeps a line out the door. (Website and menu)
No.5 James Ranch Harvest Grill & Greens / Harvest Burger
James Ranch is a family-owned 400 acre working ranch where they have a philosophy of mindful growing practices, organic gardens, grass fed beef, artisan cheese making, cage free eggs, and a farm fresh boutique market. Oh yes … and then there are the spectacular views of Durango’s stunning valley and red mountains. Choose a picnic table on the grassy green terrace or spread out your picnic blanket and you’re sitting in one of the most breathtaking dining rooms in southwestern Colorado … décor by Mother Nature. The Harvest Burger is inspired by and made up of virtually everything produced on the ranch. The magnificence is in its scrumptious simplicity and freshness … their own grass-fed beef grilled to order, with grated melted cheese from their dairy cows, simple toppings of tomato, pickles, lettuce and onion, and choice of flavored mayos. On a gorgeous butter-grilled gourmet bun (made with organic flour from a local bakery.) They also offer ranch tours, summertime Burger and Band nights, and Shakespeare plays on the Terrace. A local treasure. (Website and menu)
No.6 Olde Tymers Cafe / The Colorado Plateau Burger
I promise there’s a burger under this smothered, loaded, mouthwatering monument to everything but the kitchen sink. The 8 oz. Plateau Burger is seasoned, grilled, then topped with shaved ham, crispy bacon, pepper jack (with options of provolone, cheddar or American) and a drizzle of their famous green chile that’s flavored with ground pork, all on thick grilled Texas toast. The version shown here has extra bacon and green chile … any excuse to add more of their chile … take it … you won’t regret it. On a nice sunny day, a table on the back patio, surrounded with bright potted plants and herb garden, with this burger … these are all the ingredients for a perfectly satisfying over-the-top meal. Olde Tymers is located in an historic building, is a real-deal mom-n-pop burger and comfort food joint, and longstanding favorite of locals and tourists. (Website and menu)
No.7 Three Peaks Deli and Grill / Green Chile Cheeseburger
When you move to the Southwest people tell you “Get ready, you’re going to start craving chiles once a week.” This is misleading. It’s actually more like every other day! The Three Peaks Deli has a GCCB that satisfies that craving … and not only holds up to but rivals some heavy hitters listed on the famous Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail of New Mexico … and that’s sayin’ somethin.’ They char grill each hand-pressed patty with a splash of secret marinade, melted pepper jack, top it with bacon, and pure Hatch chopped green chiles. Do yourself a favor and ask for an extra side of those desert emeralds. That unforgettable herby flavor, with just a little heat somewhere between mild and medium. All served on a gourmet brioche bun. Three Peaks is also known for their house brined and smoked meats, custom sandwiches, and house cut fries that are blanched and cooked to order. Located just north of downtown Durango at the corner of Main and 24th, they sit back from the street a bit, so keep an eye out for this place where GCCBs rule! (Website and menu)
7 burgers from Durango … all possessing unique combinations of ingredients that make them truly magnificent.
I want to thank the Durango Area Tourism Office for inviting me to be a part of their blog … quite an honor and I hope to share more about the Durango dining scene in future posts.
And I invite you to share your experience with any of these spectacular burgers in the comments below. Have you chosen a favorite? What would be your No.8 on the list? Let’s help people coming to visit our charming little destination foodie town to know their burger options.
Buen provecho! Happy eating!
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