The Best Restaurants In Durango, Colorado
Breweries, restaurants with their own farms, and more places where you can eat and drink in Durango, Colorado.
With skiing in the winter, river rafting in the summer, and hiking and mountain biking nearly year-round, Durango has plenty of natural beauty that locals like to keep close to their chest. It’s the rare sort of place where you’ll find all types of folks, from college students to retirees and cowboys to river rats, united by a love for wild spaces and dispensaries. If your version of paradise is driving a 4Runner to an empty trailhead parking lot, then this just might be your promised land.
What’s more, Durango has that low-key yet powerful food scene that’s got something for everyone. With direct access to the farmers and ranchers who make up a large part of the area's population, most of these restaurants take pride in sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally. The chefs at Seasons change their menu according to what’s available locally, and you can watch the team at James Ranch pulling vegetables from the gardens while you dine. Use this list as your trail guide as you navigate Durango’s restaurants.
Durango’s high-altitude, mountainous landscape makes it feel like the perfect place to find a restaurant serving food from the high-altitude, mountainous lands of Tibet and Nepal. And that’s where Himalayan Kitchen comes in.
Walk through the entryway bordered by prayer flags and the first thing you’ll notice will be the spices of the Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan dishes. The yak korma will likely pique your curiosity, as it should—this delicious meat can be hard to find, and comes highly recommended by both locals and staff. (It turns out the high altitude of Durango makes it a great spot for raising yaks, so the Himalayan Kitchen is able to source from local ranchers.)
If yak isn’t on your bucket list, the menu has plenty of other options ranging from familiar Indian dishes like tikka masala and saag panner to the classic Nepalese daal bhat. There are also plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, too.
photo credit: Dave Sugnet
In Durango, it’s easy to slide into nearly any downtown restaurant covered in mud and sweat from a hike or a mountain bike ride and not be given a second look. But if you feel like showering, putting on some clean clothes, and heading out for a meal worth that effort, head to Seasons.
The menu includes dishes like shrimp wrapped in crunchy fried rice paper, a beef filet with perfectly grilled fingerlings and mushrooms cooked in garlic sauce, smothered truffle fries with candied pork belly and a housemade green chili sauce, and a tiramisu that’s nearly impossible to pass up. Couple all this with a Pabst, or pick a wine from their amazing selection. And don’t worry—nobody is going to judge your choice either way in Durango.
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The argument against sushi in land-locked towns is obsolete, and Rice Monkeys reaffirms this—they serve fish as fresh as what you’d find in a town right on the water. Located in a tiny corner space on Main Avenue, it’d be easy to walk right past the restaurant. Inside, the staff is warm and constantly hustling as they serve in-house diners and a revolving door of takeout orders.
The menu includes a blend of Vietnamese and Japanese dishes, including rice bowls and phở alongside lots of sushi. The rice bowls use fresh, perfectly sauteed vegetables alongside the protein of your choice, but the real star is the simple but perfectly sliced fish in the sashimi and nigiri. It’s hard to make a bad decision when it comes to the list of specialty rolls, but their southwestern and the dragon rolls are both standouts.
Try to get there close to opening time to snag one of the 20 or so available seats, as dinner service never tends to lull.
There are plenty of taco spots in Durango, and Taco Libre is one of the top options. This spot on Main Avenue (just follow the music and you’ll find it) is a fast-casual cantina that’s great for larger groups—there’s bar service in the front, plenty of seating for self-service diners in the back, and lots of parking options nearby.
Place your order at the front counter and seat yourself at the large tables, booths, or on the backyard patio. Their mezcal cocktails and margaritas are great, and so are the gordita and Papa Libre, a Mexican spin on a baked potato. Two full-size luchadores are squared up in the center of the restaurant, and four big TVs are almost always set to ESPN.
Frida’s has the food, drinks, and atmosphere for an excellent night out—and thanks in part to their margaritas and tequila menu, it’s always a bit of a party. The menu is big and includes mole enchiladas and the spicy camarones a la diabla, and an à la carte street taco menu for the decision paralysis crowd who’d prefer to just try a bit of everything.
In case you haven’t already guessed, this is a popular spot for groups, so time your visit wisely. The front parking lot fills up fast, but there’s an overflow lot just behind the restaurant that almost always has space.
You’ll find Durango’s best Thai restaurant just north of downtown in a small, stand-alone building marked by a beautiful mural. Chang Thai started out as a food truck, and their massive popularity led to a brick-and-mortar spot where they also do a ton of takeout. If you like your noodles spicy, their pad kee mao hits the spot with a balance of heat and smoke. The chef takes their spice levels seriously, so order accordingly. The dining room is pretty casual, and you’ll get a good view of the kitchen working hard to crank out the long list of orders.
BARS & BREWERIES
Ska Brewing is just three miles south of Durango’s main downtown area. Head here for a beer tasting and a meal right next to the giant fermentation tanks. The location is a combination tasting room and beer garden coupled with a kitchen set-up in a transformed shipping container. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio and order a brick oven pizza and a Modus Hoperandi IPA, seasonal Mexican Logger, or the adventurous Pink Vapor Stew. Ska Brewing also has hard seltzers and non-alcoholic, fruit-infused sparkling water on the menu, too.
The Office Spiritorium
Mention to your boss that you're headed to The Office on a Saturday and two things might happen: they’ll make a corny workplace joke or take you literally and praise your strong work ethic. Whatever happens, you should probably make note that The Office to which you're referring is the Spiritorium, a Victorian-style bar situated inside the historic Strater Hotel. Here you'll find plenty of options like the Embezzlement, a warm cocktail made with coffee and Bailey's, to help you decompress after a long work week.
The decor attracts tourists interested in getting a taste of The Strater's history, while the nightly live music and high-quality drinks bring in the locals. The bartenders take their job quite seriously (this is their office, too) mixing up elaborate cocktails to help loosen up the out-of-towners still adjusting to the elevation. Take a seat at one of the mahogany tables surrounded by rare antiques, order a drink, and settle in to relish the fact that you're one step closer to a promotion.
You might think an auto repair shop is a strange place to drink a cocktail, and you would be right, unless it’s Ernie’s at the 11th Street Station. The space was a long-running fuel stop until the ‘70s and was most recently transformed into a bar that is now a popular spot for locals who can remember the days when gas cost less than a dollar per gallon.
Even though Ernie’s hasn’t serviced a car for over 50 years, the history of this location is still there: draft beers are served from below the grill of a vintage Chevy Bel Air, and there’s plenty of service station memorabilia scattered throughout, like the old Conoco fuel truck sitting in the courtyard that doubles as a countertop.
Ernie’s has indoor seating in the bar as well as a large outdoor area with food trucks, an impressive list of top-shelf spirits, and a nice variety of cocktails and mocktails. Really, the only thing they don’t offer at this old service station is a full tank of gas.
The Smiley Cafe
There’s something distinctively Colorado about a cafe housed inside of a former junior high school, that also shares a space with an art collective. When you walk through the doors, the space opens into a large, welcoming seating area spread across several rooms with plenty of couches and tables. Take a cue from the local college crowd and get some work done or catch up with your yoga buddies after a class over a glass of housemade chai.
The menu includes things like quiche and breakfast paninis, and there’s a lovely bakery case holding giant cookies, muffins, and other treats. The entire menu (including all the baked goods) is gluten-free or can be prepared so. While you wait for your order, stroll through the shared art workshop space that doubles as a gallery where you can buy paintings, pottery, jewelry, and more from the local artists and watch them work.
Like the post office or town hall, a good hometown diner is an important pillar in any community. College Drive Cafe sets the standard with familiar staples like omelets and french toast, plus Southwest-specific flavors like the puebloan benedict and the breakfast chicken tamales. Well worth your attention, the biscuits and gravy are made in-house with locally sourced pork. It’ll be hard to ignore the sheer volume of pancakes coming out of the kitchen, so order some for the table for good measure. This is a popular spot with the locals and offers limited seating, so try to visit on a less busy day of the week or lean into the weekend rush.
If kitschy decor was a barometer for good food, you’d know you’re in for a heck of a meal as soon as you walk into Oscar’s. Situated in a shopping plaza away from Durango’s Main Avenue, it has everything you’d expect from a '50s-style diner, from the glittery red seats and checkerboard tile floor to the neon signage and history of Durango Snowdown posters across the walls.
Sidle up to the counter where you’ll be staring directly into the refrigerated case of their housemade pies and try not to place an order for dessert first. You can’t go wrong with anything on the breakfast menu, but you’d be wise to choose an option that includes their pork chili verde, such as the Verde Breakfast. For lunch, the Uncle Reuben with housemade thousand island dressing is a slam dunk. And don’t forget to grab a slice of pie or one of their famous giant cinnamon rolls before you go.
WHERE TO HAVE LUNCH
James Ranch is more than just a farm-to-table restaurant—your actual table will be situated directly on the farm. This is a fast-casual setting with a quaint, farm-style, indoor dining area and tons of patio and lawn space for al fresco dining in the warmer months.
The Grill at James Ranch prioritizes ingredients directly from their farm, including their grass-fed angus cattle raised right on the 400-acre ranch you’ll be gazing out on from the dining areas. As you’d expect, the burgers are the star on the menu and can be topped with homemade add-ons like their belford cheese, barbecue sauce, and rosemary aioli. The fingerling fries are perfectly crispy, so get the large order.
They have drinks from local businesses, including cider from Eso Terra and beers from breweries like Ska and Carver’s. Spread out a blanket beneath their apricot tree and enjoy a picnic while you watch the cattle graze.
Fired Up Pizzeria
Pizza discussions can be polarizing, and you’re not trying to break up with your friend group while you’re here. Avoid the risk by finding a spot that everyone can agree on. For Durango, this is Fired Up: a wood-fired pizza restaurant right in the heart of Downtown.
Fired Up’s pizzas stand out from the other options around town with their Neapolitan-style pies, high-quality ingredients, and dough that’s made from scratch. The menu includes a nice selection of regular and specialty pies—the crowd-pleasing pepperoni is a strong option, and their bacon green chile pie with smoked mozzarella is also a winner. You can also build your own with any of their available ingredients.
The interior is large and they also offer outdoor seating, including a rooftop patio when it’s warm out. Lunch is the perfect time to eat here—you’ll see fewer crowds and can get back to exploring the downtown area on a full belly afterward.
We know the saying is, “no friends on a powder day,” but you’ll likely want friends once the lifts have closed and you’re ready to share details about your sends. Backcountry Gourmet is the best spot to replenish and recount. You’ll find this food truck permanently stationed at two separate locations, and both serve up a concise, curated menu with sliders, salads, soups, and sides. One location is at The Nugget Mountain Bar about a mile south of Purgatory Resort that’s great for an apres-ski or apres-mountain bike bite, and the other is in downtown Durango within the 11th Street Station, a former auto repair shop that’s been turned into a food truck collective.
Order their pork belly sliders, plus a side of fries with your preferred seasoning choice, and grab a seat on the patio or inside the bar at either location. If you’re looking for a quick morning bite prior to hitting the mountain, the 11th Street Station location also offers delicious (and massive) breakfast burritos from 8-11am.