Spend the day skiing (or hiking, snowshoeing or building a snow fort) and you’ll burn so many calories that you’ll feel like you could clear the shelves of a grocery store.
Don’t do that.
Instead, head to one of our don’t-miss places to visit on a spring break trip in Durango or nearby Purgatory Resort in southwest Colorado.
The Durango Diner
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957 Main Ave., Durango, 970-247-9889, http://durangodiner.com
Grab a stool along the counter and sip coffee while you watch the cook fry up a breakfast made for a mountain man (or woman).
We headed here on the recommendation of James Coleman, who owns Purgatory Resort up the road, and he steered us right. His regular order? The Cure, a mile-high heap of hash browns, eggs, potatoes, cheese and your choice of ham, bacon, sausage or veggies, all slathered in homemade green chili with just the right amount of zip. (You can buy a jar to take with you.)
Also on the menu? Biscuits and gravy, omelets, hotcakes and cinnamon rolls.
“People love it,” says Gary Broad. He and his wife, Donna, bought the place in 1980, relatively recent history for the location, which has been operating as a diner for 80 years.
Plus, we love the logo — a smiley face made with fried eggs, hash browns and curvy slice of bacon.
The Olde Schoolhouse Cafe and Saloon
46778 U.S. 550, Durango, 970-259-2257, https://www.facebook.com/TheOldeSchoolhouseDurangoCO
Yes, it’s sort of a dump, with dollar bills stapled to the walls, a decrepit pool table and seats showing their springs. Still, you have to go.
And when you do, call ahead, or you’ll have to wait a really long time, alongside half the folks you saw on the slopes at Purgatory, just a few miles away. (We were told three hours, so we left and came back the next day.)
The pizza comes with a chewy crust and gobs of gooey cheese. We like the Fatty, with pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, black olives, green peppers and onions, which we scarfed down while watching a couple make out the next booth over.
The white clapboard building, across from Needles Store, really did serve as a schoolhouse back in the day. We’re guessing they didn’t serve Ska beer on draft then.
El Moro Spirits & Tavern
945 Main Ave., Durango, 970-259-5555, http://elmorotavern.com
We love the history behind this hip eatery, where more than a century ago the sheriff and city marshal got into a gunfight on the sidewalk out front. (The marshal won, the sheriff died, and, since no one actually saw — or confessed to seeing — who shot first, he walked away free.)
We dined on seared scallops with crimini mushrooms and grilled flank steak with sweet potato mashers as we admired the plank floors, raw brick walls, chandeliers made of Mason jars and cheese graters doubling as light sconces.
The focal point? A massive bar, backed by shelves of glittering booze, including a bottle of whiskey kept just to appease the ghosts that haunt the place. It’s been mysteriously emptied three times, according to owner Kris Oyler, who also runs the popular Steamworks Brewing Co. a few blocks away.
Village Plaza at Purgatory Resort, 970-385-2121, https://www.purgatoryresort.com/dining-and-apres/purgys
Ask anybody — Purgy’s is an institution.
The original was torn down about eight years ago (trust us, it needed to go), but the new incarnation retains almost as funky a vibe. Pop off your skis, leave them out front and head inside for hot coffee with a shot of whiskey or a draft beer. (Food’s also on the menu, but most folks prefer happy hour to dinner here.)
The bartenders are like magicians, efficiently serving the throngs who happily tap toes to live music as the ice melts from their beards. Bring your best on-mountain tales to share.
Silverpick Lodge, 48475 U.S. 550, 1 mile south of Durango Mountain Resort, 970-247-3527, http://sowseardurango.com
If you’re staying at the ski resort, Sow’s Ear tops our list of places to go for fine dining. But resist the urge to eat fancy, and do as the locals do — sit at the bar and order a burger (not on the dinner menu).
You’ll be staring down the finest beef patty that ever lounged between a pair of buns for just $13 ($11 during happy hour, 4-6 p.m. daily). It comes with a giant pile of skin-on french fries.
Or, if you must, get sophisticated and choose from pan-seared salmon, filet au poivre or grilled rib-eye.