Living in Durango means having to sacrifice some of life’s luxuries in order to afford it. Luckily, that sacrifice doesn’t have to be a good meal, because as hefty as your rent bill may be, your restaurant bill shouldn’t have to be weighed on a truck scale if you’re smart about where you eat. Here are some thrifty bites you can find around Durango – we’re talking “under $10” thrifty – that will leave both your stomach and your bank account satisfied.
Texas Taco, $6 Serious Texas Bar-B-Q, 650 S. Camino Del Rio, 3535 Main Ave., serioustexasbbq.comThe only thing that makes this creation a taco is the 6-inch flour tortilla. Other than that, this cheap beast of a meal deserves to be in its own category. The “taco” is made with a greedy handful of chopped barbecue pork, jalapenos, and raw white onion, topped with a mound of cheesy potatoes. The tangy barbecue sauce is a necessary addition on this taco, which defies standard portions, so don’t make the mistake of ordering multiple. (We get it; everything is bigger in Texas.) This taco brick can also be used for smashing windows during riots.
Quarter-pound Chedda’ Burger, $7.15Grassburger, 726 Main Ave., eatgrassburger.comIt would be neglectful of us to make a Cheap Eats guide and not mention Grassburger, a go-to spot for scrupulous diners who still want a quality meal. The entirety of Grassburger’s all-natural grass-fed quarter-pound options – the Grassburger, Bacon Chedda’ Burger, Green Chile Jackburger, and Mushroom Swiss Burger – are under $10, but we wanted to highlight the standard, because you can’t outdo a classic. The majority of the menu, including the bowls, salads, shakes, and sides, are also under $10. So, if you want to keep your wallet as large as George Costanza’s, Grassburger is the place to dine.
Chicken Curry, $9Mariana’s Authentic Cuisine, 1101 Main Ave., 11thstreetstation.com/marianas-authentic-cuisineOne of the perks of eating Mariana’s Indonesian-Chinese fusion at 11th Street Station, other than the consistently delicious meals delivered out of the yellow truck’s window, is the convenience of her restaurant-quality meals. The entire menu is under $10, but the reliable fall-back for when you don’t know what to eat is the chicken curry, which is made with tender chicken, potatoes, veggies, Indonesian spices, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, bay leaves, basil, ginger, and tamarind, which is served on rice and topped with cilantro. It’s worth adding a spoonful of Mariana truck-made hot sauce. And, be kind and throw a buck or two in the tip jar.
Tacos, $2Los Amigos Del Sur, 835 Main Ave. #106, durangoamigos.comOther than having to use an undignified bathroom key attached to a chip basket to use the restroom, there is little else to complain about when it comes to Mexican restaurant Los Amigos Del Sur. Diners can get two or three corn tortilla tacos for a substantial, affordable meal. There are plenty of options, too. Choose from carne asada, chicken, adobada, barbacoa, cochinita pibil (pork), ground beef, shrimp, or fish. And unlike the blasphemous “Mexican” restaurants that charge for chips and salsa, the first one is on the house at Los Amigos. Bonus: Nayarit’s taco options are also a bargain – they are $2.25 each, three for $6.50, or five for $9.99.
Pizza by the slice, $2.25Mancos Pizza CO., 280 E Frontage Rd #5, Mancos, facebook.com/PnDGroceryWhat you spend on gas on the way to Mancos, you’ll make up for in savings on the meal. The hole in the wall, which is connected to P & D Grocery, doesn’t seem to know what decade it is. Two slices and a soft drink costs $5.35. The no-frills, gooey pizza slices are pizza are served the way God intended. There are just some bites that should never be artisanal, you hipster.
Chicago Dog, $8.25Durango Dawg House, 600 Main Ave., durangodawghouse.business.site Better than the prices at this small hot dog space are the weekend hours. Try dining any time past 10 p.m., and you’ll find that Durango turns into a darkened dining desert. And, after a night of drinking, it’s not unusual to walk the streets, praying, hoping you can get at least a slice of pizza somewhere, just to pull on a mocking locked door. At this point, the open sign at Durango Dog House may seem like a mirage, but it’s not. The casual space is open until 2 a.m. on Friday and 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. We are not sure if the classic Chicago Dawg, topped with mustard, white onions, tomatoes, sweet relish, celery salt, and pickle was really the best thing we’ve ever eaten, or if it was kicked up a notch thanks to the desperation for substance, but there is no doubt it is one delicious dog.
Baby Burrito with meat or veggies, $5.10 Zia Taqueria, 3101 Main Ave., 400 S. Camino Del Rio, ziataqueria.comIt’s appropriate to both laugh and cry at the fact that the more-than-significant baby burrito at Zia Taqueria is called “baby,” unless they call it that because the hand-held staple is the same size as a newborn. Durangoans must have already caught on to the fact the restaurant is ripping itself off with this one, because there is always a line at the fast-casual dining spot. The 10-inch tortilla comes with your choice of 11 different types of meat and veggies, with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa and sour cream. Pay an extra $.90 for fish and $1 for guacamole.
All you can eat buffet, $7.95Mongolian Grill, 1135 S. Camino Del Rio, Unit 230, mongoliangrilldurango.comThis cheap eat comes with a caveat – it is only available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And no, this buffet is not talking about four straight hours of eating the Parrothead cult leader, Jimmy Buffett. The Mongolian Grill Bar-B-Q buffet offers a variety of meat, veggies, noodles, and sauces in a cooler that you assemble in a bowl for a cook to prepare fresh on the grill. The East Asian restaurant also allows buffet take out – a mind-blowing concept fit for the current cultural paradigm shift. For vegans: the spicy Kung Pao tofu is wassup for only $7.95, too.
Thai curries, $9.95 Thai Kitchen, 101 West 11th St., durangomenus.com/thai_kitchen.htmlIt is impossible to get tired of Thai cuisine, but the prices keep many of us from eating the vivacious dishes as often as we’re ingesting the sad, cold, brown-bagged deli sandwiches. But Thai Kitchen curries clock in just under $10, and come in red, green, yellow, massaman, pineapple, or panang, with the choice of either chicken, pork, or veggies. Shout out to the spicy basil fried rice – our top pick from this restaurant – but at $10.95, the plate, made with red pepper, yellow onion, basil, and egg, is too pricey for our list. If you have a large sack with a dollar sign on it, you can order without the egg to make it vegan.
Pretzel sticks, $8Carver Brewing Co., 1022 Main Ave., carverbrewing.com The valiant pretzel continues to stand strong in a gluten-intolerant dystopia. No matter how bloated this joyous bread may make our bellies, it is impossible to turn our backs on the salty pretzel. Pretzel dough is essentially the same as bread dough, but the difference is it’s dropped in water before baking, creating the chewy crust. At Carvers, the handy pretzel sticks are served with honey and mustard and are best enjoyed with a cold pint.
Breakfast burrito, $4.75Mercy Hospital, 1010 Three Springs Blvd., centura.org/locations/mercy-regional-medical-centerGoing to a hospital to eat when you don’t have to be there might seem a bit odd, but Mercy Hospital is actually one of the largest food operations in the Four Corners area, and serving patients is just one part of the food service. In fact, most of Mercy’s food customers are hospital employees, people visiting adjacent doctors’ offices, and employees of surrounding Three Springs businesses.” You should know that the food there is actually pretty good, and the breakfast burritos are damn good, especially for the price. Hot breakfast is served from 7 to 9:30 a.m., and includes the breakfast burrito is made in a 12-inch tortilla, with fresh scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, seasoned potatoes, green chile, and your choice of bacon, sausage, vegetarian, or potato-less. Grab-and-go and customized burritos are available for the same price.
Garlic pigbread, $7The Container of Food, 225 Girard St., containeroffood.comMade with smoked pork, red onion, red feta, fiery voodoo sauce and topped with chive, this flatbread from the Container at Ska Brewing is a serious crowd pleaser. The organic flour bread comes from Serious Delights Bakery, a locally-owned bread shop. The soft and chewy flatbread is cut up into four large pieces and served in a basket. Chances are, you will eat this while the muffled Misfits play in the brewery. We are convinced Danzig is one of the main ingredients in Ska beers. Yeahhhhhhhh!
Bakery sandwiches, $8.50 Bread, 42 County Road 250, breaddurango.comThe fresh bakery sandwiches at Bread live in that confusing land of half-is-not-enough and the-full-sandwich-is-too-big. Because under-eating is not something we Americans know how to do, expect to be stuffed to the rafters after eating the entire sandwich. Bread offers five sandwich standards, which include turkey, salami, mozzarella, pastrami, and BLT, all on different types of fresh-baked bread.
Sweet or savory crepes, $7.96 to $9.95Michel’s Corner, 589 Main Ave., michelscorner.comCrepes, like funnel cakes or churros, seem like a dish that should only be ordered on a special occasion – like a vacation. Michel’s touristy location next to ColdStone and Starbucks may keep locals away from the little crepe cart, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice. The sweet and savory crepes are prepared by Belgium transplant chef Michel Poumay, who left the fine dining world to work for a more casual lifestyle. Items such as the turkey, provolone, and lingonberry; apple, cheddar, and brown sugar; or ham, brie, and applesauce, offer uncommon blends. The light bites are quickly made to order. Bon appetit!
Big breakfast bagel, $9Durango Bagel, 106 East 5th St., durangomenus.com/durango_bagel.htmlThe breakfast sandwich is an invention that rivals the Internet. It has everything one could want to fuel the day. At Durango Bagel, their big breakfast bagel is made with egg, cheddar cheese, sausage, AND bacon on your choice of bagel. The worst part about eating this in the morning is knowing the rest of your day won’t get any better.