In a small corner space off the beaten path (College Plaza off Eighth Ave. next to W.J. Doyle Wine and Spirits, to be exact) the Raider Ridge Café has blossomed into a local food favorite. Founded in 2006 by Fort Lewis College business graduate Jarrod Regan, the RRC is open for breakfast and lunch, and serves a variety of gourmet wraps, salads, homemade soups, whole fruit smoothies, and coffee. Everything is made from scratch daily, and it’s all exceedingly healthy; there are even gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian options. The café partners with local farms so its meat and produce is locally sourced year-round. We chatted with Regan about what makes his food so good and what the customers enjoy most.
On opening a café in DurangoI fell in love with the town and learned to cook as I was working my way through school. I didn’t have a lot of foresight, as far as opening a business – it was more of a challenge, to see if I could do it. For the most part, the community embraces growth and new businesses. People definitely want to try out new things. But there was a semi-similar business in this spot before, called Flanders, and that had a really loyal following. A lot of them came in and then walked away when they found out we weren’t the same business!
On the most popular dishes People love our build-your-own breakfast burritos. You can put whatever you want in there. [BYO burritos include up to six ingredients for $6.50, for example Turtle Lake Sprouts, Sunnyside sage sausage, tofu, Boar’s Head ham.] Everything is fresh to order; we make all our salad dressings, sauces, marinades, everything from scratch. We cook our potatoes every morning; we crack our eggs from the shell every morning. There’s nothing processed. We’ve adjusted the menu maybe five times over 10 years to make it as balanced as possible. There’s also a special brunch menu on Sundays that changes seasonally. Right now, we have stuffed delicata squash [locally-grown squash roasted and filled with scrambled cage free eggs, kale, onions, red peppers, feta, and topped with homemade pesto, $8] and pumpkin apple pancakes [gluten-free pumpkin cakes with diced apples and roasted pumpkin seeds, served with 100 percent maple syrup, $8]
On offering a food source list to customersA lot our customers go to the farmers markets on Saturdays, and they want to see that we’re using things grown in our region, as opposed to shipped in from wherever. From my standpoint, the quality between something from the farms here, well ... it’s harvested the day we get it, as opposed to when we get something off a truck that was probably harvested a week or two ago. The freshness is palpable.
On what makes RRC’s smoothies deliciousYou have to use frozen fruit to make them nice and thick. Some of the fruit we get fresh, then we cut it up and freeze it. We don’t use fillers or sherbet. In a couple, we use frozen yogurt. We have 20 different smoothies with different juices, almond milk, regular milk. My favorite is definitely the Moo-Less Magic, which has orange juice, mangoes, bananas, honey, and strawberries. The crowd favorite is the Green Giant, which is spinach, pineapples, mangoes, honey, and apple juice. You don’t taste the spinach, but it looks green.
On displaying art in the caféA couple times a year, we like to take all the employees out, buy them drinks and appetizers, and have a chance for everyone to vent about things at work. But we wind up coming up with new ideas and having a collaborative brainstorming effort. Having Sunday brunch was someone’s idea, and so was the art shows. It was Dan [Groth] and Tess, a girl who worked here at the time, who brought up the idea of having rotating art; at the time, we’d had artwork from Animas High School up, but it had been hanging on the walls for a year. The employees working here five days a week were getting tired of looking at the exact same thing. Last winter, when we remodeled the dining room, I put in a track hanging system, because changing out artwork every two months puts a lot of holes in the walls.
On the locationWe’ve gotten more tourist foot traffic the last two or so years, due almost entirely to Yelp-type apps. Customers review us, and they encourage people to seek out things off the beaten path; then they’ll tend to seek out the highest-rated places. Before that, tourists would be rare. This time of year, we don’t see any, and even in the summer tourists are maybe 10 percent of our business. It’s mostly local regulars.
— Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer