When Durango’s Dairy Queen closed in June of 2017, it marked the end of an era. Sure, it was just a fast-food, burgers and ice-cream joint, but it had been a part of the North Main Avenue landscape for 39 years.
As its former location transformed into a Starbucks, the only soft-serve options in town became the other fast-food restaurants — and neither Sonic Blasts nor McFlurries are one-for-one stand-ins for Blizzards. The Flamethrower Grill Burger, with its spicy mayo, also seemed unique among cheeseburgers you could get without exiting your car. But I digress, and I’m quickly working up a dangerous craving for fast food.
Anyway, the closest DQs to Durango are located in Aztec, Cortez, and Farmington.
Or are they?
The Pine Cone in Bayfield is an independent fast food restaurant attached to a Shell Station just off U.S. Highway 160. And it’s clearly its own entity – after all, its interior doubles as a temple to the Wolverines, Bayfield High School’s football team. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t also evoke quite a bit of nostalgia for a certain milk-product monarch.
And there’s probably a reason for that. For the 11 years leading up to its closure, Durango’s DQ was operated by Tim Sapa, the Bayfield resident who owns the Pine Cone.
As far as ice cream goes, the eatery does all the usuals, including shakes, malts, floats, cones, sundaes, etc. – and also “Shredders,” its mechanically-blended sundae-topping-or-candy-in soft-serve item. On my most recent visit, I got an M&M Shredder with extra M&Ms because the cashier/waiter asked if I wanted extra, and I don’t know how to answer a query about whether I want more candy other than positively.
For someone craving the more widely-available chain equivalent, it hit the spot. (Subjectively speaking, though, the best flavor is probably Heath — toffee, chocolate, and soft serve is just a perfect combination.)
On the food side, the Pine Cone does six types of sandwiches (including the chili cheese dog; Merriam-Webster says that just like meatballs on a split roll, a sausage on a roll is, by definition, a sandwich), 10 kinds of burgers, chicken- and fish-strip baskets, beer-battered mushrooms, cheese curds, popcorn chicken, several kinds of fries, and onion rings. One item immediately jumps out at me every time I look at the menu: the Sizzling Egg burger — a quarter-pound patty, a fried egg, Swiss, bacon, Volcano Sauce, and grilled onion.
A fried egg instantly improves whatever it’s placed upon, be it enchiladas, pizza, or a hamburger. I’m not sure what it is — perhaps some sort of primal remembrance of the embryonic state — but that moment when you crack the yolk and it spills onto everything around it is absolutely divine. Supplement that with bacon and something with the word “volcano” in the name, and what have you got to lose?
On the fast-food burger scale, it was just about perfect, especially when complemented by waffle fries.
It’s worth noting that outside of its drive-thru and to-go service, if you choose to dine-in, the set up has been transformed into a sit-down restaurant scenario in which you’re waited upon. In other words, thanks to COVID-19, the Pine Cone is not unlike a breakfast-less diner for the time being — and a pretty decent one at that. And, perhaps, the easiest way to satisfy a longing for La Plata County’s departed fast-food chain.