Part of me doesn’t even want to tell you about the amazing dinner I just had at the Boathouse at Electra Lake. If I do, you’ll make a reservation. Seating here is pretty limited, so I might not be able to get a table the next time I want to go. But, that’s selfish, and I know in my heart that the best things in life are better if they’re shared, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: The Boathouse is one of the best restaurants in town, and it’s only open for a few months a year.
You’ll find this relatively hidden restaurant within the private community of Electra Sporting Club. If you’re not a member, no worries; make a reservation and you’ll gain entry to the exclusive lake. The building itself is pretty cool: It’s on an island that’s accessible by bridge (or boat I suppose, although I’ve never tried). Whoever built it in the 1920s had a nautical theme in mind because the entire ceiling is shaped like the bottom of a boat. The décor gives it a feel of a friend’s cabin, and although this might be a weird comment, they have the absolute coziest bathrooms in town (check it out and tell me I’m wrong).
As you walk in, you’ll pass the kitchen on your way to the panoramic window that offers a fantastic view of Engineer Peak. In the fall, the hearth fireplace might be roaring, but on this summery day, the open windows allowed a cool breeze to run through the restaurant. Thanks to the 8,000’ elevation of the lake, the weather was more than a few degrees cooler than when we left Durango. We welcomed the change, but keep in mind that there is no heat and air conditioning here (historic building and all), so plan accordingly and bring an extra layer just in case.
A few other things you should know before you go:
• It’s cash or check only; no credit cards.
• They’re only open for a few months, on Thursday to Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m., so jump in while you can.
• You can’t get through the Electra Sporting Club entry gate without a reservation, so make one.
• Said reservation should be made at least a day in advance, but you’ll really want to plan ahead because the dining room fills up quickly.
• It’s BYOB, so bring a portable cocktail bar, a growler of your favorite brew, or as many wines as you think you can drink (ahem, I’m just assuming no one’s drinking and driving, of course).
Also, you should come hungry, because the menu changes almost every day and everything on it is delicious. Owners Dave and Jenn Stewart were chefs at Seasons of Durango for years before opening up shop at Electra Lake in 2017. The menu reflects their commitment to sourcing local and making from-scratch food. The beef comes from James Ranch, and most of the produce on this week’s menu came from Twin Buttes in Durango, Mountain Roots in Mancos, and Rohwer’s Farm outside Pleasant View. All the desserts are made in house, along with many menu items like a killer Hungarian sausage, my new favorite bacon, pillowy potato gnocchi, and pretzels topped with sea salt the Stewarts brought back from Cadiz, Spain. Oh, not to mention the garlic knots, which I could have eaten all. night. long.
We were tempted to order one of everything because it was so damn hard to decide. How do you choose between duck liver mousse and smoked trout dip? You don’t; you get them both. Is it possible to select one West Coast oyster over another? Nope, slurp ‘em all down. The rabbit dish came with gnocchi, but the pan-seared jumbo sea scallops was served with a spring pea and pancetta ragu ... so yeah, one of each, please!
By the end of the meal, we were pleasantly stuffed, but not too full to debate our dessert options. It’s hard not to order Jenn’s signature banana cream pie (which, you’ll love even if you hate bananas), but there were a handful of new items on the dessert menu. The house-churned ice cream never disappoints, and the buttermilk panna cotta with Campari-rhubarb compote and the chevre cheesecake were both fan-frickin-tastic.
You’ll find the Boathouse north of town, about five miles south of Purgatory Resort. Turn off of Highway 550 at Electra Lake Road and head up the dirt road for about a mile. Check in with the gatekeeper (or, enter the code given to you at the time of your reservation) and wind your way around the south end of the lake. Take a few lefts and soak in the view as you find yourself at the restaurant.
Call 970-247-5180 for reservations or visit their website at theboathouseatelectra.com.