Kennebec Café and Bakery, a little gem on the way to Mancos

by Micah Susman

On your way to Mancos, La Plata Canyon, or the Hesperus ski area, you may notice the Kennebec Café and Bakery. In place of the solitary buildings that once housed Chip’s Place (diner and motel) now stands a local favorite for casual-but-fine dining, away from busy Main Street. I decided to go have brunch with a couple others and find out if this is really the best place to take visiting family or a nice date.

We arrived on a Sunday morning around 10 a.m., and immediately noticed the parking lot, surrounded by fading flora for the season, was filled with cars. Inside, there were more collars on men than I am used to seeing at a Durango restaurant during the day, but there were also several guys looking like they were about to embark on a La Plata Canyon adventure. We were seated in the front room and surrounded by ample options; I imagine most of those cars were carpoolers headed to the canyon.

The Kennebec Café’s owners and chefs Barbara Helmer and Miguel Carrillo open for dinner five nights a week and for weekend brunch. Most nights the menu offers Mediterranean style plates, but on the weekend the food has a mostly American influence with a slight Mexican lean. Carrillo’s background acts as an influence, along with the Tuesday night Mexican dinners (I dare not say Taco Tuesday, as there are many other non-taco options to choose from). Helmer’s background is showcased in the scones and pastries.

We ordered a couple mimosas that were tall, smooth, and strong: just like we like them! However, I had to try their house-made Bloody Mary mix, so I had one of those horseradish-crammed tomato juice cocktails in a pint glass with two olives and no celery — boo. No one asked for my spiciness preference nor offered any hot sauce, so the natural kick had to suffice. A simple but refreshing option to go with the amazing food we ate.

In the half dozen times I have been to the Kennebec Café, I have never had a bad dish or experience. Sunday was no different. I like to get eggs Benedict when possible, but make sure to avoid them at some local places that don’t poach their eggs. I ordered the Kenne-Bennes, a puff pastry Benedict. I wanted to try Miguel’s home fries, so I added that to the fresh fruit side that it came with. My dining partners ordered the Breakfast Burrito and the Farmer’s Breakfast.

The crispy burrito with green chile and chorizo was amazing. Accompanied by fresh green salsa and pico de gallo, it was a complex and flavorful medley. I could order this every time, but for this visit, I got to enjoy the very rich Kenne-benne.

The Kenne-benne was a simple dish of a puff pastry that reminded me of a croissant, heaps of thick smoked salmon and fresh asparagus, lightly poached eggs, and hollandaise. The fruit was great, but I was looking forward to the home fries, since potatoes are basically my favorite food.

The potatoes were roasted in cilantro, tomatoes salt and pepper, and unfortunately were my least favorite dish thanks to the excess salt. We had enough food so the fries didn’t ruin the meal, but I won’t order them again. The eggs were also slightly undercooked for two of us, and the pancake in the Farmer’s Breakfast was burnt and crunchy. The bacon was perfect, though: thick and crunchy.

The Kennebec Café continues to earn its reputation as one of the best restaurants in town. The special location at the threshold of La Plata Canyon is well deserved, and I would return for brunch or dinner anytime. The staff, décor, and food are as good, if not better, than any place in town. I would recommend taking any visiting family to a meal before exploring, or your special someone after waking up on a weekend morning. I can’t wait to return.

Micah Susman


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