One of the toughest parts of Durango, besides the high rent, is dealing with tourists. Maybe I’m generalizing, but tourists are really bad at driving in such a walkable and bikeable town. Maybe they’re too astounded by the mountain vistas, maybe they’re not used to the potency of the THC, maybe they’re not used to seeing so many people walking around outside. And even though they’re pretty good at tipping and they support a lot of the summer economy in Durango, sometimes you need to go to a bar where you won’t hear a Texas accent or see a California license plate outside.
My absolute favorite locals bar is the Olde Schoolhouse. This north county bar is known for the dollar bills on the wall, the cold beer, and the best pizza after a day in the mountains. The space is full of idiosyncrasies: there’s graffiti and weird shit everywhere, strictly-enforced pool rules, but the best is the “no name tags” rule. If you walk in with your work name tag, they will take it and hang it behind the bar. It’s not a top secret place – it’s right on the highway to Purg – so you’ll see the occasional tourist in the know, but no way in hell will you see a whole bachelorette party from Phoenix like you will downtown.
Another excellent pizza and dollar bill bar that tourists rarely visit is J.Bo’s. With a surly bar staff, awesome dog-friendly back patio, a ping pong and pool table, J.Bo’s is the perfect bar to go if you want to avoid the shit show downtown. J.Bo’s also has the dollar bill on the wall, late night bar thing, but they also have a very legit family-friendly restaurant next door. That excellent food may bring people from downtown, but it’s few and far between. My favorite part about J.Bo’s is definitely Football Brunch: Sundays during football season they open at 9 and serve one of my favorite brunches in town.
Though not strictly a bar, and not strictly devoid of tourists, Cuckoo’s is usually a good spot to avoid a gaggle of retired Texans. In the alley, half a block up from Main and College, Cuckoo’s is a little nook of a basement spot, but the food and the cheap beer outshine the location. The Chicken Parm sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches in all of Durango, and the wing flavor selection is second to none.
One bar you will never see a tourist is 8th Ave. Tavern. Known best for it’s karaoke, 8th Ave. is just far enough out of the way of downtown that tourists don’t venture to those parts. You will see copious amounts of local beer, great specials on drinks, and there’s the Wheel-o-Booze: spin the wheel and take the shot it lands on! 8th Ave is a great bar to start your night or a great place to end your night if you live on that side of the grid. If you read the reviews on the internet, you will see a lot of upset people not from Durango. It’s a locals bar through and through.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.