Well, hot damn, 11th Street Station is finally open. The corner of Main Avenue and 11th showcases a culinary collective of five food trucks, Ernie’s Bar (open till midnight), and Taste Coffee. There’s limited indoor and plenty of outdoor seating, and have you seen this place at night? It’s a bright sight with a star of overhead, roped lights. Makes Downtown Durango even more cozy, and it sure as heck makes you feel cool, almost like you’re walking onto a movie set.
The current roster of food trucks includes The Box, Manny’s Fresh Co., Backcountry Gourmet, Smokin’ on Wheels, and Mariana’s Authentic Cuisine.
DGO spoke to Marcos Wisner, co-owner of 11th Street Station and The Box food truck, about what to expect from Durango’s new hotspot.
How did the history of Main and 11th influence the culinary collective you built there?The 1950s, it’s an era of Durango that isn’t celebrated as much as the early 1900s, what with the miners and the prostitutes and the train, that industrial era ... We geared around the 1950s era, when Ernie (Schaaf) was running this corner as a gas station, because we thought it was a little more tangible to the community. Something that people could directly relate to and have a tie of nostalgia to.
There was a gentleman who used to work here who came in and told us stories about changing tires here and Ernie paying him $2 a day. Stuff like that is really cool ... If anyone has a good Ernie story, they should come down and share it, and we’ll buy their first drink. We want to keep that history alive.
It looks like you are already starting to have music events. We’ll be doing low-key acoustic music through the winter time. We are setting up the bands inside until spring/summer hits.
How should bands interested in playing contact you? Reach us through our admin email, [email protected]
What’s the hardest learning curve, now that you’re open?I think it’s just maintaining the awareness that we’re here and open and getting people to come check us out. I don’t think people understand we are a bar that’s open till midnight during the winter and possibly later in the summer. The vendors have the possibility of making food at later hours, but need people to be here to stay open. People come in and ask how late we are going to stay open in the summer and I say, “I don’t know. It depends on you guys coming down here and hanging.” That’s our biggest learning curve ... It’s like, come down. Drink here. Eat here. There’s five restaurants to choose from. What are some of your favorite dishes at the food trucks? Each trailer has something very special to me. That I like. There’s diversity and professionalism with which each carries their products. It makes it hard to go wrong.
I love the crab sliders at the Backcountry Gourmet. Mariana’s pho is amazing. The best pho in town with a really solid beef broth. Some really good aromatics going on with it. The barbecue guys, Smokin’ on Wheels, their mac and cheese is delicious and filling and one of those winter meals you want to cure a hangover. Manny’s Fresh, what I love from him is this sushi burrito, it’s an oversized sushi roll. There’s no corn tortilla or anything, it’s an oversized, uncut sushi roll. It’s delicious. My pizzas (at The Box), they’re artisanal, from-scratch pizza. We have a good price point and interesting toppings. I just stick to my guns and put out an honest product and hope that it speaks for itself.
What’s going on booze-wise inside Ernie’s? We are starting our cocktails-on-tap program this week. What that means is we’ll have six cocktails on tap and you order one of these and you’ll have it fast. It’s efficient but offers a high-end, crafted cocktail product at a high speed. You can get them boom, boom, boom, back to back.
We have a 12-tap system of rotating beers from all over the world. Plus, over 30 mezcals and 25 tequilas to choose from.
What if a food truck wants to get in on your collective?Right now, our trucks are on a year lease. Spots are full, at this point. People can inquire via our admin email and we’ll get back to them, if we are looking to eventually rotate people out. We’ll archive all the requests and then blast out an email when we need someone.
Do you only take local food trucks? We’re not trying to necessarily house only food trucks, local or otherwise. We’re more of a business incubator. We’re looking for someone that wants to start a restaurant but doesn’t have the capital or the ability yet to open a brick-and-mortar just yet but with this concept can go to a bank and sell them on the idea. It’s a lot easier to get a $20,000 loan than a $200,000 loan to make your dreams happen. The trailers don’t move. They’re not rotating around. We’re giving a location on Main to showcase their product. It’s a food collective rather than a food truck corral where a bunch of trucks just come in every Friday and park in one spot.
What else should folks know about 11th Street? We have one of the best happy hours in town. It’s a late-night happy hour from 8 p.m. to midnight. It’s a beer and shot for $6. You get to choose between eight different beers and six or seven different top-notch spirits. It’s a great deal, every day of the week.
Interview edited and condensed for clarity.Patty Templeton