An ode to K-Bob

The truth is I never tasted the Annie Oakley (two jumbo shrimp sautéed in garlic and shrooms and then lovingly placed atop a bed of crab meat). Call me crazy, but I just didn’t go in for the dish said to be for “the straight shootin’ women and the men who dare to love them.” Somehow I also missed the smothered “Charloin” in all of its broiled, gravy-dipped perfection. The same can be said for “finger fixins,” farm-raised catfish and the world famous Rodeo Ribeye.

Yep, I never took the trip through the swinging front doors of K-Bob’s, the Durango restaurant that used to serve “the food that America loves.” And now the steakhouse that stood watch at Bodo Park for 22 years is gone. The baby-franchise that first got its start in Clovis, N.M., in the era of Janis and Jimi has packed up and left La Plata County. Call it a sign of the times, but those deep fat fryers and griddles will soon be eclipsed by elliptical trainers and physio-balls as Fitness Solutions 24/7 takes over and sets up shop.

I did get close to the heat lamps once, after I jokingly pulled my better half into the parking lot on our 10th wedding anniversary (let’s just say I missed out on the tender loin that evening). And I’m pretty sure I once smelled flame-broiling coming from the dark building but still can’t be sure (there was also an idling big rig nearby). But I honestly have no real regrets about missing out on all that K-Bob’s flavor. Let’s just say, I’ve never been much for the steakhouse, especially the corporate variety – too hard on the tailpipe and soft on the waistline.

Sorry K-Bob, but I’ll be chalking up another one for mom and pop. Let’s hold the corporate gravy and replace chicken-fried with fitness. This is quite the obese, franchised age we’re passing through, after all.

OK, now that my conscience is clean, I have a confession to make. I’ll also secretly miss having that funky steakhouse on the southern edge of town. That’s right. I’m actually bummed that K-Bob’s has gone back down the road. You see, I’ve always liked a little bit of grease on Durango’s silver spoon, and K-Bob’s – along with several other throwbacks which shall remain unnamed – fit that bill admirably. Like a Conway Twitty song accidentally slipped into a pop-filled jukebox, K-Bob’s defied local trends for years. Seemingly unaffected by changing times, the restaurant served as a little bit of chicken-fried diversity on the rapidly growing New Western plain.

Plus, K-Bob’s was the one local establishment that consistently drew jabs from my Telluride and Vail friends. “Oh boy, guys! Look’s like we’re finally in K-Bob’s country,” they’d crow between big belly laughs. My dear old mum-in-law (thank god she’s still out of reading range) also pronounced she would never make her home in a town that could “harbor” a restaurant like K-Bob’s. For that I owe corporate in Clovis a big round of applause.

But now that the Special K has followed Western Sizzlin’ and a certain flashing blue light to the grave, Durango has gotten a little classier, a little shinier and a little more upscale. I don’t blame K-Bob, but the local spoon may be getting too polished for some tastes.

Like many others, I didn’t move to Durango for its class (I’m still reeling from the day when Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise and Oliver Stone took over my original hometown). Nope, I’m here partly so I can hide away from Hollywood. And I was sure that our beloved burg with its twin strips, its superfund site, pristine air quality and ample servings of Charloin would long be my happy, multi-color collared home. I’d assumed that Durango was almost perfectly celebrity proof. Oprah and Tom just don’t do uranium mill tailings or belly up to the Annie Oakley.

But at the same time, something’s happening to our happy little, dusty corner. The words “high-end,” “exclusive,” “private” and “luxury” all seem to be popping up in the neighborhood, and down-home Durango keeps trying to play at the top of the food chain.

But even as K-Bob chases Kettle, Pickles and the Home Run Buffet down the highway, hope remains. Sure, you can dress this town up and take it out. On a good day, Durango can even schmooze with the white-glove crowd. But there will always be a “finger fixin’” hiding in the local mix.

I’m the first to admit that Durango doesn’t need to be a full Rodeo Ribeye platter dressed up with all of the trimmings. And few, if any, communities ever benefit from that bed of tender crab meat. But a couple charbroiled ounces sitting next to a mashed potato “sidekick” never hurt any town. Like they say, it takes many flavors to make the perfect menu.

– Will Sands