Under new ownership, two well-established Main Street eateries are freshening up their look, and their menus. Blondie’s Pub and Grub has been rebranded as Blondie’s Trophy Room, while the former Dry Dock Restaurant and Pub is now called Addison’s Fine Food and Libations.
Owner Desmond Calhoon is a well-traveled man. With a culinary career spanning Phoenix — where he learned to chop, grill and sauté — Lake Powell, Oakland, Reno, back to Phoenix for a spell, and Minnesota, he now is returning to his old stomping grounds.
Calhoon grew up in Montezuma County and graduated from Montezuma-Cortez High School in 2000. His prior jobs, for major concessionaires Aramark and Levy Restaurants, took him to exciting venues, but the corporate structure didn’t permit much creativity.
“I worked at Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors, and helped open a restaurant at a Triple A ballpark in Reno,” said Calhoon, who also counts the Kentucky Derby, Ryder Cup, U.S. Open, and Grammy Awards as feathers in his cap.
After 13 years away, he’s ready for the slower pace.
“It’s super boring (by comparison),” he said of small-town living. “But it’s worth it to have my own place.”
While working at Xcel Energy Center, where the NHL’s Minnesota Wild play, Calhoon heard through the modern-day grapevine — Facebook — that former owner Patty Simmons was looking to sell Blondie’s.
He jumped at the opportunity and moved home, taking over March 1.
As passersby may have noticed, the restaurant’s theme has changed the last two months along with its name. Blondie’s Trophy Room alludes to Calhoon’s enthusiasm for outdoor recreation, specifically hunting.
“Growing up here, I was an avid outdoorsman. It was a way to incorporate my passions,” he said.
Jettisoning the motorcycle theme in favor of head mounts and camouflage decor isn’t meant to insult bikers.
“I’ve got nothing against bikers and I want them here. We’ll still sponsor the Ignacio and Sugar Pine (Mancos) rallies. I just wanted an image that better represents me.”
Inside, patrons are watched from above by some of Calhoon’s own trophies — well, his family members’ and friends’, anyway. Walls are adorned with several 12-point elk, a pronghorn, bighorn sheep, brown bear and the ever-handsome wild boar. Vestiges of the biker theme still remain next door in the pool hall.
Calhoon is putting in lots of front-of-house face time initially. But he wants to transition back into his element, the kitchen, once more staff are trained. Calhoon said when he took over, 60 percent of sales were booze — the pub over the grub. With an expanded menu and seven day a week schedule, he’s trying to tip the scales the other direction.
The new menu is being unveiled at a grand opening June 1. Some old recipes are still around, like Patty’s Pasta Bowl, but Calhoon is adding his own spin. The “frickle burger,” for example, comes topped with herb cream cheese and Cajun-fried pickles.
Another way Calhoon is paying tribute to his past is a menu item called the “4-H Burger Club.” As an M-CHS student, Calhoon sold market steers and hogs at auction to local bidders. Proceeds from this particular burger will funnel back into the community to help purchase livestock animals from current 4-H members.
Life outside the fast lane might be less thrilling, but Calhoon is excited to get reacquainted with his old city and his old hobbies.
“I haven’t hunted in 10 years. You can’t really do that in the big metropolis,” he said.
The Dry Dock, a Main Street fixture for 15 years, is no more. In its place is Addison’s Fine Food and Libations.
The restaurant closed for almost two weeks earlier this month to scrub, scour and dust.
“We want to step up the image and the service, add a little sophistication. All servers are being trained that the guest is first,” said new owner Stuart Stroud. Only one staff member was retained from the previous ownership. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the summer, seven days a week.
Stroud, 52, tended bar and waited tables during his younger years but hasn’t had much to do with restaurants since. From 1983 to 2000, he ran Environmental Liners, Inc., a company that specialized in materials to contain liquid and solid waste. After some business consulting in Las Vegas, he returned to Cortez to care for his elderly father.
Executive chef Carl Hawkinson has 36 years experience in the business, most recently at the Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc. Carnivores will be well pleased with the selections. Hawkinson says his strengths are beef and wild game. The menu’s signature item is a 20-ounce charred bone-in ribeye.
Weekends are time for fresh fish. Stroud will have Chilean sea bass, halibut and salmon express-shipped from the coast.
“They’re guaranteed to be out of the water less than 16 hours,” he said.
Stroud said his kitchen is conscious of portion sizes and not short-changing customers. Steaks are cut in-house slightly larger than their listed size on the menu, as they shed a little weight on the grill.
He also plans to scope out the Cortez, Mancos and Dolores farmers markets for fresh, locally grown produce.
“It’s not a cost issue — it’s buying into the community. We’re all about the Four Corners area. If you support your community, it all comes full circle,” Stroud said.
Stroud has decorated the front dining areas with golf-themed accents in honor of his late father, Bill Stroud, who died in February. The elder Stroud was well-known in Cortez for building the municipal golf course off Highway 145 in the 1960s and 1970s. The restaurant’s moniker comes from Stuart Stroud’s middle name, and also his grandfather, Addison Wheeler, who operated Wheeler’s Market at the intersection of Main and Beech streets. Work isn’t complete yet. Stroud is commissioning a new bar area for the back of the building. The current bar, smack in the middle of a main dining room, will make way for more tables.
Stroud also wants to refurbish the patio. He will remove the stone fountain and fill the space with a propane-fed fire pit with a glass grate over the top. It’s mostly for visual effect.
“The fire will illuminate the glass and give off a little heat, but no smoke,” he said.