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By Leah Nott

The burger is arguably one of the most challenging meals to make shine above the rest. And yet, Mahogany Grille’s new bison burger, featuring Gleason Bison from neighboring Hesperus, left diners in awe. The savory burger, complimented with crispy fingerling potatoes, is topped with goat cheese, arugula, and mouthwatering red pepper romesco.

The Mahogany Grille at the Strater Hotel in downtown Durango is receiving new life thanks to General Manager Tori Ossola, Food & Beverage Director Danica Frost, Chef Kailey Hatem, and Sommelier and Beverage Director Aaron Brandes. Inspired by local flavors and the building’s iconic decor, this talented team is reinventing the menu, presenting a feast for the senses.

“We’ve created an approachable menu, utilizing fresh local ingredients as much as possible,” Frost said. “We’re telling a story about the Strater and the region through flavors and products, bringing that craftsmanship you see all around you here to the plate and cocktail.”

Besides livening up the menu, Ossola also found an opportunity to nurture a sense of community by reintroducing a tradition that locals and long-time visitors might find familiar. It’s a sure way to “cheer” the diners into the evening with a drink in hand while they await their meal.

“’The Cheer’ began here many years ago,” Ossola said. “It was a way for us to welcome our guests into this festive restaurant. It’s up to the bartender of the night to designate what that ‘Cheer’ can be, but it’s an opportunity to taste a signature cocktail or wine featured on the menu.”

The culinary makeover at the Mahogany Grille is nothing short of exceptional, showcasing the finest ingredients and flavors of the area while infusing a refreshing element from newly hired Chef Kailey. She is excited to introduce a change of culinary pace for Durango, blending her Lebanese heritage with influences by the classic flavors the restaurant is known for.

“For example, we wanted to develop a shared appetizer that would allow me to showcase my recipe for tabouli and toum,” Chef Kailey explained.

The tabouli and toum appetizer is an instant classic, and the intense Mediterranean flavors pair well with a refreshing Chardonnay, leaving guests with an aromatic aftertaste, yearning for more.

Ideas presented on the plate continue with a timeless entree heralding the Old-West feel of the restaurant: a tender elk steak complemented with a cherry sauce glaze that warrants no other flavors to be added. Fresh, crispy Brussels sprouts and buttery mashed potatoes round out this delectable dish.

The menu continues to demonstrate Chef Kailey’s culinary expertise with delicate pieces of grilled lamb, exquisitely seasoned with Za’atar, served over a wild mushroom risotto.

“Lamb is something I grew up with,” Chef Kailey said. “It’s a very traditional meat. It’s easy to master, and I think it’s going to hit really well. I know a lot of people like risotto, so that’s something I would like to do here because it’s impressive.”

Guests agreed, licking the bones clean and chasing the flavors down with a lovely French Grenache hand-selected by sommelier Brandes. A satiated silence fell over the table as diners indulged in the moment of contentment and their full, happy bellies.

While Chef Kailey looks to expand kitchen offerings, Brandes is busy revamping the wine menu to introduce exciting pairings curated to heighten the epicurean journey. Recognizing that guests’ palates and wine experiences vary, Brandes looks forward to bringing affordable, familiar bottles alongside adventurous new selections.

“We are trying to be more approachable to a wider audience,” Brandes said. “I have to get stuff that’s recognizable that people gravitate towards. With the new chef and flavor opportunities, I knew I could fit the wine within the context of the styles of cuisine.”

The restaurant’s weekly specials will build on the essence of seasonal flavors as local ingredients blossom on the plate, taking advantage of the region’s rotating harvest. Diners in the know cannot wait to taste dishes endorsing Colorado’s beloved peach and apple seasons.

Whether you’re sharing a meal with loved ones, celebrating a special occasion, or simply enjoying a leisurely dinner, the Mahogany Grille epitomizes the timeless allure of Durango’s dining scene. The restaurant’s new era in luxury and refinement still guarantees that special blend of history, hospitality, and culinary excellence that will continue to captivate discerning guests year after year.

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