How many restaurants can say they have been in business at the same location, with the same owners, the same phone number, and virtually the same menu for the last 25 years?
The Adobe Inn in Ridgway has not only survived in its expansive valley-view location on the edge of town, it has thrived with its simple Mexican fare, loyal staff and even more loyal customers. The cottonwood trees that volunteered at the corners of the courtyard in 1987 are now 40 feet tall, their roots tilting the patio into concrete puzzle pieces.
The secret, says owner Joyce Bucknam (besides the best salad east of the international date line), is “persistence.”
Well, yes. And that salad. There are only 14 classic Mexican entrees on the dinner menu (all of them $14 or $15), plus a handful of appetizers, soups and desserts. But every one of them starts with the salad, or a tostada, your choice. Choose the salad. It never fails to delight, with its green leaf lettuce, red cabbage, celery, gorgonzola cheese, sunflower seeds and small bits of cauliflower. The key is the lemony dressing, which our waitress Heather (of the musical duo Doug and Heather, who has been working at the Adobe for the last 10 years) says she is not at liberty to divulge.
Not so, says Joyce, who with husband Terre, started “gathering” their recipes at their previous restaurant, Norwood’s iconic Back Narrows Inn, in 1970. “I’ll tell you what’s in it: organic safflower oil, a lighter oil; apple cider vinegar, garlic and fresh lemon juice. That’s it. It never varies. We don’t even let our kitchen manager , John Pizzarusso, who has been with us for 12 years, order anything different. Our menu is successful because it’s simple and the same.”
Terre adds: “As far as the cook is concerned, the creativity stops with us.”
Adding to the pure flavors of the Adobe’s enchiladas, flautas, chimichangas, and rellenos are a quartet of sauces. There’s a rich, vegetarian rojo made from chilies exclusively from Tumatacari, Ariz., a New Mexico-style verde sauce with lean pork and chilies from Albuquerque, a cream and tomato sauce, often paired with the flautas, and a crisp suiza sauce – chicken broth with tomatillos and cilantro.
The very good chips and salsa (flour and corn chips) are made in house. The rellenos are especially crispy, deep fried in peanut oil. And in a nod to some experimentation, the Bucknams have added a spinach-and-gorgonzola relleno to the standard Monterrey Jack-stuffed green chilies. The gorgonzola is subtle and surprisingly adaptable.
All entrees come with sides of Anasazi beans from Dove Creek, and tamal en elote, a corn casserole that is another semi-secret, long-time staple.
SPECIALS? “People say to me, ‘You never have any specials,’” Joyce says. “And I say, ‘Everything is special.’”
THE CANTINA The Bucknams may not have changed the menu, but they have changed the building, somewhat. They cannibalized one of the guest rooms for more dining room space. (The Inn still has three comfy rooms to rent on a nightly basis.) And they added on a bar area on the south side with an adobe fireplace and views toward Ouray. Margaritas, naturally, come in all flavors from house ($6.50) to premium tequilas: Cuervo, Patron, Sousa ($8.50).
A FINAL WORD ON LONGEVITY from Heather: “It’s like family here. Everybody cares. Terre comes in and moves the art around on the walls. We take care of it for Terre and Joyce.”
$$ Open for dinner only, seven nights a week, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. in winter). The bar opens at 5 p.m. Take out is available.