Durango’s restaurant for fine dining that still feels casual, Ken and Sue’s, reopened earlier this month as 636 Main Ave under new ownership.
Ken and Sue Fusco retired and sold the restaurant to their longtime friends and employees Kurtis and Krista Murphy.
“It may not have the name everyone knows, but it’s still going to be a family restaurant,” Kurtis Murphy said.
Before the purchase, Murphy had spent several months working as the chef at Ken and Sue’s while his wife was serving and bartending for the restaurant. It was not their first run working with the Fuscos. Kurtis met the Fuscos in 2006 and Krista met them sometime before that. The two spent a number of years working in the restaurant.
“I’ve really enjoyed working for them,” Kurtis Murphy said. “Ken has taught me a lot about being a businessman and operating a business. Ken and Sue are probably one of the most successful business owners I’ve ever worked for.”
Every menu item at 636 Main Ave is priced under $35. Murphy said one of his favorite entrees is the blackened rib-eye steak served with a sweet potato gnocchi, which is one of the more expensive menu items at $31.
“We want to continue what Ken and Sue’s did really well, which was more casual fine dining,” he said. “We want to be a step above, but still be a restaurant you can come to all the time.”
Murphy and his family moved back to Durango from Telluride after the pandemic hit. In Telluride, he spent five years as the general manager at the mid-mountain ski venue Gorrono Ranch, where he hosted large events, weddings and concerts.
Murphy said the menu will stay the same for the most part. He plans to tweak some items, expand the menu to bring back old favorites, like the Parker House rolls, which were cut from the menu during COVID-19.
Murphy said it’s great to have the foundation that the Fuscos left, and he plans to make changes here and there to make the restaurant his own. He said he plans to keep prices as low as possible, but is looking for ways to bring in the best ingredients possible.
“We’re going to upgrade our ingredients, starting with the beef,” he said. “We have a really affordable menu right now, but I want to get some upgrades going on.”
Next steps for the menu are upgrading the desserts, he said. He said he’s hoping to add four or five new desserts.
Murphy has more than 25 years of restaurant experience. He began in Durango at Sweeney's Steakhouse in 1997, and has worked at several restaurants in both Durango and Telluride.
The new name, 636 Main Ave, is an effort to keep things simple and let the quality of the food shine, Murphy said.
“I’ve never thought that the name of the restaurant is that important,” he said. “The name of your restaurant doesn’t make the food better or the service better. I wanted to streamline it and make it simple so that when you Google it, it’s the address.”
For now, the logo for 636 Main Ave is a take on Ken and Sue’s old logo, but in the future, Murphy hopes to make some changes. Eventually, he said, he’s thinking about dropping the word Avenue and calling the restaurant just 636 Main.
Murphy said he has some ideas for redesigns, including a band-shell stage in the patio area so he can bring music to the restaurant.
“I would love to get live music on the patio,” he said. “As far as future remodeling goes, we are looking at projects down the road, but for now we just have to get through this first summer.”
A couple of weeks after its official opening March 1, 636 Main Ave is now open seven days a week. Murphy said the new business will accept Ken and Sue’s gift cards through the end of 2022.