You know, the word institution isn’t something I would usually apply to a restaurant. The word makes me slightly uncomfortable the way it suggests something more along the lines of a large, technical school…Or some joint with funny white jackets and Jack Nicholson? Then of course there’s the ecclesiastical sense of ‘institution,’ as in the history of the clergy….Maybe I’m just a non-conformist, but while others call Durants a dining “institution,” I’m going to have to disagree (sorry, Urbanspoon). I call this dark, groovy place with a kick-ass bartender who makes a perfect dry martini, not an institution, but a gem!

When I let others know that my Thursday night gallivant was going to include Durant’s, all responses were positive and boy oh boy, did jealousy abound. This was a good sign since the ‘institutional’ talk had me a little nervous (was I going to get ambushed by men in scrubs with syringes and a straight jacket?). You see, um, this was my first time. Trepidation is involved when walking into a place like Durant’s.  One may assume to be greeted with the questioning glance of the regulars as they sip on their ‘usuals’, or the couple in their 70’s whose corner table is always reserved on Thursdays; and finally, the slick guy with his jacket thrown over the bar stool, swirling his gin, trying to shake off the stress of the day – who needs a new girl?

Surprise, surprise – I love it when I’m wrong!  From the moment I realized the entrance was through the BACK of this joint, I just knew I was going to like Durant’s.  The “enter through the kitchen door” – was not at all what I was expecting and nearly sent me into the glee mode of ditching my heels for a pair of crocs and getting to work. Thank God I spied the “COCKTAIL” sign beyond the swinging door so that my adrenal glands could return to simmer. Happy hour trumps again! 

My “DD” Abbie and I found a few chairs at the bar and one extra for my good friend and photographer, John Ormond who joined us post-haste. I was still sippin’ on that filled to the rim martini when we came to the consensus that snacks might be in order. JJ (the kick-A#@ Barkeep) helped us out with a menu…..and a flashlight. Yes, Durant’s is one of THOSE kinds of places: Escapism at its best. Just a quick aside—I think if you need a flashlight to read a menu in a bar, it really deserves to be called a lounge, but either way, COLOR ME HAPPY! 

Our buddy, JJ, suggested the surf & turf and we said, “Yes, please!” Out came perfectly plated Shrimp Scampi with a (dig this) thick, cream sauce, along with some lovely chunks of tenderloin on a stick (and dig this again) perfectly prepared – medium rare. We also noshed on some to-die-for fresh bread–glorious, butter-soaked slices. I have to say that the last onion in my Grey Goose concoction went quite well with those oxy-moronical (new word) JUMBO shrimp.  Seriously though, they were humongous and succulent. Can you say succulently humongous? Then, to top it all off, Chef Ken came out and set us up with a Trio of Crème Brulee.  YIPEEE!

Low lights, tinkly music, red puckered leather booths, back-lit bar, and wall to wall carpet made my acclimation to this “new” old-favorite easy and painless—not at all like being stuck with a syringe or wrapped in the straight jacket.

Durant’s is a gentle and timeless lover. There is no need for nerves or pretense.  Bring along your appetite and your thirst and you just fall right back into it.