An Interview with Mona Ghattas and Jay Guthrie, Owners
Local Hero: Best cafe, albuquerque
Photos by Stacey M. Adams
Husband and wife team, Mona Ghattas and Jay Guthrie, at Duran Central Pharmacy.
Pete Duran started Duran Central Pharmacy in 1942 as a very traditional pharmacy with a small soda fountain in the back. In 1965, Robert Ghattas purchased the pharmacy from Duran. Then Ghattas’ daughter, Mona Ghattas, bought the business in 2010 from her retiring father. Through the years, the pharmacy has evolved to meet the needs of the neighborhood and community, and its restaurant has become an Albuquerque institution and a destination for chile-lovers.
How did you get to where you are now? What’s the backstory, and what was the moment that brought you to your current work?
In the late 1960s, pharmacies were starting to close their soda fountains because they were not profitable. Ghattas decided to try to drum up business by offering different specials each day of the week, such as spaghetti or sandwiches. Enchiladas were the Wednesday special, and soon Wednesday was the busiest day of the week! He started adding other New Mexican fare as specials and word got out about the great food at the soda fountain. Eventually, he had to hire more people to keep up with the increased business. Duran’s became the popular lunch spot for people living and working in the neighborhood. The recipes were originally formulated by Corrine Gallegos, one of the staff members, and Robert Ghattas. Everything was house-made with fresh ingredients. Duran’s has consistently used the same recipes and fresh ingredients while still maintaining the same friendly atmosphere and good service. The restaurant is an integral part of the business, working in tandem with the pharmacy and gift shop.
What makes Duran’s such an important cornerstone of New Mexican food in Albuquerque?
Duran’s has been and continues to be a neighborhood restaurant serving many generations of Albuquerque families. Locals have been coming to Duran’s since they were children. Now they are bringing their children and their grandchildren to Duran’s. Customers who have moved away make it their first stop when they come back to town. It still has that “neighborhood feel” where everyone knows each other. It is a home away from home.
How has the restaurant changed in its long history? What hasn’t changed?
The restaurant hasn’t changed much at all. A patio was added about thirty years ago. There have been some slight cosmetic changes. The basic menu is the same as it was in the late 1960s. There have been some additions, but nothing drastic. We strive to keep our friendly service and delicious food consistent with each visit!
What is your favorite thing to eat at Duran’s?
Mona: The enchilada plate.
Jay: A bowl of red chile with carne adovada (Thursday special), beans and cheese.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a restaurant owner?
We have been in the same building since 1975. Our biggest challenge has been space and maintaining an aging facility.
Is there anything else you would like to share with edible readers?
Duran Central Pharmacy’s success is linked directly to the continued support of our extraordinary community and the spirit of our exceptional staff.
1815 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, 505-247-4141, duransrx.com
Edible celebrates New Mexico's food culture, season by season. We believe that knowing where our food comes from is a powerful thing. With our high-quality, aesthetically pleasing and informative publication, we inspire readers to support and celebrate the growers, producers, chefs, beverage and food artisans, and other food professionals in our community.