This has nothing to do with the good home cooking that Grady’s wife Denean serves up each night from 4 to 10 p.m. But it does say a lot about the pedigree of this most local of family businesses.
Grady was born in Montrose. Denean grew up in Ridgway. They were high school sweethearts. Grady mined in the Ouray area for nine years, but then, as the mining declined, he went into construction. He and Spencer, the couple’s younger son, built the Rio Grande Western Mine Building down by the river, where the restaurant occupies the two-story corner space, with big windows and summertime seating under the cottonwoods.
Grady also built the Mountain Medical Center building in town. He still mines; he’s got a placer plant on a river in Alaska. And he and both his boys follow the mining competition circuit through the summer. (Silverton’s venerable Hardrockers Holidays and Ouray’s Highgraders’ Holiday are two stops on the tour.)
Denean spent the last four years at the Ridgway Schools designing and implementing what everyone agreed were revolutionary breakfast and lunch menus. “We tried to make it more organic, more whole-grain, more local foods,” Denean said, in her apron, prepping the evening special, a pot roast with brisket from the smoker. Teachers have told me they loved walking into the school mornings with the aroma of French toast wafting from the kitchen.
“We had 97-98 percent of the student population eating both breakfast and lunch,” Denean said proudly. “We had a good thing going.” Unfortunately, the program fell victim to cost cutting.
Unfortunate for the school. Perhaps fortunate for the community at large. The restaurant space at the Rio Grande Western building had seen numerous tenants. Now that it was empty, Grady and Denean, who own the building, decided to fill it themselves. “I brought all ‘my girls’ with me from the school,” Denean said, referring to her kitchen and wait staff. “We’re doing basically the same thing: everything made from scratch. My mom comes in and bakes the pies and breads every day. It’s real food. I think we’ve kind of found a niche.”
Monday Night Football is a part of the niche. Colby’s offers 50-cent wings, and hand-cut fries. The bar has three big-screen TVs. Every night there’s a nightly special. “Our chicken fried steaks are really popular,” Denean said. “From the smoker we have baby-back ribs, brisket, and the smoked chicken sells out every night.”
Business is good. They’re filling tables seven nights a week. Hunters and long-time residents are discovering the local flavor. On and plate and on the walls.