Monday, June 23, 2014

North Hi-Way Cafe plans 80th birthday celebration

Happy Birthday to Idaho Falls' North Hi-Way Cafe.
Idaho Falls' North Hi-Way Cafe will be celebrating its 80th birthday on Saturday with a car show, which is kind of fitting considering the building may have started as a garage.

Since the 1930s, the cafe has amassed a great amount of goodwill from loyal customers. The food is made from scratchh, the service is friendly and the jokes on the wall behind the counter are corny. If you want a slice of pie, there are four or five to choose from and they didn't come out of boxes.

Wes and Roxanne Smith bought the property in 2003 from longtime owners Butch and Darlene Warrren. The cafe is no-smoking now, which was an issue ten years ago but not anymore.

There are two reasons the cafe seems to enjoy the loyalty it does: the staff and the food. The cafe mashes its potatoes and makes its own sausages. The buffalo grinder might be a museum piece somewhere else, but at the North Hi-Way it gets used every day.

"When we say something is hand-breaded, it's hand-breaded," Roxanne Smith said.

Whether it's coffee, biscuits and gravy, a grilled cheese sandwich and cup of chili, or peach cobbler, the waitresses know what the regulars want. None of this would be possible without a dedicated staff. "Their work ethic is impeccable," Smith said. "There are many people who have worked 22 years or more. They have incredible stamina." Some are the children or grandchildren of people who worked at the cafe in the past.

In the beginning, Northgate Mile was a dirt road earmarked for future development, but there wasn't much in the area besides the Idaho Livestock Auction and some homes. When the cafe started serving coffee, it became a magnet for people from the stockyards and the railroad. It was Evan Cropper who turned it into a cafe, and he managed it for decades.

Smith said she's dug into a rich history, and bases the June 1934 date on a paper she received from Marilyn Cropper Brown, Cropper's daughter. What's most important to her, however, is that the cafe's years be celebrated.

At the barbecue Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., anyone with a cool car to show will receive two free lunches. There will be no trophies, but dash plaques will be given out.
For more information, call 522-6212.