Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
From left, Denice and Andy Scott, Bob Crowson, executive chef Jeremy Sandberg and sous chef Bob Utti have merged the operations of Independence fixture Andy's Cafe with Ragin' River Steakhouse.
February 19, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- If there's one thing that makes Andy Scott nostalgic about the old confines of Andy's Cafe, it was his office -- "the kitchen."
It was small, almost too cramped for more than two people. But the longtime chef and owner was good with that. He could converse with customers -- "I always had time with folks" -- in the dining room directly through the meal pass-through.
"It was pretty compact," Scott said. "But it was nice."
Scott has a little more elbow room in the kitchen these days.
Andy and Denice Scott and friend Bob Crowson, owner of Ragin River Steak Co., officially merged their two operations in mid-January. It's since been running as Andy's at Ragin River at the latter establishment, 154 S. Main St.
Andy's was purely breakfast and lunch, while Ragin River offered lunch, dinner and cocktails.
The joint venture now has breakfast items from Andy's and lunch from both eateries. Dinner fare is Ragin River.
"I would say customers of ours who haven't been to Ragin River have embraced the evening trade, and vice versa," Scott said.
Crowson purchased Ragin River in late 2011. Crowson said his original plan was to have the former executive chef of the restaurant handle management. That employee is no longer in the picture, Crowson said.
"I had this idea it would be running itself, but that wasn't the case," Crowson said, noting while he's run his own business for years, he wasn't a restaurateur. "I had to jump in and learn a lot about this biz pretty quickly."
Crowson approached longtime friends Andy and Denice Scottabout a partnership.
Scott ran Andy's Cafe for 15 years, but has food service and restaurant experience that dates back to 1966. Having maximized the space inside Andy's, Scott said he and Denice were looking for a way to expand their diner, anyway.
Last year, the couple had to close half of the cafe for 60 days because of storm damage to the roof. Crowson said he had let the two use Ragin River as the site for a fundraiser and wine tasting event they had already committed to hosting.
"It went so well, we started thinking joining forces was workable," Crowson said.
The merger has taken a while to come to fruition: Crowson and the Scotts had actually planned on merging the businesses last spring.
The two operations have been able to almost fully retain both staffs in the move, but there were still questions.
Would old favorites on the menu at either restaurant be changed or abandoned? And what would locals say?
"At this point, we're maintaining both," Scott assured. "I'll be working with (Ragin' executive chef) Jeremy Sandberg to integrate the two.
"The customers have been very receptive," Scott continued. "We're up in sales for both day and night."
One change is a concerted effort to offer more natural and local beef, cheeses and beer, Crowson said, adding that the eatery will do a `comfort food' menu on Sundays.
Scott said he's not at the grill quite as much as he used to be at Andy's in order to focus on the evening business.
"It was a lot of work," Scott said. "You have 15 years of having everything in the same place, then changing it ... but it's gotten better every day."
What: Andy's at Ragin River.
Where: 154 S. Main St., Independence.
Hours: Breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner is 4 to 9 p.m. The restaurant is open seven days a week.
For more information: 503-837-0394.