WHITEFISH FALLS— First constructed in 1934, the original name of the River Lodge Café was Stump and Spry’s Gas Station and Lodge. “I wish I had known that when we bought the place,” admitted co-owner Jacquie Woods, who along with her husband master electrician Steve Pinkney purchased the campgrounds and lodge five years ago, rebuilding it to reflect its former rustic glory. “It was a great name.”
Instead the family settled on the River Lodge Café moniker, well, because it is located on a scenic river in Whitefish Falls. Over the past four years it has been in operation, the café restaurant has built an enviable reputation on its own merits, or perhaps more accurately its food.
“I can’t live without their food,” enthused self-described fourth generation visitor to the region Cindy Withrow of Denver, Colorado. “Not only is the food spectacular but the ambiance is truly to die for.”
The café is open “every day but Tuesday through July and August,” said Ms. Woods who, along with daughter Abbie, tend to most of the cooking and serving in the operation. “Nobody will work seven days a week except me,” she laughed.
In days when Lincoln Stump and Ernie Spry owned the operation, the store and lodge were the hub of the Whitefish Falls community. “They had the only phone in town and they were the first to have lighting,” said Ms. Woods.
Mr. Pinkney said that it was only in the past few days that the couple has really learned many of the details of the historic operations of the lodge. “One of the former owner’s sons stopped in,” he said. The encounter was truly serendipitous, as the couple were able to see many photographs of what the original building interior looked like. Over the years, many newfangled additions such as indoor plumbing and washrooms restructured much of the interior.
The couple had been searching for a project, and although neither had a history in the resort or hospitality business, the romance of operating a wilderness resort had captured their imaginations.
“We fell in love with this place,” noted Ms. Woods. “We wanted to bring it back to its former glory. To bring it back to what it was.”
That entailed a lot of sweat equity and determination. Stump and Spry had always struggled with a bat problem and when the building was left unoccupied over several years, the colonies took over. You would be hard put to tell that now, however, as no trace of the furry denizens of the night remain in evidence.
Although the lodge only boasts two cabins, a one-bedroom and a three-bedroom, and barely four trailers remain to the park, the couple are carefully rebuilding the operation to something closer to its 40-site original footprint. Projections are for an eventual 30 to 32 waterfront sites.
In the meantime, the reputation of the menu has been spreading (thanks, no doubt in large part, to enthusiasm of its patrons like Ms. Withrow).
Ms. Woods makes her own peameal bacon and the menu sports lasagna, shepherd’s pie and sweet and sour meatballs. “We make everything from scratch,” announces Ms. Woods proudly. “There is no deep fryer here.”
For larger groups the café will serve “family-style” with platters of food heaped tall enough to sate the most famished appetite.
The River Lodge Café can be found on the main street of Whitefish Falls, just across the bailey bridge.