Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
Sometime Spring/May 1997
Everybody has been reporting signs of Spring coming to Ely this week. Robins have been sighted. Geese are heading north again. The snows are disappearing even faster than they came. I have been enjoying the surreal shapes that I have not seen yet. It is not the arrival of some rare species of fowl or beast, no, it is the return of our seasonal restaurants.
Ely is lucky, for a small town of 4,000 people we have restaurants that rise above the description of “greasy spoon.” Even our franchise restaurants seem to prepare their fare with Ely pride. That can be seen in our local Dairy Queen. For two generations the Ivancichs have cooled us in the summer and chilled us in the winter with ice cream.
In the last three years, three restaurants have made the jump to all year status. I figure we now have 12 restaurants that are open all year round. Dairy Queen does take an annual six week break in December and January, but otherwise they qualify for that status.
A few restaurants toy with the notion of being open all year. They open and close, open again and close again as their cash register dictates. I know of several restaurants who would love to be open all year, but can’t bear losing money. It is an expensive task to break into the year-round club. I remember when the Moose made the switch to stay open all winter. There were times when the lunch crowd was pretty thin. However, they stuck it out and eventually people included them on their mental list of who is open all the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It takes a big investment to achieve that. Ultimately, the rewards are worth it.
Quiz time! Can you name the 12 restaurants that are open in Ely all year round? To qualify let’s say they must be open most of the week and most of the winter. Also, you must be able to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I came up with Britton’s, Cranberry’s, Dairy Queen, Evergreen, Hardee’s, The Moose, The Milk Bar and Northern Grounds, Pizza Hut, Shagawa’ Sam’s and Vertins.
When spring is really here to stay, we will gain back some old friends. Such as Burntside Lodge – probably the best desserts on the Range. Silver Rapids Lodge returns with their incredible brunches and barbecue. Olson’s will bring back their ever popular Paul Bunyan dishes. Minglewood will go back to three meals a day. Perhaps by fishing opening, the new steak house may be open, too.
I can’t think of another town on the Range that boasts so many good restaurants. Last week I took my oldest kidlet to have her cast sawed off at the East Range Clinic. (Our medical insurance still forces us out of our hometown to Duluth or Virginia, but that is a sad tale for another time.) Because it was an after school appointment, we did not get out of the clinic until after 5 p.m. I treated us to some clownbergers at Mac & Dons. I could not believe how poor the meal was. I noticed that the biggest restaurant in the Universe has stopped toasting their hamburger buns. The sliver of beef looks even thinner these days. The tasteless cheese was a thin yellow layer less than 2 millimeters thick. When you have to resort to the metric system to measure food, then you know things are bad! If there was an Ely restaurant by every Mac & Don’s in the nation, they would fold in a month.
Yes, we should be thankful for the hard working restaurants we have in Ely, both the year round eateries and the seasonal ones. Add the two good grocery stores and I can see why no one looks undernourished in Ely. I would write more about this, but it is time to eat. So many places and so little time!