April 2020 RACC Member of the Month: True Grit Cafe
Who are the owners and key staff of the business?
True Grit Café at 123 N. Lena St. (P.O. Box 2003) Ridgway, Colo. is owned by Tammee Tuttle Latham and Don Latham. The key staff includes Bob “Mississippi Bob” Collins, a CPA who has done all the bookkeeping and so much more for 40 years. The general manager is Richard “Juice” Pinney, the kitchen manager is Robert Collins, and the floor manager is Shantel Messer.
Please tell us a bit about the restaurant’s history.
True Grit, named after the legendary film, is the longest running business in the Town of Ridgway, possibly the oldest, still-operating business in the county. Deedee Decker from the Double D Ranch had the vision in the early 1990s to construct the buildings on the True Grit block. She hired managers and staff to operate the restaurant for almost two years, and then sold it to a couple in California. Tammee and Don bought it in 1996, and have operated it for 35 years except for 18 months when it had other owners temporarily.
Has your True Grit film memorabilia collection grown over the years?
In 1996, one poster from the movie hung on True Grit’s walls, and one oil painting of John Wayne hung over the bar. Over the years, memorabilia has been collected from a variety of sources – many were donations, some from children whose fathers had loved John Wayne but passed away and left collectibles. Besides original movie posters, the restaurant has documents showing John Wayne’s complete filmography, which is hugely popular with fans of the movie legend and the movie. There’s a copy of a pen and ink drawing, showing the actor from when he was a young man in Stagecoach to one of his last roles in Rooster Cogburn. A keen eye can find quite a variety of Hollywood Western artifacts from John Wayne collectible plates to a shadowbox with a replica gun and eye patch.
What is your philosophy about creating your menu?
Due to trademark issues, the restaurant cannot name menu items after the Duke or related words, but True Grit Café serves quality comfort food with a Southwest flair that the world’s most popular actor would surely have approved of. It focused on locally sourced ingredients before it was even trendy. The steaks are from steers raised by Don, pork from pigs in Montrose, peaches and apricots from an Olathe orchard, and the list of other produce and meats served fresh changes with the seasons and the years.
What menu items are your customers’ favorites?
The Grit sells more than 6,000 chicken-fried steaks a year. They are hand cut and breaded to order, then tenderized seven times. So many dishes are popular that it’s hard to choose just a few, but the restaurant is definitely known for its burgers and pork green chili as well.
How have you adapted your business in response to public health orders restricting business operation during the COVID-19 pandemic?
True Grit Café continues to offer its entire menu for take-out, as well as new family meal options that are ready to heat and eat. Plus, customers can purchase groceries such as bread, soup and cheese. Delivery is available for all items, with a minimum $35 order. The restaurant’s hours have also been modified, and it is now open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday through Wednesday.
What did you become a Ridgway Chamber member?
The business owners have always been supportive of the Ridgway Chamber, because it is an important type of organization to support the business community.
To learn more about True Grit Café, go online to http://truegritcafe.com/, call 970-626-5739, or email . For information about restaurants in Ridgway, go to https://ridgwaycolorado.com/businesses/dining.