Buffalo Ridge Cafe on hiatus, could reopen in August

Friday, July 17, 2020

Buffalo Ridge Cafe is strikingly noticeable along Hwy. 7 in Alta, having been constructed from the original train depot and an old train car made into a unique seating space. Like many restaurants, it has been temporarily closed for months as a result of the pandemic.

Toni Hammer has owned and operated the cafe for nearly 5 years. She closed it temporarily at the end of March and may possibly reopen the first part of August if all goes well. “I don’t know yet,” she said. “We just want to do it the right way. We just want to make sure everyone is safe.”

They tried a different approach in the beginning after the doors were closed to inside customers. “We did takeout for a couple weeks. It started out good, but then business slowed down so I didn’t continue.” Challenges included being unsure of the number of customers she would have and how much food to purchase. “Since it got slow, we decided to temporarily close,” Hammer said.

During the closure, she and her husband had a little downtime so took a vacation. Like most restauranteurs, she did not sit still for long. “We spruced up the restaurant. We painted outside and put in new carpet and linoleum inside.” She also helped out at her husband’s mowing service.

With a degree in restaurant management, Hammer has a long history in the restaurant world as her family owned one, she managed another and now runs the cafe.

She is nostalgic for the church crowd that previously brought in a lot of business. When it comes to reopening, “With churches not in session, I don’t know what to expect. We’ve never been through anything like this before.

The restaurant is renowned for its homemade meals. She said the most popular breakfast item is the Conductor’s Choice with hash browns, vegetables, ham, cheese, eggs and gravy. For lunch, customers often go for the hand-breaded pork tenderloins or hand-pattied burgers with freshly-baked buns.

“We’re excited to be opening,” she said, and might keep the restaurant open during its previous hours of 6:00 a.m. to 2 p.m., but that has not been finalized yet.