The new owners of the Speedway Roadhouse, at 7101 Highway 2 & 52 West, just outside Minot, point to the business' almost mythical status within the Minot area community as a major reason they want to change the place as little as possible.
"There's a real history and there's a history that's created. It's a mystery. There are some people, older, saying that they've been here for their fifth birthday and they're 75 years old. This building is somewhat mythical," said Vernon Garrison, one of the two owners of the restaurant, in an interview. "This one was built in '86, but there was another Speedway over here for years."
"Historically, Speedway has been around for a long time. I think 27 years, and we've got one cook here who has been here for 17 years. There was another building just on our other property over here that preceeded this one. So, yeah, it's an institution," said Emmitt Trimble, the other owner, in an interview.
New owners have brought back the Speedway Roadhouse, a Minot-area institution that they say locals have been craving.
Since launching a soft opening in the first week of December, the two have marveled at the feedback they've had. The restaurant, despite having been closed for a few years, seemed to be very much missed.
The pair first met years ago when working in the oil fields of Alaska. Trimble stayed there, settling down on the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska, where he owns a real estate business. Garrison returned to the Pacific Northwest and settled in Port Townsend, Wash., which is located on a little peninsula that juts into the Puget Sound.
The two weeks on and two weeks off schedule that the pair became used to when working the pipeline in Prudhoe Bay those many years ago are inspiring their co-ownership and management of the restaurant.
"I came to North Dakota about two years ago because, essentially, there's an economy here and there isn't one in Washington. I wasn't ready to retire," Garrison said.
Like many, they came to North Dakota because of the opportunity, and put in their due diligence in researching this restaurant. It was a place with a comfortable atmosphere that was known for serving up high-quality foods, and they don't want to change a thing.
"I noticed in my travels a common theme: That I had a hard time finding a place that I wanted to eat at. I was finding myself having meals that I was not even close to satisfied with," Garrison said. "It came as a revelation by coming through and landing in Minot and going out west, Stanley, Tioga, eastern Montana, it came as a revelation that maybe the best business would be the restaurant business."
"It's an opportunity that was put in front of us and it's going to gain it's own momentum from the history," he added. "We tried to reinstate a lot of the old menu, a lot of the old favorites."
The menu is mostly retained, with steaks taking the prime spot. Five of the eight main entrees listed are different cuts of steak from Prime Rib to New York Strip.
"We're a steakhouse, but do you know what our biggest seller is? The breaded shrimp," Trimble said. "People insisted. 'Are you going to have the shrimp?' Yeah, sure, okay. We made a minor change in the breading and people like it better."
While shrimp is the only seafood found on the menu at the moment, Garrison and Trimble look forward to using their western fishery connections as a way to provide extremely fresh seafood directly to their business. A mutual friend who owns a restaurant in Grand Forks has already paved the way.
One thing is for sure, though, Trimble says. They won't be selling frozen seafood, only fresh. They expect to provide that fresh fish by next summer.
"We want it to be a destination supper club specializing in fine meats and seafood. We haven't done the seafood yet, but to that end we were determined to have really specialized in choice prime rib and rib eye and all choice cuts of beef, only the high end," Garrison said. "The comments have been, and I'm quoting directly, 'The best prime rib I've ever eaten,' and not once, not 10 times, not 50, but 150 times."
"What we have on the menu, with minor exceptions, is working and working well. We have a stack of comment cards that are 98, 99 percent enthusiastic, not just positive, but 'Oh my gosh, we're so happy you've opened up, it's the best prime rib I've ever had,' we have that kind of testimonial," Trimble said. "We felt a good way to open and start is just, here, tell us what you think. And that worked very well."
And while they're looking to improve on all aspects and obtain that destination supper club status, they don't want to change much of anything else if people remain that enthusiastic. From some of the furnishings to the little details, the owners seem quite comfortable and content with retaining what people remember from the place from years before.
"If we can just continue to improve upon the menu, keeping a standard of food high and quality of service high, we'll have done our job," Trimble said. "We took a risk, we opened the place up, it's running well."
"We don't want to be just another restaurant," Garrison said. "We want to be Speedway Roadhouse."