Through more than a quarter-century of providing comfort food to a faithful crowd, Rustler’s Roost is a restaurant as rich in stories as it is in customers.
The Roost, famed for its home-cooking style breakfast and lunch plates that are sure to stretch the pants, has been a staple for many North Idaho families since its inception in a tiny, now-defunct place in the 600 block of Sherman Avenue. Now, after its third move, Rustler’s Roost recently opened in a new home on the northwest corner of Hayden Avenue at Highway 95, just north of the old red building.
“It was time, the old place was just falling apart,” said Woody McEvers, the Coeur d’Alene city councilman who owns the business with his brother, Daren. With the new 3,900-square-foot leased space just yards from the old, Woody added, “We decided we wanted to stay where we were because people know where we are. If you look at the building, it looks like us.”
The long business strip, which Rustler’s Roost shares with an unoccupied space on the northern end that’s available for an occupant, resembles a rustic lodge, with a patio on the south end that will be open during warmer weather. The wood-paneled interior features seating for more than 100, a counter that faces the façade of an old Western town and a kitchen modeled after the last building. While this is the first time the McEvers brothers have moved the business into a newly constructed space, the Roost retains much of the décor that it’s known for.
“We recycled everything,” Woody said, pointing to the Western items lining the walls, such as a saddle and old pictures. Beyond the old ornaments, the owners saved money by refurbishing most of their equipment, everything from tables and chairs, to ovens and a refrigerator, and they still offer full-service catering in addition to the restaurant. After all, preserving the business’s history is an important part of the restaurant, Woody said.
“Your history is your history, and it’s important to hold onto that. The history side for me is – our customers are our history, their families and kids. … We’re in our second-, third-generation kids now. That’s our future,” he explained, adding that the more than a dozen employees made the move as well. “You can’t be everything to everybody, but luckily there’s enough people to support us and our staff and keep us going. We’re pretty blessed.”
The McEvers brothers moved to North Idaho in 1977 from California. After a few years working at different jobs around town, they decided to buy the recently opened Rustler’s Roost in the early ’80s. After earning a reputation for well-proportioned plates (such as giant biscuits and generous gravy bowl), friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere, the brothers moved the business to the former home of Sambo’s on Sherman, and then again to its Hayden location in the early 1990s. After closing for about 20 days to move in, the Roost opened in its new location on Oct. 31.
A few things that haven’t changed through the years, though, are the menu items and many of the familiar faces.
About the classic breakfast plates that include the Maverick, the Wrangler and the Lightweight, Woody said, “We haven’t changed much through the years. We’ve added a lot of items, but kept the core stuff the same.”
And no matter the change of location, the customers have followed. Woody said the place has been slammed with both new and old customers since opening weekend.
Regulars Bobby Welch and wife Nancy Spence-Welch were eating breakfast on a recent rainy and busy morning, seated in a booth over coffee and tea, an empty plate and another with some leftover waffles. Nancy has been a customer of the Roost since it first opened in the early ’80s, while Bobby has been for the past several years.
“There are wonderful people here,” Nancy said, while holding a cup of her favorite tea. About the many regulars who fill the booths and tables every morning, she said, “We’ve all been here over 20 years. That’s what I love about Coeur d’Alene, everybody is just friends.”
With each plate piled high with helpings, Nancy warned that you better come prepared: “You better have a good appetite when you come here.”
As for the new building, she said it perfectly embodies the Roost’s signature style. And, Bobby added, “I enjoy the old stuff, I think everyone does. A lot of people come out here for that reason, it’s just a good atmosphere.”
Perhaps the booth where Dick Goode and two friends were seated best portrayed an experience at the Rustler’s Roost: steaming cups of coffee, plates wiped clean and friendly banter with the staff. The three retirees met over meals at the Roost years ago and have been coming back almost every morning since then. “It’s the help and the quality of food is excellent,” Goode said. “It’s got the friendliest waitresses in town, and we’re very protective of them.”