Where friends come to meet, lollygaggers come to grab a seat and good folk come to eat. That's the new motto for Mountain High Pizza since moving their restaurant to 18806 Highway 491 in Lewis.
The Dawson Lake corner is seeing more activity once again as the deserted Roundup Junction building sprang to life on November 28 as Mountain High Pizza and Cafe.
Tisha Strawn is the owner and one of many cooks operating Mountain High. Her signature sign out front, made by fellow cook Anthonee Petrose and his father, can be seen above the main entrance. The signs of the previous restaurant, Roundup and Country Kitchen still remain, as does the bright yellow paint and red trim.
"We will be repainting," Strawn said. "Right now we haven't had the time but the building will not stay yellow."
Inclement winter weather would offer no point in adding fresh paint. Plus, Strawn wants to keep that same Roundup feel because she's aware that Lewis/Arriola residents have been accustomed to such an atmosphere. She plans on keeping the two additional signs with alterations made to both.
Strawn is a laid-back kind of gal and that country folk, grandma's kitchen kind of atmosphere is exactly what she is striving for. Her new local customer base is definitely giving her just that.
"We received a good welcoming," she said. "They're coming in to relax, they have good suggestions and they joke with all the wait staff."
For the first four days, Strawn was wall-to-wall busy. Locals were pouring in and a new customer base, including travelers, were filling up the once empty parking lot. The bustle was a surprisingly wonderful change.
Strawn is a youngster when it comes to owning a restaurant. Even though her uncle owns and operates Mancos Pizza, there is not a family tradition of business owners. The same pizza recipe that her uncle acquired was passed to her establishment, so she jumped in and learned how to swim. The help she received from friends and family helped tremendously.
Like her head cook, Beth Shelly, who is licensed to teach cooking through a Vocational Home Economics certification, has more than 40 years of experience in the food industry. She constantly offers Strawn suggestions and ideas on menu items and cooking.
After a year at 1013 E. Main in Cortez, Strawn re-evaluated what she wanted from her restaurant and why she was in the business to begin with.
"I like working with the public and by owning a restaurant, it allows me to do that," she explained. "I wanted more opportunity and a different atmosphere."
So she moved the operation to Lewis.
Other than the yellow outer layer, the inside looks and feels just like the old Roundup. The tables are the same oak wood tables, chairs and booths from the previous restaurant. The sections are the same, the kitchen appears the same. It's a completely different look from Mountain High in Cortez.
This is Mountain High Pizza in Lewis.
"I wanted to keep the Roundup alive (in a respect)," Strawn said. "This area has been known as the Dawson Lake corner for so long. I want to maintain that for people. And now, I can cater to larger parties, we hired new employees, we have a full service menu. It's just different out here,"
And by full service, she means the whole nine yards. Gone is the salad bar so well known but in its place is breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mountain High now has hamburgers, Navajo tacos, sirloin steaks, fish and chips, omelets, smothered burritos and more. They also offer desserts full of homemade goodness.
Her menu is overflowing with new items and the response from her customers has been encouraging. Compliments are being extended to the hamburgers, Navajo tacos and her family's own green chili pork stew.
"My mother and father make that stew," Strawn said proudly. "It's probably the most popular thing here."
In fact her parents, Vicki and Norm Carter, are a big help around the new place. Norm helped with some of the building repairs and Vicki helps cook. Also helping Strawn out is her daughter, Delialah Strawn.
"I sleep here," Delialah said when contemplating her schedule for the day.
"She helps with serving and a lot of the management stuff too," Strawn said about her daughter.
Adding almost 1,000 square feet to her previous location of 2,000 square feet, and the chairs have been full of customers with wide smiles, with more big-brimmed cowboy hats walking through the door.
It sounds like a country restaurant and looks like a country restaurant. Exactly what Strawn intended.
What remains of Mountain High Pizza is the same, with a small facelift. Those custom pizzas and sandwiches are on board, and they still offer pizza by the slice. She may start delivering pizza as well.
Mountain High Pizza and Cafe's winter hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are closed Mondays. For more information on food and dining, call 882-3203 or visit their Facebook page.