There's only one room in the house that gathers the most people. It's where the delicious smells are brewing and the good conversation is flowing. It's the kitchen. If it's cozy enough, visitors may never leave.
Norma Jeanne's Cafe, located at 332 E. Main St., is Cortez's newest restaurant and it's the same down-home appeal as your grandmother's kitchen. It's the new place for home-cooking and family atmosphere, owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Jerri and Bruce Frizzell.
Located in the old Mr. Happy's location, the interior is like stepping into an old friend's home. Family pictures, portraits and memories of both sides of the family line the walls. There are no logos or gimmicks, only a true mom-and-pop feel with friendly faces.
Although the building itself has seen new paint, new owners and new menus time and again, the owner of this establishment is a veteran of the game.
Jerri Frizzell has been a waitress, manager and supervisor of a few well-known kitchens around Cortez. The M&M Truck Stop, the Anasazi restaurant, and the Ute Mountain Casino were all places where she gathered her restaurant experience.
“If you want to go further than that, I actually started waiting tables at the Elks Lodge when I was 13,” Jerri said.
The restaurant is run by both Frizzells, who also do the cooking. Their daughter and her stepmother are waitresses and her sister-in-law and nephew are the dishwashers.
Her husband has a philosophy: If you are doing the work and making money for someone else, why not apply those skills and make that money for yourself. After years of encouragement, he finally tempted Jerri into opening her own cafe.
Norma Jeanne's is named for Jerri's mother, who owned and operated her own cafe in Iowa, Jerri's home state. They also have two other daughters who wait tables at another restaurant in town. So it's safe to say, restaurant operation is no stranger to this family.
All of their food is homemade. Their soups are made fresh daily, they use real potatoes and the hamburger patties are not frozen. Her chicken fried steak is made fresh by hand and their red chili is a family recipe contributed by her mother. Bruce makes that himself.
“We do traditional home cooking, but I am very particular about what the customer wants,” Jerri said. “So if someone doesn't like the way we are doing something, I want them to tell me. I want to be able to fix it. If they don't say anything, I can't fix it.”
Her menu is very simple but not limited. If she were to get a special request, Jerri said would gladly make it, as long as she had the ingredients.
The entire family chipped in to paint and prepare the inside and outside of the building. Jerri and her family began the project in July. Her father, a local resident, and a few family members from Fruita came to get the building ready. It wasn't until this month that they finally decided the restaurant was up to par. They had local businesses make their t-shirts, the signage for the building and the parking lot.
Norma Jeanne's is in the process of getting their liquor license and hopes to be able to serve alcohol next month. They are open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner with breakfast served all day. They may stay open later depending on business.
For more information on Norma Jeanne's Cafe call Jerri Frizzell at 565-5475.