Retired couple reopens Ramona restaurant

The owners of Ramona Cafe are back after taking a year off from their restaurant located in Ramona, a town with a population of about 100 residents.

Reign and Marlene Anduss of Peabody are retired and in their mid-60s.

When they first opened the cafe in 2001, they were closed during the week and open on the weekends- Friday through Sunday.

But they found themselves traveling 34 miles one way to Ramona to offer family-style dining and returning the same distance to go back home each day.

“It just wasn’t paying for us driving up here,” Reign (pronounced rain) said.

“And I thought if I would buy me a home over here, we could stay for three days and keep us off the highways. So I bought me a little place up the street, and we decided to open (the restaurant) up again.”

Reign remodeled their Ramona house that is in view of the restaurant, and it’s their home-away-from home on the weekends.

The couple welcomed customers as the doors opened again on Jan. 18. This time, they decided to be open Saturday through Monday.

“We have a grandson who plays ball on Tuesday and Friday nights,” Marlene said. “So we had to work around that.”

Not only did they open their restaurant in January, they also celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary the same month.

Their family includes three daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Reign once worked for the Santa Fe Railroad in Newton as a machinist building track supplies. He retired from that job in 1993 and is on disability retirement.

Marlene last worked as a waitress at the Whistle Stop in Walton.

And what did they do after Reign officially retired in 1993?

“We didn’t do anything, and I wanted something to do,” Reign said. “Just sitting around and twiddling your thumbs doesn’t get it.”

Reign first tried to buy another restaurant in Ramona, but it was sold to someone else and eventually closed.

Not to be deterred, Reign purchased the former Hanschu Grocery across the street and converted it into a restaurant on one side and a grocery on the other half.

Before they reopened last month, the couple eliminated the grocery section, expanded the cafe area, redecorated, and can now offer seating to about 25 patrons at one time.

Customers can order off the menu and enjoy a noon meal or evening dinner on Saturdays and Mondays. A family-style buffet is offered on Sundays.

Reign’s fried chicken can often be found on the buffet bar on Sundays.

“Everybody loves it when they come in here,” Marlene said about her husband’s fried chicken. “It’s deep fried, and it’s big-size chicken pieces.”

Their other specialty-hamburgers-is listed on the regular menu the other two days they’re open.

The hamburger costs $2.25, and side orders include salad, french fries or pie for $1.75 each.

“We don’t have frozen patties,” Reign said. “I make my own hamburgers up, and they’re nice and juicy.”

The secret to his hamburgers is the fresh ground beef he buys at Sam’s Club in Wichita, Reign said.

“I put them on the grill, and mash them one time out. You don’t overwork the meat, and you just turn it one time. It’s tender, and it’s a good hamburger.”

The bun is placed on top of the burger as it cooks, to absorb some of the juices. Then Reign takes the top and bottom buns off and lightly toasts them on the grill. Chopped onions and pickles are the only garnish before the burger is placed on the table.

“We had a lady come in from Hillsboro yesterday,” Reign said. “And she said, ‘This is the best hamburger I’ve eaten in years.'”

In addition to a cheeseburger, other sandwich offerings on the menu are barbecue beef, pork tender and grilled cheese.

Meals include chicken strips for $5, and chicken-fried steak or hamburger steak for $5.50 each.

“It’s pretty simple,” Reign said. “With the meal, you get a tossed salad, french fries or hash browns, gravy and toast.”

The Sunday buffet costs $7.50 for adults and $5 for children 10 and under. The tax and drinks are included in the price of the one-time-through meal.

Reign’s fried chicken will often show up on the Sunday buffet line in addition to one other meat item, such as roast beef or baked pork chops.

Also found lining the buffet bar will be mashed potatoes, corn or green beans, bread and pie.

“We had about 30 people last Sunday,” Reign said. “And that was even when the church was having a big supper, so none of the church people were here.”

Duty lines are clearly divided between the couple, and they don’t have any additional hired help.

“I waitress,” Marlene said. “I don’t cook. Reign does all the cooking, and I do the baking, make the coleslaw and salads.”

Marlene said she was happy to share her coleslaw recipe which she described as easy.

Marlene’s Coleslaw

1 head of cabbage

1/2 green pepper

Kraft coleslaw dressing

In a standard blender, finely chop the cabbage and green pepper together. Remove and drain well. Stir in coleslaw dressing to desired consistency.

“I have a son-in-law that would never eat cabbage until he tasted that coleslaw,” Marlene said. “He gets mad when I don’t have that when we get together-that, and his other favorite is pumpkin pie.”

And Marlene’s pies are a special draw that brings patrons in from around the county, she said.

“I make homemade crust and almost any kind of pie people would want,” Marlene said. “Coconut is the favorite, and then cherry, apple and chocolate. But I also make pineapple and gooseberry, too.”

Her secret is good ingredients.

“We don’t use cheap flour and cheap lard,” she said. “We use Crisco and Gold Medal flour. “As long as I can remember, I’ve always made good pies for things like family get-togethers.”

Reign holds court over a grill that sits behind an open trellis so patrons can watch him cook.

“I grew up in Newton, and my uncle had a restaurant there,” Reign said. “I pearl dived-that’s washing dishes-until I was old enough to fry cook and work in the kitchen.”

Reign learned to make his popular fried chicken and hamburgers from his uncle.

He salts the chicken pieces, dips them in milk and egg wash, and coats them with flour and salt before deep frying them in fresh Canola oil.

“That’s the key of good chicken is your salt,” Reign said.

“It gives it flavor. When they bite down on that crust, the people eat everything but the bone. And I’m sure they’d eat the bone if they could. It’s just like my grandma used to make.”

The couple said they like being open on weekends, especially because many area restaurants are closed at that time.

“There’s where you make your most money-on the weekends,” Reign said.

But making money is not the reason why the couple continues to make the weekly trip to Ramona and work hard for their customers.

“This is just a hobby for us,” Reign said. “You look forward in the morning when you get up and have something to do. It makes a difference.

“What money we do get, we send to our granddaughter in college in New Haven, Conn.

Marlene added, “And we help our other grandkids a little bit, too.”

The couple said the response to their re-opening has been positive.

“This whole town’s full of nice people, and they’re all happy to see us here again,”Marlene said.

Reign said new and old customers eating at Ramona Cafe will discover “friendly people, good food and low prices.”

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