Tess on the Town: RainTree Restaurant
Mr. Round has a standing date for lunch most every day. For the past 10 years at around 11 a.m., he heads the eight blocks from his house to his favorite table in his favorite restaurant.
Romaine (like the lettuce, he explained) Round is known to his friends simply as R.D.
The retired widower who “can’t cook” sets his social calendar around lunch at the RainTree Restaurant.
The diner on Morning Glory Lane attracts a host of regulars like R.D. Several generations of families, working guys looking for a heaping plate of food and older folks who enjoy the camaraderie of the place are among the regulars.
R.D. used to visit the RainTree with his wife, and they took special care of her, he said. When his wife died, the owner “kind of took me under his wing.”
The Missouri native and former postmaster said he likes everything on the menu, although these days he steers toward half a chef salad and some soup.
In wintertime he orders anything with red chile.
“It’s food like mama made and they just really do good,” he said.
The RainTree is owned by the Starlings, Rod and Diana. Rod was a company man who was transferred to Grand Junction from Denver more than two decades ago. When the company wanted to send him back to the Front Range, the couple demurred. They already had fallen for the slower lifestyle and friendly feel of Grand Junction.
So, 21 years ago, they struck out on their own and opened the RainTree Restaurant. “Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” is the way Rod describes the people of Grand Junction.
Rod is the public face at the restaurant and Diana handles the business side. With a staff of about 11 — servers, cooks and bus help — the couple serves a posse of regular customers.
“I have a knack for remembering names, know their families, what they like to do, and I like to talk,” Rod said.
After the lunch rush has passed and customers have cleared out, Rod sets about cooking for the next day.
He doesn’t “work the line” anymore. In restaurant speak, “working the line” means the insane, frenetic world of churning out plate after plate of food with a 3-minute egg timer going off in your head.
In the relative peace of the afternoons, Rod makes red and green chili, and soups. Homemade flavors include chicken and rice, clam chowder, potato and leek, and split pea. He pitted his green chili made with Hatch chilies against others in the annual Southwest Arbor Fest in Lincoln Park, bringing home first- and second-place honors.
Rod tells people the restaurant is “an overnight success after 21 years.”
LIVING ON A BUDGET: Celebrity chef Mario Batali recently took the challenge to feed his family for a week on the equivalent of a food stamp budget. That’s $31 per person a week, or about $1.48 per person per meal. In fair disclosure, Batali and other high-profile names undertook the experiment in protest of proposed congressional cuts to the benefit program.
So what was on Batali’s menu? Lentil chili, rice and beans every day, a $3 bag of mini Gala apples and a pork shoulder roast that he eked out for 2 1/2 meals.
“I got a whole chicken for $5, but it was spoiled so I had to return it and got a $7 chicken instead,” Batali reported.
“Subsisting on food stamps, especially when food is made from scratch, is doable as a way to live, but certainly not a way to thrive,” he said.
QUOTE: “Salsa has now passed ketchup as America’s favorite condiment. Isn’t that amazing? You know it’s bad when even our vegetables are starting to lose their jobs to Mexico.” — Jay Leno, “The Tonight Show”