Hayden Lights once again are shining in the Olde Milner Roadhouse -- enticing commuters' grumbling stomachs, while offering a dinner option for Hayden residents and others looking for an affordable meal outside the high-season bustle of downtown Steamboat.
It took just a little bit of arm-twisting for Bill and Lesa Doyne to reopen the restaurant -- located halfway between Steamboat and Hayden on U.S. Highway 40 -- several weeks ago after it had been closed for more than a year.
"Enough people kept saying, 'When are you guys going to open?' that we thought we'd give it a try," Bill Doyne said.
The Doynes purchased the restaurant in 2000 but saw a big drop in business after Sept. 11, 2001. They decided to close in May 2003 when Bill Doyne left to work as a chef at a friend's fishing lodge in Alaska. Lesa Doyne and the couple's two children, Haley and Tyler, joined him there for the summer.
They bought the restaurant building earlier this year and planned to lease out the space. Westward growth from Steamboat and the prospect of cooking, serving and visiting with customers, encouraged them to give the restaurant another shot.
"I realized I've got an asset here, and that I could make it work with my business," said Bill Doyne, who also works in the credit card processing and medical billing software industries.
The Doynes are wearing all the hats in the restaurant, including cook, server, bartender and dishwasher, which makes for more work but also gives them ultimate control over the quality of food and service.
"We care because we are on site," Bill Doyne said.
The Olde Milner Roadhouse is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Bill Doyne spends the rest of the week driving to Denver and other parts of the state for his credit-card processing business.
"I like entertaining. ... When it's not my livelihood seven days a week, it's good," he said.
Although he also scaled back the menu to include only items with quick prep time, there still are many affordable and satisfying choices.
Menu items, with the exception of $3 dinner salads, start at $5.50 for grilled cheese and bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. Appetizers, which include steamed shrimp and pot stickers, are $6 to $7. Large salads, with chicken and bacon or shrimp are $8 to $9.
Half-pound burgers range from $6 to $10 and include the popular Routt 66, with bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese and the Sleeping Giant or double "LD" with grilled onions, bacon and American cheese.
Other menu choices include honey bourbon brats topped with sour kraut, onions, mustard and steak.
One or two nightly specials that usually include a fish or shrimp dish, are offered in addition to the regular items. Customers also may get their fill of ribs on Friday nights and prime rib on Saturday nights.
Bill Doyne, who has worked in restaurants most of his life, shops at Asian markets in Denver for ingredients, adding flair to menu items such as the chili lime wing appetizer and the Asian Persuasion chicken sandwich.
He also purchases ingredients -- such as bread from Blue Sage Bakery and Rachel's Smokin' Barbecue sauce -- from local suppliers. The Doynes want to support local artists by displaying their work in the restaurant.
Although the Doynes live in Steamboat, they enjoy the Milner community and customers who honk when they drive by, rearrange tables when they come in, and remember the days when Lesa used to wait tables while carrying a tiny Tyler on her back.
"I just love the people. ... It's like a mom and pop place," Lesa Doyne said.
Now that the Olde Milner Roadhouse is up and running, the Doynes have ideas for a possible patio and other projects that may improve the restaurant. They will cater events and also host parties at the restaurant.
"I'll give it as much time and attention as it deserves," Bill Doyne said.
The Olde Milner Roadhouse will have an "orphan dinner" on Friday for those who may not have family to eat with during the holidays. The cost will be about $10. Call 870-8111.
The restaurant will be closed Christmas Day.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.