A new diner-style restaurant with a retail food and beverage section opens this week in McCall, in the building that formerly housed Alpine Pantry.
Misty and Chris Braden are the owner-operators of Ruby’s Kitchen. Misty hails from the East Coast, Christ from Payette. Until recently, they lived in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Chris’s parents live in MeadowCreek in Meadows Valley, so they visited our area frequently. In fact, five-year-old daughter Ruby – inspiration for the establishment’s name – celebrated her first birthday here. Returning for another visit this past summer, the Bradens noticed that Alpine Pantry was gone and the building vacant. Chris contacted the owner, Gabriella Harper, and inquired about leasing the facility. Within a short period of time, Misty and Chris arranged a lease, returned to Nantucket, sold their home, rented a U-Haul and moved across the country to open a restaurant in McCall.
The inspiration for the restaurant’s logo? Daughter Ruby, of course. “It’s a little girl and a cow,” says Misty. “Ruby always said she wanted a cow, wanted to be a cowgirl. She’s a big fan of Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl in Toy Story.” Chris came up with the basic concept for the logo. “We wanted a memorable but simple design, something recognizable.”
Chris’s mother is Japanese, his father American. “I was made in Japan and born in America,” he jokes. He describes his upbringing as “very Japanese,” learning to speak Japanese fluently. After graduating from high school in Payette, he went to Japan to work in his mother’s family business: restaurants. While there, he learned that he loved cooking and everything about the restaurant business. In 1999 Chris returned to the U.S. to study cooking, attending the Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Oregon. “Portland was a unique town for learning food,” he says, with so many small, creative restaurants across the city. After graduating, Chris did an internship in Hawaii, then spent time in Boise where he worked as a restaurant consultant, helping open and manage establishments including a sushi bar called Happy Fish and an Irish Pub called Hay Penny. “By age 20 I had learned how to manage a restaurant,” he says. Eventually Chris returned to Japan to work in the family business again. He also traveled extensively, visiting places like Barcelona and Greece. It was during these travels that a friend suggested he help establish a sushi bar in Nantucket. Chris had never been to the east coast so figured it would be fun and he’d just stay for the summer. His stay extended through the winter and eventually he took a job with a Boston-area hospitality business where he met his future wife.
Misty describes herself as an east coast girl, having grown up outside Boston. “After high school I wanted to join the Army,” she says. “But I have asthma and my doctor wouldn’t clear me for the military. I went to school and got an Associates degree in Criminal Justice, paid for by waiting tables. That’s when I fell in love with the hospitality business.” For the next ten years, she worked for a hospitality group in Boston, opening and managing eight different restaurants. The same hospitality group that eventually employed Chris. They began working together in 2011, started dating, and in 2012 they married.
The Bradens had tried to relocate to McCall earlier, when daughter Ruby was an infant, but a member of Misty’s family became ill so they returned to Nantucket. Their vacation to McCall this past summer changed the course of their lives when they saw the vacant restaurant location. Rather than helping others start and run restaurants, they’re now utilizing all the knowledge and experience they’ve acquired in the restaurant business and putting to work for their own benefit.
Grand Opening: Good Food and So Much More
I met Misty and Chris at Ruby’s Kitchen on November 9th. They were hoping to get their City of McCall business license issued that day, and were going to hold their first employee meeting that evening. The restaurant interior has been updated, retaining the basic layout of the former Alpine Pantry. Tables and chairs are ready; a few shelves still needed installing. In addition to coffee and items on their menu made from scratch on site, they will offer some retail food and cold beverage items. They are eager to discover what customers want and encourage feedback. “Organic and locally sourced foods will be our focus,” says Chris. “We want things to be affordable. We also want everyone in town to do well, so we want to be collaborative with other local businesses.” One example is partnering with North Fork Coffee Roasters.
As for the menu, the Bradens describe the food they’ll offer as simple, healthy, quickly-cooked, and affordable. “We want to be approachable and comfortable; that’s our focus,” says Chris, and that includes the design of the restaurant’s interior, the menu and even its name. “Eventually we hope to get a liquor license, but initially we’ll just be offering retail wine and beer.”
Ruby’s Kitchen will be much more than a comfy place to have a meal and hang out with friends and family if the Bradens’ goals come to fruition. Their main business hours will be 6:30 am to 3:00 or 4:00 pm, but they anticipate using their space for special events during non-business, evening hours. For example, wine tastings, cooking classes, kids’ events like baking cookies on Mother’s Day, movie nights, live music. They want to coordinate these events with other businesses in town so they don’t conflict. During the warmer months, Ruby’s Kitchen will offer lots of outdoor, dog-friendly seating, and may even host horseshoe-throwing competitions.
Keeping with the family-oriented theme of their business, the Bradens say they won’t be open on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas because it’s important to them to be with their own family. Their business hours fit their family routine well: Ruby’s school bus for kindergarten picks her up and lets her off right at the restaurant, where she eats breakfast and lunch. The Bradens anticipate that some afternoons Ruby will “help” at the restaurant and other times will be in day care. “Ruby likes to vacuum,” says Misty. “She wants to help, says she’ll sweep or wipe tables.” Misty adds that Ruby’s favorite color is red (of course!) and she currently has two pets – a hermit crab and a fish, both named Ruby – that she will happily tell you about if you ask.
After a successful “soft opening” for family and friends on Sunday, November 12th, the Bradens are eagerly anticipating the official opening of Ruby’s Kitchen on Wednesday, November 20th. Drop by, say hello, check it out; you’ll like what you see and taste.