Biz Buzz: Local couple opens family restaurant in Ririe
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Owners of new Ririe restaurant say first week busier than expected
RIRIE – Levi and Nicoleta Hill of Ammon are hoping to give people throughout eastern Idaho a special reason to go to Ririe.
They opened South Fork Restaurant at 235 Main Street last week, and Levi tells EastIdahoNews.com the response has been better than they expected.
“We don’t really have a sign up yet, but it’s been busy,” Levi says. “We’ve definitely hit the ground running, and we want to be able to capture as much business as we can.”
Levi describes the restaurant’s menu as one that has something for everyone without being too “out there.”
“We’re geared towards families, so we want to offer things that we think a family might order,” he says. “Whatever the occasion may be — maybe you were at Heise all day and want to grab some burgers, or if it’s a little more of a special occasion, we want to offer something for those people as well.”
The menu includes salmon, pasta, meatloaf, steak and the signature South Fork Burger, which Levi says is one of the biggest sellers so far.
It’s an 8-ounce hamburger patty served with green garlic mayonnaise, crisp lettuce, cheese and roasted tomatoes. See how it’s made in the video player above.
The restaurant is family-owned and operated. Levi’s parents are involved in the business, and he says they bounce ideas off each other constantly.
“My family has been a tremendous support,” says Levi. “Everything you see in this room was done by someone in the family.”
Levi’s sister-in-law provided photos of old ghost towns that adorn the walls of the restaurant, and the lights were once used in an old potato cellar.
“We wanted it to be an inviting environment (for people living in a small town in Idaho),” he says.
Owning a restaurant has been Levi’s dream since he was 16 years old. He grew up in Jackson and got his start working at Teton Steakhouse near the town square. His experience working at Teton Pines Country Club the following summer is what made him decide to make his living as a restauranteur.
“Working at Teton Pines was the best experience ever. I learned a tremendous amount working for that chef. He opened my eyes to what it meant to work in restaurants and what it meant to hold high standards for your food and for yourself. He really inspired me to become a chef,” says Levi.
He worked there the following three summers and a whole year after high school before moving to Las Vegas in 2005, where Levi says he was lucky to work for several chefs in high-end restaurants.
“When I moved to Las Vegas, I thought I knew everything because I’d been cooking for five years, but I ended up learning from and taking in so much more working for different chefs who taught me so much. It was incredible,” he says.
The restaurant industry in Las Vegas was hit pretty hard last year. During the shutdown, he began to doubt whether restaurants would ever recover. He heard about a space in Ririe that was available, which his sister-in-law owned. He decided to pack up his family and open a restaurant there.
“It was risky in a lot of ways because we have to make it work. It was tough packing everything up and leaving jobs that we already had, but we’re really happy,” Levi says.
Before he was old enough to get a real job, Levi remembers spending summers working at his grandparent’s farm in Driggs. They’d often drive through Ririe on their way to Idaho Falls.
“These small Idaho towns remind me of those summers I spent on the farm with my grandparents,” he says.
Going forward, Levi says he wants “to do everything he can” to make South Fork Restaurant a place people want to go with good food and good service. It is only open for dinner now, but Levi would eventually like to serve breakfast and lunch as well.
“It’s a lot to take on from the beginning, so we’d rather open for dinner and make sure we’re offering something really good (for customers),” he says.
South Fork Restaurant is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit the Facebook page for more information.