RANIER – When a Rainy Lake Grill customer ordered a margherita pizza, owner Karina Joyce-Ham didn't have to go far to get some of the ingredients.
“We were out of basil and tomatoes, so I waved at (the customer) as I picked them from our garden,” she said, recalling the memory.
Keeping food fresh and as local as possible is a top priority of Joyce-Ham, who owns the Ranier restaurant with her husband, Robert Ham. Brett Eidman, chef, is also a partner in the business.
The owners sat down in their recently renovated dining restaurant, located at 2079 Spruce St., to discuss changes to the business and excitement for the upcoming summer season.
“This will be our second full summer here,” Joyce-Ham said, adding that the couple purchased the restaurant formerly known as Grandma's Pantry in August 2017. “Re-shaping the look was really important to us."
In April, Rainy Lake Grill temporarily closed for updates and renovations. Originally, the project was only going to take few weeks, but ended up stretching a little longer than anticipated. Regardless, the trio appeared pleased with the end result.
“We didn't just modernize the look, we updated the function of the business, too,” Eidman said, noting the restaurant's electrical, plumbing and operating system was also upgraded.
"We have plans to do more, too," Ham added. "That will come when time and finances allow."
Ready for the season
Rainy Lake Grill's hours of operation are different than they have been in the past. The restaurant no longer serves breakfast and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“It was so hard to staff,” Joyce-Ham said of the decision to eliminate breakfast. “We're just focusing on lunch and dinner.”
That focus on providing quality food to the area isn't new for the owners.
Joyce-Ham has long been in the restaurant business. Her family owned the DJ in Littlefork for more than 32 years.
“We brought our pizzas from Littlefork to (Rainy Lake Grill),” she said. “We had a lot of people drive from the Falls to the DJ just to get pizza, and now you can get them in Ranier. It's the same family recipe... My family has been in the restaurant business for 60 years.”
Ham said Rainy Lake Grill is known for its specials and they try to be creative in what they offer to the community.
“Our goal is to continue to grow and evolve,” he said. “There will be a new menu every season, but we'll always bring back old favorites.”
His wife agreed.
“We like to change things up a lot and be creative,” Joyce-Ham said. “Our entire crew is all passionate about our food... We love our flavors and we try to amp it up and try things outside the box.”
Eidman said what sets Rainy Lake Grill apart is the entire staff has pride, and a passion to try different things.
“We're always up for a challenge,” he said.
The menu items aren't just new, they're also fresh, Joyce-Ham said.
“We're trying to gear our menu more toward being able to use ingredients out of our garden,” she said of the garden located on the property. “We like to use our fresh herbs and greens... We don't spray anything on our property, everything we grow is used for the restaurant, and is truly organic.”
Ham said drink specials will also feature herbs that will be displayed on the counter of the newly-added bar in the restaurant.
“We'll have different drink specials all the time,” he said. “I think sometimes people forget we have a full bar here.”
The owners said the support from area communities has been what keeps them in business, and they are looking forward to continued relationships.
“It's great to have the support of our communities and our customers,” Eidman said.
The Hams' agreed.
“We have a way we want to do things and we're slowly transitioning to that way,” Ham said. “It's great knowing we have support and we look forward to another great year at Rainy Lake Grill.”