Meet Your Merchant: Couple continues legacy of popular Dayton cafe
Dave Curtis watches a lot of Food Network.
A particular favorite show is “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” which features small roadside restaurants from around the country. And as of last month, he and his wife Anita now run their very own diner in Dayton.
The Curtises bought the Roadrunner Cafe, 140 Douglas St., which has been serving breakfast and lunch off of Highway 50 for 25 years.
“I’ve always been fascinated by commercial kitchens,” Dave Curtis said. “It’s an unbelievable amount of work, but I couldn’t be happier.”
Dave Curtis, 40, a Storey County fire captain, and Anita Curtis, 35, an office administrator for the Storey County Sheriff’s Office, live in Virginia City and jumped at the opportunity to buy the diner when they learned the previous owner of 13 years, Theresa Langford, was selling it in October.
It was a perfect fit, they said: Homestyle cooking where the locals hang out.
“It’s a ‘Cheers’ feeling to us,” Dave Curtis said, referring to the 1980s sitcom about regulars at a Boston bar. “We want to have their repeat business, that’s why it ended up here, somewhere like Dayton.”
Anita adds, “It’s been a lifelong dream of my husband and something I’ve always been interested in.”
Their schedules have become more hectic since taking over the restaurant on Nov. 13. In the corner hangs a wooden sign: “Good Morning, Let the Stress Begin.”
Dave works 48 straight hours for the fire department and then spends the rest of the week at the restaurant. Anita works full time at the sheriff’s office and arrives in the mornings. The entire family, including their two children, works on the weekends, which usually includes lines out the door.
It’s their first time owning a restaurant and Dave’s first time working in one since he washed dishes for the Tahoe House in Virginia City as a teenager. With a grin, he adds, “I tell people I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants.”
“I like to cook at home, the cooking part doesn’t scare me,” he said. It’s the inventory control that concerns him, “that’s the part I struggle with the most.”
Since they took over the diner, they haven’t made many changes. All of the original employees still are there, plus a couple of new ones, and the menu will stay the same, save for a few name changes (they’re going to name dishes after their children: Tiffani’s French Toast and Tyler’s Hot Cake Special).
The menu offers the usual breakfast staples as well as sandwiches, chili and burgers, including the “Soon to be Famous Smokehouse Burger.”
Dave said they’re going to redo the logo, which currently features a cartoon roadrunner similar to the Looney Toons character, and they hope to eventually expand the diner, which seats 45 people.
“For the most part it’s going to stay the same,” he said, adding Theresa gave the family her cinnamon roll recipe.
As he and his wife sit in one of the diner’s booths, Dave recalls when a friend stopped by the diner and saw him sitting at the counter. Suddenly Dave got up and went into the kitchen. Once Dave sat back down, his friend asked what he was doing going into the kitchen.
“I said Anita and I bought it,” Dave said. “He was just so amused.”
“We’ve had many sleepless nights before,” Anita said. “But now that we’re working it, we couldn’t be happier.”