Sponsor spotlight

Sponsor spotlight

Great food, Cheryl’s kindness keeps ’em coming back at the Riverside Cafe

Editor’s note: Cotopaxisportszone.com appreciates its business partners. This story on the Riverside Cafe in Howard and its owner Cheryl Evans is the first in a series of sponsor spotlights that will appear on the website in the coming months. Let Cheryl know how much you appreciate her support of Cotopaxi student-athletes the next time you stop by the Riverside Cafe. Because of the Coronavirus crisis, the Riverside is now open for takeout only. Call 942-3942 to place an order Wednesday through Sunday.

At least once a week, Bryan Coleman, his wife Tiffany and their teenagers, Shealee and Ty, walk into the Riverside Cafe in Howard for lunch or dinner. It’s only about a mile from their house, but that’s not why the Colemans frequent the quintessential roadside diner, located a few feet off of U.S. Highway 50.

They come in to see the Riverside’s longtime owner, Cheryl Evans, and get a hearty, homemade meal.

“She’s a nice lady, very genuine,” Bryan said. “Just being around her, it’s like having a home-cooked meal. She makes everything fresh, nothing is out of the can. She’s just one of those loving ladies; she puts everything into it, treats everybody right.

“We’ll actually leave Salida and come down to eat at her place, even though we are in Salida.  A lot of it is just to be around Cheryl.”

Evans has been at the Riverside for nine years, and before that, she was at the Frontier Cafe in Howard for three years. She started in the restaurant business working in Salida at places such as The Eatery and the Poncha Springs truck stop.

“I’ve done restaurant work my whole life and I just love it,” Evans said. “I’m used to the long hours. I love the people and meeting new people all the time. It’s not as easy as what most people think, but the people make the difference. In a smaller community with all the kids, that’s what I really truly enjoy.

“It always makes my day [when kids show up to the restaurant]. Even when I was closed over Christmas [for three weeks], I have to truly admit after about a week I was missing everybody. It’s neat when you get to know them, and when they walk in the door you pretty much know what they want.”

The affection she has for her customers is illustrated in a framed photograph on the cashier counter that has three of her longtime customers, recent Cotopaxi graduates Steven Tunstall, Jake Tunstall and Noah Overton (aka Cheryl’s boys). Their special order requests are on the frame; one says: “No mayo …. side of wing sauce.”

She admits, though, some customers are harder to please than others.

"The hardest part is learning how to deal with certain people,” she said. “It’s normally people you don’t know and it’s hard to please them no matter what you do.”

Evans works with her “almost-like adopted son, Adrian” who helps prepare and cook the delicious food that Riverside customers have come to expect.

“We cut everything fresh ourselves and bread everything,” said Evans, who shows up to the Riverside around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. “Only a few things are frozen. We do our own potatoes, salsas are fresh … .”

Coleman routinely orders the chicken fajitas and the Durango chicken. The breakfast burrito is also a favorite item on the menu.

Like the Colemans, former longtime Cotopaxi High School athletic director and current teacher Ryan Christensen, his wife, Mary, and their three young children, Riley, Hannah and Olivia, stop by the cafe for a good meal and Evans’ kindness.

Evans, Christensen said, continues to be a tremendous supporter of the Cotopaxi schools and his family. Evans’ granddaughter attends the school, as did her daughter and son.

“She’s constantly giving gift certificates for anything that we have going on, like the fall festival or any money-maker we have,” Christensen said. “That’s what she does for our school. She works so hard that she doesn’t get to the games all the time, but she’s still a full supporter of our community. It’s just a wonderful thing.”

Evans’ support of the Christensen children is also something remarkable, he said.

“She knows when it’s their birthdays,” Christensen said. “We went down there today — the three kids and me. We had our breakfast and we were doing super. Pretty soon, here comes Cheryl with 50 cents for each; they go and get little candies out of her little machines in there. She brings them out little containers to put them in. That’s what makes her special. She welcomes everybody. She treats you fairly. When you are a dad or a mom and she treats your kids like they are her own, that’s special.”

The Christensens also love the food at the Riverside. A pancake sandwich, which features three pancakes and either bacon or sausage, is a big hit with his kids, he said.

“So this morning, they were arguing about getting bacon or sausage,” Christensen said. “She said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll bring both.’”

Christensen said his favorite item on the menu used to be the breakfast burrito, but now he goes with a more traditional fare.

“I love her bacon, give me a couple of eggs, a couple of pieces of toast, the home fries are excellent with some bacon. The kids absolutely love the corn dogs and chips.

“We have a tradition where we’ll go in for ice cream after the first day of school and she’ll have it ready for them. She just knows us.”

While customers think the world of Evans, her granddaughter, Annalise Walker, a sophomore at Cotopaxi High School, feels truly blessed to have Cheryl in her life.

“She is such a wonderful person, with an unconditional love that is indescribable,” Walker said. “She has always been there for me and plays such an important role in my life. She's irreplaceable. She loves her job, and she loves the people. Her community and family will always be number one to her.”