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Groundhog Cafe pops up

Tamera Manzanares

Hayden residents wanting a quick, hot breakfast on the way to work no longer have to settle for a donut from the gas station.

After two months of remodeling and cleaning the old Poor Boy’s Eats and Treats space in the SGF building, Brian Brittingham recently opened the Groundhog Cafe, which features breakfast and lunch buffets and entrees Monday through Saturday.

Brittingham, who lives in Hayden and has worked in the restaurant business for seven years, always wanted his own cafe, but he also saw a need for more places to eat out in Hayden.

“I was frustrated with the inconsistencies of other restaurants here. … It’s frustrating when you can’t get breakfast on a Tuesday,” said Brittingham, who particularly was disappointed when the Food Mill decided to serve breakfast on weekends only.

His opportunity to improve Hayden’s options came when he discovered the open restaurant space. After receiving a business loan, he knocked out two walls in the building, expanding the eating and kitchen areas. He purchased some new kitchen equipment, added some finishes and gave the space a good cleaning.

“I put a lot of time and energy into making it into a warm atmosphere for people to enjoy their meal,” Brittingham said while relaxing after a lunch rush.

It also was important to Brittingham, who previously worked as a cook and bartender at the Hilltop Bar & Grill in Steamboat, that his cafe be non-smoking.

Open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day except Sunday, the cafe offers an all-you-can-eat buffet with sausage, bacon, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, and other breakfast staples. Eggs, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos and other entrees are made to order.

At about 11 a.m., the breakfast buffet is replaced with a soup, salad and baked potato buffet that includes homemade chili, potato and pasta salads.

Buffets offer quick meals and also help keep costs down — savings Brittingham passes on to his customers, he said.

Entree and buffet prices range from $3.99 to $7.49.Children’s meals are $2.99.

Like any classic cafe, the Groundhog Cafe — named for Brittingham’s birthday — has half-pound beef and buffalo burgers, fries, hotdogs and hoagies.

Appetizers include onion rings, jalapeño poppers, quesadillas and nachos.

Brittingham grills and sautes most meats and offers several offbeat specialties including a fajita sub hoagie and grilled veggie sandwich.

As business increases, he plans to expand the cafe’s menu and hours into dinner. The restaurant is available for parties, and Brittingham also will do off-site catering, he said.

Although Brittingham works 10-hour days in the restaurant, he’s enjoying being his own boss.

“The only people I really have to answer to are the people who come through the door to eat,” he said.

Flexibility and being open to customers’ suggestions are among the perks of being a restaurant owner. If someone walks into the restaurant at 11:30 a.m. wanting breakfast, for example, Brittingham will have no problem frying up some eggs and bacon.

“I want people to walk out of here satisfied,” he said.

— To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.


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