Don’t mess with a legendary culinary tradition, unless you strive to make a few needed additions
Such is the theme of The Pantry restaurant, an anchor of the Green Mountain Falls/Ute Pass community for decades, dating back to the days of “Miss Dustin’s” home-made pancakes 60 years ago. In fact, The Pantry has become synonymous with the Green Mountain Falls, home-style experience, almost gaining as much fame as the Gazebo.
The Pantry has gained a niche as one of the most popular breakfast/lunch restaurants in the Ute Pass, a neighborhood gathering hub and yes, a local rumor center, where the politics and events of the day are frequently discussed. The Pantry is also an integral part of the community, renowned for its amazing floats during Bronc Day and for hosting many community events and fund-raisers. “It is part of your family history. People came up here just to come to The Pantry,” said Nan Stephens, who along with her husband Ben, have owned and operated The Pantry since the spring of 2001. “This place has such a rich history. We wanted to do everything we could to maintain its tradition.”
The Pantry is even quite personal for Nan and Ben, as they met there after Ben Stephens acquired the business. Nan, a former real estate agent, frequently met clients at the restaurant, including Ben, the man she would eventually marry. In fact, the two began their courtship at The Pantry, while Nan was in the process of trying to sell Ben’s home outside Colorado Springs. “I learned that he wanted to ask me out on a date, and it wasn’t all business,” she quipped. And when they tied the knot, they had a big wedding party at The Pantry.
For the restaurant owners/operators, The Pantry has been a good and challenging experience with the floods, fires and disasters that have affected the area. Their outdoor patio took quite a beating last year during a flood that practically turned Green Mountain Falls into an island.
“We owe quite a bit to our staff,” said Ben Stephens, who had no food or restaurant experience when he bought the business, following his retirement from the city of Colorado Springs. But Stephens soon learned the business ropes from washing dishes and greeting customers, to fixing up the building and cooking specialty dishes.
One thing the Stephens’ learned right away is not to mess with The Pantry’s culinary tradition, such as their cornbread, cinnamon rolls, omelets, pancakes, country potatoes and breakfast and lunch specials. Besides these popular items, some of The Pantry’s best-kept secrets are their burritos, Colorado and Southwest sandwiches and “Colossal” burgers.
For the most part, The Pantry owners and operators tried to enhance the eating experience by opening up a large outdoor patio during the summer, and improving the front area of the restaurant. “People love to eat outdoors,” said Nan Stephens, in explaining the impetus behind their expansion efforts. “We didn’t want to change the food, but we wanted to make it a more pleasant atmosphere for our customers.”
The outdoor patio, complete with freshly-made barbecue specials, and live entertainment, has become a big hit with local residents and summer visitors. Likewise, the front outdoor section of The Pantry, with great views of the Gazebo and Green Mountain Falls, has gained a strong following.
And when it comes to The Pantry culinary experience, it’s hard to rival. Nan Stephens, who hails from Alabama, views The Pantry as part of an old tradition of home-style restaurants that too often have succumbed to the Big Box/chain syndrome. “It is really like the freshly made farm food and great cooking I grew up with in Alabama.”
The Pantry owners are also quite thankful to their local customers, who frequent the restaurant on a regular basis and usually sit in the same seats. “We really are appreciative of our regular customers,” said Ben Stephens. “They have really helped us out.” As a way of saying thanks to the community, The Pantry frequently offers discounts and blue plate specials, especially this time of year.
As for future changes, The Pantry owners plan to continue to make physical improvements to the property. They also are supportive of the Green Box Arts Festival and other special events, as part of an effort to bring more people to town.
For more information about The Pantry, call 684-9018.