Idle Isle Cafe celebrates 97 years with theater shows about its history

Tuesday , May 01, 2018 - 5:15 AM

BRIGHAM CITY — The Idle Isle Cafe, an iconic restaurant in downtown Brigham City, celebrates its 97th anniversary this week with various events and menu specials.

The cafe at 24 S. Main St. first opened as an ice cream and candy store in May 1921.

“On our 95th anniversary we did more of an open-house celebration,” said cafe owner Travis Porter. “And while 97 years is still a milestone, we’re starting to look to our 100th birthday so this one won’t be as celebratory — although we will have fun things going on.”

Porter, who with his wife, Jana, took over ownership of the Idle Isle Cafe almost three years ago, said the low-key celebration begins Tuesday, May 1, and continues through Friday, May 4.

On Tuesday, the cafe will offer menu specials and “other fun things” throughout the day, according to Porter. On Wednesday, a video production company will be at the cafe to create a highlight video of the 97-year-old business. Porter says the video will be posted to the city’s website, as well as the cafe’s soon-to-be-remodeled website.

Then, on Thursday and Friday evenings, a special live theater production dealing with the Idle Isle Cafe’s history will be presented. Porter said the cafe will hold regular lunch hours on those two days, but then close down at about 2:30 p.m. to prepare for the evening performances.

Two shows are planned for each night — a dinner theater at 6 p.m., and a dessert theater at 8 p.m. The dinner theater, which includes the performance and a steak-and-salmon combo meal, is $25 per person. The dessert theater, including the show and the restaurant’s signature Idleberry Cheesecake (featuring a combination of blueberries and marionberries), is $10.

Sixty tickets are available per performance, and reservations are required. The 6 p.m. Friday show is sold out, but seats are still available for the other performances, at 435-734-2468.

The historical play, based on actual events from the history of the Idle Isle Cafe, is part of a larger three-act work written by Logan resident Lynda Linford. According to Porter, Linford spent more than a decade researching and writing about three of the oldest restaurants in the state of Utah — the now-defunct Lamb’s Grill in Salt Lake City, the Bluebird Restaurant in Logan and the Idle Isle Cafe in Brigham City.

Although the acts featuring the other two restaurants were long ago performed, this will be the premiere of the Idle Isle portion of the play.

“We are considered by the state to be the second-oldest restaurant in Utah,” Porter said.

In May of 1921, newlyweds P.C. and Verabel Knudson started an ice cream and candy store in the same location the restaurant remains today, according to a history of the cafe on its website. Verabel’s brother and sister-in-law, David and LaRita Call, later formed a partnership with the Knudsons to create a full-service restaurant and candy shop.

Although some changes have been made over the years, the 1920s decor remains to this day. Handcrafted wood booths, a marble and onyx soda fountain and a grandfather clock are among those early touches still on display.

The cafe’s early location on the main highway through the area helped it to survive the Great Depression, World War II and other events that impacted the region.

Eventually, the family establishment passed on to younger generations. In 1994, Richard H. VanDyke sold the restaurant portion of the Idle Isle to Kim and Ann Jeppsen. Then, in 2004, Idle Isle Candy purchased a historic building on the east side of Main Street and moved across the street.

The Porters have owned the cafe since July 2015.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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