Crowsnest Keep has found its niche

The restaurant, which is owned by a couple from Greenwood, offers fresh homemade meals, specialty coffees and even a boutique.

Jill Irving

Every new business has growing pains but for Crowsnest Keep Restaurant, they’ve passed the one-year mark and are looking stronger than ever.

The restaurant, which is owned by a couple from Greenwood, offers fresh homemade meals, specialty coffees and even a boutique. The Keep is attached to Rilkoff’s Store at the west end of town but is independent.

Jill Irving and her husband Les opened the restaurant on July 29 of last year.

“We’re fresh and not fast food,” she said. “That’s what prompted us to open the restaurant—to give people different options. We try to serve a good meal at a fair price. You shouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a good meal.”

Jill said the restaurant’s first year has gone very well. “In the winter we weren’t sure what to expect but we did very well,” she said, “and we’re just getting busier and busier.”

The restaurant recently hired a cook who specializes in vegetarian cuisine and Jill is excited about some of the new menu options they are bringing out for the fall.

“When we opened up the restaurant here we knew there was a very large vegetarian community,” she said. “There are a lot of vegetarians in Grand Forks. We have many regulars who are vegetarians and we have lots of fresh options for them.”

Jill said they have plenty of new and exciting menu items for fall. “We’re doing our fall switch over right now,” she said. “We have lots of new fall items were happy to pull out.”

Jill said the restaurant has plenty of hearty soups to warm everyone up as the weather cools down.

“We make all of our soups here,” she said. “They’re all made from scratch right here. We have our own borscht. We’re entering the borscht competition on the [Sept.] 12th at the dollar store. I want that ribbon!”

They also have a popular loaded baked potato soup and creamy tomato dill soup. “Thai carrot soup is another bit hit as well,” she said. “We also have non-vegetarian soups like chicken vegetable, which is very popular. We can’t keep it in stock.”

Hamburgers are also very popular, said Jill. “Our burgers are homemade patties. They are formed when they hit the pan. There’s no filler.”

She said the only things on the menu that are frozen are the French fries, onion rings and ice cream.

The Irvings also pride themselves on shopping local for all their produce.

“In our community here, it’s so small and we need to help each other by supporting each other,” said Jill. “I found sometimes there’s lots of head-butting among businesses trying to get things going.”

Crowsnest Keep also serves different ethnic foods such as a Lebanese-style donair, which has sweet garlic sauce instead of tzatziki sauce. They also have a Jamaican patty available.

“We’re also well known for our breakfasts,” she said. “We have farm-fresh eggs, homemade bread from a local baker. We do a lot of baking in house but also sub out. We also have great salads.”

Jill also takes pride in offering some of the best coffee in town. She gets her coffee fresh from Oso Negro in Nelson.

“I’m a trained barista,” she said. “I’m a coffee guru. We get our coffee weekly from Nelson. It comes here two days after I order it. It’s always nice and fresh.”

They also offer wraps, salads, sandwiches and several other fresh menu options.

The restaurant is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Jill started up a Facebook site (What’s to Eat in Grand Forks?) that offers residents and tourist alike a way to check out what’s available for dining options in the area.

Crowsnest Keep is non-licensed and Jill says they plan to keep it that way. “I want to be a family-friendly environment,” she said. “We do birthday parties and family events here. We also have take out and delivery.”

They are already preparing for their second annual Thanksgiving dinner, which features turkey and all the fixings. They will have a pumpkin decorating contest on Halloween.

Jill said they are providing school lunches for Hutton School as well.

The Irvings spent over $10,000 on renovating the dining room after purchasing the building. Jill said it’s been money well spent as the new dining room is much brighter and cozier.

“People just love to come and enjoy it,” she said. “I’ve had people say it’s like home; they love it.”

Crowsnest Keep celebrated their one-year anniversary at the end of July with a big celebration. “We had a full out day of stuff,” she said. “We had free hot dogs and drinks for the kids as well as face painting, door prizes, balloons, a juggler and a magician. It turned out really well. We had a great turn out. We had a great big cake as well.”