Restaurant back at historic Mimosa Inn after more than 30 years

Published 2:55 pm Friday, January 9, 2009

&dquo;We&squo;re very aware that restaurants are a hard business. We&squo;re just going to try to dip our toe in the water and grow from there,&dquo; says Jim Ott. &dquo;We don&squo;t want to start too big and then have to cut.&dquo;

The Otts have spent the past few months upgrading the inn&squo;s commercial kitchen and making sure it is up to code. Jim Ott notes that the inn has one of the largest commercial kitchens in the area. The large room was originally designed for operation as a full-service kitchen, complete with a concrete floor and drain and fireproof walls.

Old brochures for the inn show that the restaurant served three meals a day after the inn opened in 1903. Breakfast and lunch were available for guests and dinner was open to guests and the public.

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Back then the inn had a bowling alley in what&squo;s now a parlor area off the dining room and a private club room in the back of the inn. The Otts say they hope people will come to not only enjoy the dining room, but to relax in the parlor or on the veranda. When the weather&squo;s nice, people will have the choice of dining out on the veranda.

&dquo;We would like to see it be the kind of place where you can come hang out on a Friday night and just relax and talk with friends or maybe dance around the fireplace,&squo; says Jim Ott. &dquo;We don&squo;t think there&squo;s any room for any more fine dining in Tryon so we&squo;re trying to offer something in between. We want this to be a place you can afford to come to more than a few times a year.&dquo;

The Otts have served breakfast for guests over the past 10 years they&squo;ve operated the inn, but they haven&squo;t been able to provide lunch or dinner without the permits for a commercial kitchen. They also haven&squo;t wanted to operate a full-service restaurant until now.

The Otts delayed plans for a restaurant while they had the inn up for sale over the past couple years. But they recently decided to take it off the market so they can focus on opening the restaurant. The Otts say it&squo;s not a good time to sell, and they grew frustrated that most of the prospective buyers were not in a position financially to make the purchase.

The Otts say they feel the restaurant at the inn will offer a venue that is unique in the area, and they hope it will be well received by the community.

Stephanie, who emphasizes her love of cooking, will serve as the restaurant&squo;s chef and will receive assistance from Jim and possibly some part-time help for now. Additional help would be hired, they say, if the restaurant&squo;s service expands.

&dquo;Obviously, we wouldn&squo;t be doing this if Stephanie didn&squo;t like to cook,&dquo; says Jim. &dquo;We obviously have a high opinion of our food and now we&squo;ll see if everybody shares that.&dquo;

The Otts have come a long way in the kitchen since they bought the inn and came downstairs the first morning to see six guests waiting for breakfast. &bsp;

&dquo;We both were thinking &squo;How are we going to do this?&squo;&dquo; Jim recalls. &dquo;But now if we get 25 to 30 people for breakfast, we don&squo;t think anything of it. We have a system and we&squo;ll apply that to the other meals.&dquo;

The Otts say having a buffet station in the dining room will help them provide some meals now without a larger staff.

As they do now with breakfast, they will continue to give people the option of dining by themselves or joining others at a common table.

&dquo;We find our guests often want to sit together,&dquo; says Stephanie.&bsp; &dquo;A lot of people have met here, then moved here and they are still friends. We want to make it as friendly as we can.&dquo;

If there&squo;s sufficient support for the restaurant, Stephanie says they will look at options for obtaining a beer and wine license. The Otts say they could pursue annexation by Tryon or take the course of the Orchard Inn in Saluda and get listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restaurants on the register can obtain beer and wine licenses.

&dquo;We definitely want to do something for beer and wine,&dquo; she says.

The Otts say they&squo;ve always thought the inn should have a restaurant again. After all, it has the full size commercial kitchen with room for a few cooks, a dining room that can seat about 60, and they are already paying the electricity and heating bills for the space.

&dquo;It&squo;s kind of a shame to have (the kitchen and restaurant) just sitting there,&dquo; says Jim. &dquo;The restaurant has such a long history here. You talk to the old timers and that&squo;s what they tell you about this place. We hope to recapture some of that history.&dquo;