BY VIRGINIA STILL
209 Staff Reporter
There is a landmark in Riverbank that has been on the corner of Atchison and Second Street since 1945 known as Nifty’s Restaurant where they serve up delectable dishes for breakfast and lunch.
A charming, warm, hospitality service professional Linda Mitchell may be the face that greets you when you walk through the doors – she has been working there for over 40 years and is partial owner with her mother Betty Mitchell.
Bill and Betty Mitchell purchased the restaurant in 1976 where both cooked and provided a car hop service to patrons until 11 p.m. The car hop service was well received by patrons that would sit in their car and wait until a waiter or waitress would approach the vehicle and take their order. They would socialize in their cars until their food was delivered.
The restaurant would stay open late on the weekends to accommodate the patrons from the nearby clubs and dance halls.
The restaurant was a very popular destination for locals back in the day, as Nifty’s served up banana splits, milkshakes, burgers, and hot dogs.
When they first started the business in Riverbank there were only approximately 5,000 to 7,000 people living there, according to Bill, and only three restaurants, Nifty’s being one of them.
Breakfast was also a hit and to this day customers and the many regulars alike request the biscuits and country gravy, buttermilk pancakes, and omelets.
“We used to open at 4:15 in the morning,” stated Linda. “All the truckers, the guys would be waiting for us to unlock the door so they could have their pots of coffee and their breakfast.”
Times have changed and now the restaurant is open only for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, from 6:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.
With breakfast and lunch items on the menu like hamburgers with your choice of fries or potato salad, a chiliburger served open faced smothered with homemade chili, or hot off the griddle, a short stack of buttermilk pancakes, biscuits and gravy or the awesome omelet with fresh spinach, bacon, Monterey jack cheese topped with fresh ripe avocados and a side of fresh fruit, there is certainly something to delight anyone’s palate.
“We have awesome omelets and on the weekends we sell a lot of chicken fried steak,” added Linda. “We have regulars and they have their own coffee cups and sit on certain stools at the counter.”
Even the counter is a bit of history, she said.
“This is the original counter which is one solid piece of wood. It had to be a big mighty tree that the seats are bolted down to.”
You can still get a real milkshake at the diner, made with real ice cream, real cream, real whipping cream that is topped off with a couple cherries. They come in the tall glass and you get the silver container with the remaining contents, so you can have seconds – if you have room to finish off the whole sweet treat.
“They are old-fashioned milkshakes and they are delicious,” said Linda.
With a total of five employees and two full-time cooks, Betty still comes in and works the counter on Tuesdays and Wednesdays along with daughter Linda.
Along with the great memories, Linda explained that there have been a lot of people that have gotten married that have met at the restaurant.
“I love the people,” said Linda. “I love the customers; they are a big part of my life.”
On any given day, patrons can be transported to another time that was simpler, where milkshakes, hamburgers and warm, friendly service was always on the menu.
“I think being a small place like this, you get to know the residents and people get to be part of your family because they come in every day or every other day and they eat,” stated Bill. “They sit around and drink coffee and visit with each other.
“We have a personal touch and people that come here are not just customers, they are our friends.”