George and Jill Wells own the Falls Cafe with Mike Auspos. The cafe opened as an arm of Wells Catering Service, which is three decades old.

Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

An unusual recipe for success in Ramsey

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY
  • Star Tribune
  • December 6, 2011 - 2:25 PM

Other restaurants branch out into the catering business. But three decades after establishing Wells Catering Service, the family-run Ramsey food specialist has gone in the other direction, launching its own cafe.

The Falls Cafe's six-page menu includes everything from exotic-sounding dishes like "Farm Raised Duck Leg Confit" to old-fashioned country-fried steak. The new restaurant is in the Ramsey COR development area, formerly the Town Center project.

"Some might think it's premature to have the restaurant before you really get the surrounding development going," said Ramsey developer Jim Deal. "But George Wells really wanted to open a restaurant in Ramsey.

"We're banking on a lot of things, but all the factors seem positive," Deal said. "The issue is a lot broader than the restaurant."

Earlier this year, a new Allina clinic opened at the COR, and last month a long-awaited Veterans Administration outpatient clinic opened. Both were developed by Deal's company, PSD.

Last month, plans also were finalized for a new Northstar commuter rail station in Ramsey, expected to open in a year. The sparkling new Ramsey City Hall also is located on the campus.

Deal knows visitors from throughout the northwestern suburbs will be visiting Ramsey and the COR, as well as travelers on Hwy. 10. He really wanted a restaurant and was more than familiar with Wells Catering.

"Jim doesn't do things without doing his homework," said George Wells.

"He had a vision 15 years ago for a banquet center in this area," Wells said. "Today we have the Fountains of Ramsey. But the vision came years before any of this development was built."

Families were familiar

George Wells says his parents began their catering business 35 years ago out of their home. His father met Pam Deal, Jim Deal's wife, years ago at a catered event. George Wells also went to school with Matt Deal, Jim and Pam Deal's son.

Cafe owners George Wells, his wife, Jill, and Mike Auspos met 15 years ago when they worked at Bob's Country Inn in Anoka. So all involved in the project were well acquainted with one another when they decided they wanted their own restaurant.

"Your gut tells you so," said Jill Wells.

"My gut told me I couldn't sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day," Auspos said.

Their theory was that if they used fresh ingredients, made nearly everything from scratch and didn't cut corners, they could differentiate The Falls from other cafes.

"We're trying to serve food the way it used to be made," said Auspos, the son of a former Ramsey police chief.

They've created what George calls "an upper-scale menu with plenty of specials every day."

From Belgian waffles to breakfast burritos, from the wraps to the walleye, from bruschetta chicken to beef tenderloin, the cafe staff is betting they'll have enough enticing meals to fill the cafe's 105 seats on a regular basis.

"We're sure the veterans and their families will utilize The Falls Cafe and the train stop may help," said Deal. "It's too soon to speculate about Northstar, but it's not going to hurt."

Deal is willing to wait. Just as George Wells waited to open the restaurant of his dreams.

"We did it backwards because people usually do the restaurant before they get into catering," Wells said. "Of course, we still have the catering business."

He hopes one will feed off the other.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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