Dude Ranch Cafe

Dude Ranch Cafe
Dude Ranch Cafe

The original owner of the building that houses the Dude Ranch Café is unknown.  However, on March 17, 1890, Nephi Campbell, the owner of the land, deeded it to John Harrison, who then deeded it to Christina Evans on March 1, 1900.  On May 2, 1910, the land was deeded to Jedd Jones, Jr., from Rose Roberts and Sarah Lawiseh. On March 15, 1957, the court transferred the property to Sophia Jones as the surviving spouse of Jedd Jones, Jr.

The building at this site has operated as a restaurant for at least 100 years, beginning as the Fred Murray Café. Henry Lee operated the café for a couple of years. Lewis “Shep” and Blanche Shepherd opened the Dude Ranch Café on July 3, 1945, and it has been in the Shepherd family since then. In January 1978, the other “Shep,” Gary, the son of Lewis and Blanche, took over ownership of the business. On August 27, 1980, Sophia Jones Eliason sold the building to Gary and Sherma Shepherd.

Lew and Blanche had a lot of experience in the restaurant business before moving to Malad. Lew cooked at a Boise hotel before marrying Blanche in 1940. The couple operated Blink’s Café in Paris, Idaho, for two years, worked in Salt Lake City for three years, and then moved to Malad to open the Dude Ranch.

Their son Gary started working at the family business when he was 13 years old, washing dishes and peeling potatoes and becoming a cook while in high school.  Gary’s wife Sherma and daughter Nicole work alongside Gary at the café.

The Shepherds have served the same family-style meals since the beginning of the business. Customer favorites include apple and boysenberry pies and chicken fried steak. Sherma and Gary added the small loaves of homemade bread and the mini cones that everyone gets after meals. They also added the salad bar, specialty sandwiches, and lunch specials.

Lew and Blanche continued working at the café after Gary and Sherma assumed the management. Lew died in 1978, and Blanche died in 2000.

The Dude Ranch has changed a lot since it first opened.  Counter seating is gone, and the tabletop jukeboxes at the booths have disappeared. A lottery ticket- dispensing machine stands by the front door. While the main room is filled with booths, the adjoining banquet room has table seating.

Oneida County books of deeds and instruments.
“Happy 70 th Birthday to the Dude Ranch,” The Idaho Enterprise, July 2015.