Missoula Restaurant Owners & Chefs:
Mike Ramos – Paul’s Pancake Parlor

By BOB ZIMORINO

“Owners and Chefs” is a restaurant section with a twist. To fill either position, chefs and owners must be able to wear many hats: Cook, server, human resource manager, repair person, negotiator, mediator, psychologist, bookkeeper, and more.  Armed with his top 10 questions, Bob Zimorino takes a peek behind the kitchen doors to find out how these local restaurateurs view the restaurant business in their own words.

I met up with Mike Ramos in his new office at the back of Paul’s Pancake Parlor as he was pouring over the sales figures from the preceding weekend.  Often times when a restaurant owner sells the restaurant to one of their offspring it either goes down hill or the perception is that it went downhill. That is surely not the case here. Mike bought the restaurant from his Mom, Ellie and it has remained consistently one of Missoula’s top spots for food. Read on and find out why:

There are a lot of restaurants in Missoula. Why should a prospective diner choose yours?

MR:  I think we’re a little different as far as the breakfast fare goes. I’d like to think that we’ve got really good service and the portion size is second to none.

What dish is your signature dish and why that particular dish?

MR:  Well there are others that serve sourdough pancakes but I think our starter has been around the longest.  We’re talking about a true sourdough pancake.

BZ:  So you’re saying “Here at Paul’s Pancake Parlor the specialty is pancakes?”

MR:  (laughs) It’s the sourdough.

BZ:  I know. I think that people don’t take into account the length of time that sourdough starter can stay alive.

MR:  It has been over a hundred years that this starter has been alive. Over a hundred years…

What would you want it to say to the person that orders it?

MR:  These are different. These are a true sourdough.

What is your favorite dish prepared in another Missoula restaurant?

MR:  I would have to say my own creation at Hu Hot. You pick your meat and your vegetables, you know, what you want in it, and they have like maybe twenty different sauces you can choose from and they cook it for you. If you don’t like your meal it is pretty much your own fault.

As a place to do business, why Missoula?

MR:  I love Missoula. With my decathlon and athletic career I was on the US team for 10 years. Sometimes that entailed 3 or 4 times a summer going to Europe. I’ve been everywhere. I trained in New York and L.A. I lived in Seattle for 10 years. I wanted to raise my family in Missoula because I knew what else was out there. There is not a better place than Missoula as far as I’m concerned.

What is your least favorite cooking trend?

MR: (chuckle) Who am I going to piss off here? I think the trend that I really despise is when restaurants advertise the healthy angle for food that isn’t really healthy.

It’s the Iron Chef competition and you are up. Who would you rather be up against Bobby Flay or Cat Cora?

MR:  Neither. (we both laugh) Neither because I know how that story would end.

How do you like working with family? I see your sister working the floor and I used to see your Dad at the till and I remember your Mom for all those years she ran the restaurant.

MR:  A lot of people really complain about working with family but I think it is a blessing. My Mom started this with Paul back in 1963. She was the cook and he was the owner. He ended up selling it to her in the early 80’s. My sister started working here when she was about 16 or so. She has been here thirty some years. She knows the business inside and out and has specialized in the front end. My Mom taught me everything there was to know about the kitchen before she sold it to me.

BZ:  I love your Mom by the way. She’s a great lady.

MR: Yes she is. She is a hard worker. She made me work here for a year pulling the 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. shift before she would sell it to me. It was  a Godsend…something I needed to learn…to make it work the way that she made it work. So since I’ve owned it, My Mom worked here and my Dad ran the till for years. I’ve got two Sisters that work here…so when I’m not here I don’t have to worry so much. Other restaurant guys I have talked to have had real serious issues working with family but I feel blessed.

What do you think when you hear someone say: “I think owning a restaurant looks like fun.”

MR:  (laughs long and hard) That’s a good one. It’s not all fun. I take things here very personally and, if someone has a bad experience, which fortunately rarely happens, it affects me. It bothers me until I get the problem handled whether that takes a day, two or three. It gives me gray hair. It is a lotta, lotta hard work, more than it is ever fun.

Give me 5 words to describe your restaurant.

MR:  Friendly, fast, affordable, local and family.

BZ: Thanks Mike

MR: Thank you Bob

Paul’s Pancake Parlor
Tremper’s Plaza
2305 Brooks St.
(406) 728-9071

 

Check out  our comprehensive list of Missoula Dining options.  You may also want to watch Bob Zimorino’s Taste It blog or even watch one of his many video blogs–including this one on Cashew Chicken!

See the “Taste It” archive.  Check out Bob’s recipes.

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime.