For Jim and Kelli Housley, the key to running a successful restaurant is to evolve and stay relevant. Jim and his then-business partner, Dave Stickney, first bought Lincoln’s Roadhouse 20 years …
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For Jim and Kelli Housley, the key to running a successful restaurant is to evolve and stay relevant.
Jim and his then-business partner, Dave Stickney, first bought Lincoln’s Roadhouse 20 years ago. After starting with staple bar and comfort foods like burgers and a meatloaf cheeseburger, Housley and Stickney brought in a friend to add Cajun foods to the menu.
Housley said they now do different burger and po’ boy specials every week and host a special event each year for Fat Tuesday. Housley said his wife Kelli is the mastermind behind the different po’ boys they make.
“For a little corner joint, with a small kitchen, we put out this great food,” he said. “We don’t try to dabble in things we’re not good at.”
Each month, Housley said the staff at Lincoln’s do a competition to see who can sell the most burgers. The winner gets a gift card and the restaurant donates to a charity of their choice. Housley added that once neighboring businesses caught on to the competition, they began offering to match the donations.
It’s important to keep evolving, Housley said, or else people may forget about your restaurant. Having pride in your kitchen is also important. “We all care. There’s no slopping it around here,” he said.
Although the restaurant has always offered good food, he said the focus of the restaurant has changed over the years. In the early days of Lincoln Roadhouse, it was more about bar sales and how much whiskey they could drink, Housley joked. Now the focus is more on putting out great meals.
“The first 10 years, I’d say we were seriously a great bar with good music and good food,” he said. “In the last few years we’ve kind of evolved, we’ve all gotten older.”
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years at Lincoln’s is the music. In the last 20 years, more than 3,000 shows have been put on at the restaurant. On the wall next to the stage is Housley’s collection of signed guitars.
“Our bread and butter is blues,” he said “We’re pretty serious about putting out good music.”
Charity has also been a consistent theme at Lincoln’s. In addition to the burger challenge, staff and patrons alike participate in the restaurant’s annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser. In the last 10 years, Housley said they have raised $400,000. While some raise money to cut their hair, others, including Housley, raise funds to not cut it.
For Housley, 20 years owning a restaurant is a milestone. But he and Kelli don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, he said, adding “we plan to be here a lot longer.”
One the one hand, Lincoln’s Roadhouse is known for its food and drink, but it is also known for its eclectic decorations. Neon signs line the walls of the bar. Some, like the large red sign reading “crimson & gold” above the bar, have unique stories. When the bar first opened, it was called Crimson and Gold due to its proximity to the University of Denver. That bar closed, and a new bar of the same name has since opened on University Boulevard.
Housley said he loves neon signs, and artfully tries to hide their wiring throughout Lincoln’s.
“I can’t help myself,” he said. “I’m a collector, not a hoarder.”
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