Welcome to where it all began. . .
Welcome to South Fork Café!
South Fork Café has been serving the River Falls community since 1987, located on main street in the heart of downtown River Falls. We are that hometown café with friendly faces and a warm atmosphere.
Here at South Fork Café, we take pride in preparing fresh homemade meals & desserts at a reasonable price. We start out each morning with fresh homemade cinnamon & caramel rolls and move on to our made from scratch soups and lunch specials. On Saturday’s and Sunday’s we serve up a wonderful breakfast buffet from 8:30am -1pm along with a full breakfast and lunch menu of which is served all-day everyday.
A Little History
116th South Main Street started its long history as a restaurant in February 1915. The three Nelson brothers of River Falls bought the City Meat Market from the owner Joe Cobain and converted it into a restaurant and bakery.
There were troubles before the restaurant even opened its doors. On February 25th, 1915, workers entered the store to find smoke filling the air. The source of the smoke was discovered to be a fire in the basement. The fire was quickly extinguished and only minor damage was suffered.
The Nelson Brothers’ Café had its grand opening two days after the fire on February 27th. All food was produced in-house, greatly reducing the cost of delivery, making the dishes more affordable for the customers. With a comfortable atmosphere and inexpensive meals, Nelson Brothers’ Café was a favorite of local patrons.
After four years in operation, Nelson Brothers’ Café was sold to W. A. Magee. Magee had many years of experience running restaurants and bakeries in cities like Denver and Minneapolis. He renamed the restaurant the Ideal Café and strived to continue the café’s reputation of comfortable environment and affordable food.
Magee sold the restaurant to Walter Sutherland in May of 1923. Renaming the restaurant the Sutherland Café, Sutherland continued to provide excellent service to his patrons.
In August 1928, Dan O’Brien purchases the Sutherland Café and returned the name back to the Ideal Café. This started the career of the longest owner of the restaurant, as O’Brien ran the store from 1928 to 1960.
In the thirty-two years O’Brien owned the restaurant, he took great steps to improve and modernize it. The renovations started in 1932 with remodels to the interior of the café: putting up fresh wallpaper, laying down new flooring tiles, and adding cloth cushions to the chairs. Also, in 1934, O’Brien had two toilets installed in the café to keep in accordance with the states then Tavern Laws.
The largest remodels came in 1946, when the Ideal Café was closed for almost the entire month of August. During these renovations, the whole floor layout changed. First a new back bar and longer front counter was installed. Booths were also added along the walls, including a large family booth in the corner, and overhead fluorescent lights were installed. The café was greatly “modern” for the time and could seat eighty people as once, making it one of the largest restaurant in River Falls.
The Ideal Café saw great success under O’Brien’s ownership. While being a favorite with locals and college students, it was most popular as a meeting place for business men. When asked about the café’s success with professional clientele, O’Brien said it was because “I don’t see anything or hear anything, and I serve good coffee.”
O’Brien sold the Ideal Café on September 29th, 1960, and it opened as Hanson’s Café on October 1st, under the new manager, Earl Hanson. Hanson ran the café for almost the entire decade of the Sixties.