Minnetonka Market and Café, located at 194 N. Main Street in St. Charles, Idaho, is a find for people vacationing around Bear Lake. Winter or summer, the place is open for business.
Kathy Hemmert and her husband Malone have owned the place for 25 years this April. Without so much as a hint of doubt, Kathy proclaimed their hamburgers, cooked onsite, are the best burgers in town. Once you bite into one of the hamburgers, you know what she is talking about. Although St. Charles, on the Idaho side of Bear Lake, only has a population of around 131 residents, it would be hard to beat their tasty cuisine in a bigger city.
Hammert said the café at the back of the convenience store was once a tire and lube shop.
“People would pull their cars in to have their oil changed or have a flat fixed,” she said. “Adolfo Silva bought the place in the mid 80’s and replaced the service bay with a kitchen and sold Mexican food out of it.”
The Silvas are responsible for the Indian paintings on the front of the store. Adolfo’s wife painted them. Minnetonka means big or large water and the market is located only a few blocks south of the road which takes you up to Minnetonka Cave. The rocks on the front of the building are all quarried from nearby canyons.
Over the years, the establishment has had several owners. At one time it was even a Maverik. The convenience store/gas station was built sometime between 1955 to 1959. The story is that Red Arnel built the original gas station when Highway 89 was routed away from his market on the old road.
Summers are the busiest, but in snowy winters a fair amount of snowmobilers patronize the eatery, either in the café or convenience store.
“It’s always touchy if we have snow or not; the trailhead is two blocks away,” Hemmert said. “Snowmobilers make their way over here and get warm and get some food.”
The full service café has a variety of meals. Besides burgers, they also serve chicken, fish tacos, BLT’s, chicken, shrimp, halibut, and chimichangas. They also serve breakfast.
For the first 15 years they kept a visitors log. The Hemmerts have owned the market longer than any of the previous owners.
“I’m surprised at where the visitors have come from, that have been to our small community,” she said. “We have a lot of returning families.”
Over the years the people at the Minnetonka Market and Café have come to appreciate their loyal customers. They look forward to the return of the summer citizens. When people come back for the summer, it’s like her family is coming home, she said.
“Over the years there have been so many people that come back and you get to know them personally,” Hemmert said. “We get to know them and their families. It is really nice when they all return.”