SUPERIOR – Children’s laughter, the clatter of plates and the clinking of silverware are sounds that have long filled the historic Superior schoolhouse on River Road.
Although the elegant brick building no longer functions as a school, it still echoes with the sounds of the community coming together for a meal.
The schoolhouse’s old cafeteria is now Jackie’s Home Cooking restaurant, and it is here where the world pauses for friendship and nourishment.
“Our goal is to never have anyone walk out of here hungry – or a stranger,” said Mike Perotti, who co-owns the establishment with his wife and the restaurant’s namesake, Jackie.
“When people ask what separates us out from others, what makes us different, it’s this: We don’t serve anything that comes out of bags or cans, everything is made from hand, and I do all my sauces from scratch,” he said.
Breakfast is served all day, but the couple also serves up a large array of burgers, burritos, tacos, sandwiches, freshly made cheescakes and just-out-of-the-oven apple pie.
“I love to cook and I love people,” Jackie explains between orders during a busy midweek lunch service. “We just love doing this – it’s hard work, but the customers make all of it worth it.”
This month marks the restaurant’s one-year anniversary, and the successful reimagining of the Perottis’ life.
Laid off from their longtime careers with an RV manufacturing plant in Oregon, the Perottis were forced to find new work when the recession hit in 2008.
Superior was a town they had visited before and liked, and they were reminded of that when they passed through on their way to a family event and saw the vacant school building with a “for rent” sign.
They both love to cook, and they enjoy the company of diverse friends and strangers.
It’s obvious their interests are sincere – and sincerely appreciated.
With great pride, Mike points to a March article that is framed and hanging on the restaurant’s wall.
Published by the local newspaper, the Mineral Independent, the story announces their community’s version of a “Best Of” contest, lauding Jackie as Mineral County’s “friendliest woman,” Mike as “friendliest cook,” and Jackie’s Home Cooking as the “friendliest kid restaurant.”
“We thought that was just awesome,” Mike explained of the awards. “It’s a real honor for us.”
More than the great food, it’s the restaurant’s welcoming, down-home atmosphere that keeps people coming back for more, said Gordon Hendrick, the town’s former mayor and the current state representative for House District 14.
“I come here all of the time,” Hendrick said during a lunch with Bob Ebinger, state representative for House District 62.
Ebinger had come to town to do some research on a Livingston-area timber industry pioneer who had roots in Mineral County. Hendrick agreed to show him around, which included a stop at Jackie’s.
“I like homespun, good, local restaurants – that’s what I seek out when I go out to eat,” Ebinger said. “And this is wonderful.”
In between bites – Hendrick dining on soup and sandwich, Ebinger on eggs and potatoes – the two legislators talked about their appreciation for small entrepreneurs, such as the Perottis, whose restaurants employs a handful of people in a town with 10 percent unemployment. They also talked about their concern that Montana is becoming a service state that is evolving into a place without any industry on which to build growth and wealth.
“There’s a lot of effort to build on tourism and build up mom-and-pop places like this,” Hendrick said. “I think that’s great. We need it, but we need other ways to employ people, too, because service jobs are typically low paying and don’t have benefits.”
As the legislators continued to chew on conundrums facing Montana, nearby tables had other things on their plate.
Alan and Barbara Mulford had just pulled off of Interstate 90 on their motorcycles and were happy to find a hot meal before rolling down the road to the famed Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota.
“We just asked one of the locals where was a good place to eat and they said this place,” Barbara said. “It’s good, we’re glad we are here.”
A few tables over Amy and David Mickelson shared a meal with their grandchildren and daughter, all of whom were visiting from out of town and had come home for the weekend rodeo.
“This is a real good place to eat and everyone is so friendly,” said Amy, who with her husband has lived in Superior for the past 40-some years.
“They will accommodate all kinds of things people want and make special things if that’s needed,” she said. “They make wonderful desserts and their bread pudding is incredible.”
“They make good coffee, too,” David said. “That’s important.”
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at email@example.com.