Along a winding strip of Lake Lindsey Road and hidden from the chaos of modern life, a quaint piece of old Florida awaits. They come by canoe or kayak, ride in on horseback, or jog and walk up to rest a bit, enjoy a cold drink and eat a sandwich or entre.
And they often stay awhile, said River Ratz Café manager Steve Waller. Visitors gather on the gazebo or in front of a live band or dine inside the unique and rustic café. Children often swim in the adjoining river or play corn hole.
“It’s a great place to bring the entire family,” Waller said.
River Ratz Café has been described as a quaint, preserved piece of paradise. Resting against a backdrop of the lazy Withlacoochee River between the Croom Wildlife Management area and the Withlacoochee State Forest, the eatery provides an experience many come back for again and again.
But discovering it is the first step.
Because the café shares space with the Nobleton Outpost, many mistake the property for a kayak rental spot. But once they venture onto the cozy wooded setting, they find a little café with a creative edge on popular dishes.
“It is a gem of a place,” said Cathy (Cat) Terrell, lead singer of Cover Fire, a local band that stumbled on River Ratz and now plays regularly to a packed house. “It’s one of Hernando County’s best kept secrets.”
The café has an interior dining room that has huge glass windows overlooking the winding river banks.
And with the Withlacoochee State Trail only minutes away, it is normal to see a horse hitched to a post or a group of bikers stop for a break before continuing along their scenic ride.
The Waller family has owned River Ratz Café about five years, said Steve Waller.
Steve Waller’s parents Ferris and Peggy Waller worked at the cafe for years after they purchased the business. To reignite what they started, Steve Waller is working to bring River Ratz exposure to a new level.
Steve left south Florida and moved to Nobleton where he now spends most of his time developing relationships with loyal patrons. He lives on the property, he said, and is often seen conversing with patrons when the café is open.
“No one has more passion than family,” he said.
Blake Harris, of Bushnell, comes to River Ratz Café at least once a week to enjoy live music and perhaps a sandwiches. It’s a quick scoot from his house, he said, and provides a great opportunity to meet friends and have a casual good time.
The food is a big draw, as well, Waller said.
“Everyone seems to say that the fried catfish is drop dead delicious,” Waller said. He uses a fillet which is also cut into chunks and breaded for the catfish nuggets, another popular seller, available for lunch and dinner.
But the slow-smoked pork butt, prepared and slow cooked overnight, is a huge draw to River Ratz Café and is often the reason many keep coming back.
The menu is appealing to many diverse tastes and also includes quarter pound Angus burgers, peel-your-own shrimp, and other tempting items.
River Ratz Café is open Wednesday through Sunday at 7 a.m., catering to breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds. The café closes at 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
There is karaoke on Thursdays and live entertainment every Sunday afternoon. Acoustic performances are often held on Friday and Saturday evenings for quieter dinner music.
On Sunday, Cover Fire will perform under a tent beginning at 1 p.m. Lead singer Cat Terrell said she hopes to bring more attention to the little café on the river with so much Florida charm.
Email Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame at email@example.com.
Biz at a Glance
Name: River Ratz Café
Address: 29295 Lake Lindsey Road, Nobleton
Phone: (352) 796-7176