September 17, 2015

Enjoy a Course from These Schoolhouses-Turned-Restaurants

  • By: Nick Totten
Schoolhouse Kitchen and Libations

photo by: Kent Kanouse/Flickr/CC BY-NC-2.0

The School House Kitchen and Libations in Arvada, Colorado.

In our Fall 2015 issue of Preservation magazine, we give a show-and-tell about some schoolhouses that have graduated to become high-class restaurants. Today, we chalk up three more examples of classic old-school cuisine.

School House Kitchen and Libations

5660 Olde Wadsworth Blvd.
Arvada, CO 80002
$$ | American

The schoolhouse was built in 1882, but as the town of Arvada grew rapidly, classes had to move to a larger building in 1900. The building was then used as a theater until the 1970s, after which it became a public gathering space with an adjoining restaurant.

Scott Spears, who also owns an ice cream shop across the street, purchased the building and turned the entire space into a restaurant. He said it made perfect sense to him to use a schoolhouse theme for the restaurant, and he spared no expense in furnishing it with clever decor.

You can enjoy your chicken and waffle sandwich on a periodic table-top, or sit on old school chairs and order over a counter made with #2 pencils. Classes are still held in the school—on the subject of whiskey—thanks to its impressive library of libations (over 1,100 different whiskeys and counting).

School House Restaurant and Tavern

photo by: Michelle Jackson

The School House Restaurant and Tavern in Sanger, California.

School House Restaurant & Tavern

1018 S. Frankwood
Sanger, CA 93657
$$ | American

The current brick building replaced a wooden schoolhouse in 1921 and continued as Frankwood School until residents voted to consolidate school districts in 1958. It opened later as Sherwood Inn Restaurant, a western steakhouse, but it closed more than 30 years later. The building again went unused until 2012 when the current owners restored the property to its early 1900s appearance and opened it as the School House Restaurant & Tavern.

The restaurant provides dishes with local ingredients. Much of what they make in the kitchen—from their sausage to their ketchup—is uniquely their own. Each item on the menu is carefully crafted with a focus on seasonal ingredients provided by local farms. A favorite signature dish is the Dean’s List Meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes, Swiss chard, and mushroom gravy.

Old Central School Restaurant

photo by: Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

The Old Central School in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Old Central School

10 NW Fifth St.
Grand Rapids, MN 55744
$ | American

The Old Central School, built in 1895, stands out on the flat, green, Minnesota plains. The building served elementary school children until 1972. Five years later, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city of Grand Rapids came together in 1984 to restore the structure, which is now home to several local businesses—including the Old School Cafe—and has become a center for culture, commerce, and community events.

Visitors to the cafe can admire the lovely Romanesque architecture while enjoying soups, salads, or sandwiches. There is also a lot of space just outside the Old Central School that can be used for outdoor events or to enjoy some mild Midwestern weather.

$ = Value, $10-19 per person
$$ = Moderate, $20-29 per person
$$$ = Expensive, $30-39 per person
$$$$ = Splurge, $40+ per person

Nick Totten was an editorial intern at the National Trust. He takes particular delight in historic museums and libraries. In addition, he enjoys performing music, playing with words, and appreciating the local sites and views on foot.

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