Make us your home page
Instagram

Laid-back atmosphere, simple food make for a winning combination at Nobleton cafe

NOBLETON

Every foodie knows that teasing the taste buds sometimes involves leaving the beaten path. If you drive east on Lake Lindsey Road to where the Withlacoochee River runs, you'll find a little eatery whose advertising motto is "Where the elite eat in their bare feet."

Okay, the River Ratz Cafe isn't quite that casual. Yet, the shambling, rustic place does invite diners to come by canoe, car, motorcycle, bike or horse — yes, there's a hitching post out front — to experience a little bit of Old Florida.

Perched above the leisurely waterway is an array of outdoor seating scabbed together with tables, benches and chairs on several wood decks where customers can dine and watch waterfowl and other wild inhabitants of the river.

Those who find comfort in simplicity will find plenty to savor at a reasonable price. The menu runs the gamut from pressed Cuban sandwiches ($5.95) to steamed U-peel shrimp ($14.95 for a pound) to the River Ratz's famed "redneck" hamburger ($8.25) that hit the table in quick order.

River Ratz manager Debi Van Oort said that most who visit the little bar and grill tend to find the relaxed, unhurried atmosphere a nice place to unwind.

"People who come here usually are pleasantly surprised," Van Oort said. "Even if they're in a hurry, they seem to want to stay awhile."

And folks do seem to do that, especially on weekends. Sundays often draw lots of action at the cornhole game pit out back. Evenings during the cooler months find visitors drinking beer and chatting in the warmth of an outdoor fire while listening to live local bands perform on the outdoor patio stage.

The storied little eatery has experienced a slow evolution that began in the early 1990s with a tiny snack trailer that primarily served paddlers from the adjacent Nobleton Canoe Outpost. Former owners Corinne Berry and Marsha Warner made improvements and added a furnished bungalow that visitors could rent for vacations.

Lacking the financial resources to weather the economic downturn, Berry and Warner sold the venue to Plant City businessman Ferris Waller three years ago. Since then, Waller has continued to upgrade the facilities, remodeling the indoor dining area and expanding the kitchen.

While the canoe and kayak business has remained Waller's focal point, he has turned more of his attention to luring hungry customers from the nearby Withlacoochee State Trail and neighboring campgrounds. A year ago, the restaurant expanded its hours to include breakfast.

Van Oort said that while improvements and refinements will always be afoot at River Ratz, the laid-back atmosphere that customers have helped to create appears impervious to any change.

"The customers are the ones that make this a fun place to work," Van Oort said. "I wouldn't want it any other way."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

. If you go

River Ratz Cafe

River Ratz Cafe is at 29295 Lake Lindsey Road, Nobleton.

Hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Call (352) 796-7176 or visit the cafe on Facebook.

About this feature

Things to Do publishes a periodic feature called "What's Cooking," a look at some of Hernando County's favorite dining spots. We welcome recommendations from readers. If you have a place in mind for us to visit, please drop us a line at What's Cooking, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613, or email your suggestion to lneill@tampabay.com. Be sure to include the name and address of the restaurant and a brief description of what you like about it.

. If you go

River Ratz Cafe

River Ratz Cafe is at 29295 Lake Lindsey Road, Nobleton.

Hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Call (352) 796-7176 or visit the cafe on Facebook.

About this feature

Things to Do publishes a periodic feature called "What's Cooking," a look at some of Hernando County's favorite dining spots. We welcome recommendations from readers. If you have a place in mind for us to visit, please drop us a line at What's Cooking, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613, or email your suggestion to lneill@tampabay.com. Be sure to include the name and address of the restaurant and a brief description of what you like about it.

Laid-back atmosphere, simple food make for a winning combination at Nobleton cafe 12/30/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 30, 2013 8:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 24

    Events

    Zac Brown Band: The country, folk and Southern rockers embark on the "Welcome Home" tour in support of the album. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $27.50-$77.50. (813) 740-2446.

    Handout photo of the Zac Brown Band, performing at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on 9/24/17. Credit: Shore Fire Media
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 23

    Events

    Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Museums across the nation partner with the Smithsonian to offer free admission for one day. Among them are Florida Holocaust Museum, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.Cracker Country in Tampa, Ringling Museum of Art. Note: Dalí Museum is free for Pinellas County …

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  3. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others

    Stage

    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  4. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]