On April 15, the Tartan Restaurant will celebrate 56 years of continuous service for Redlands customers. It was opened on that date in 1964 by three brothers, Velmer, Al and Art Croteau. After their nephew Larry Western had faithfully managed it for them, they made him a partner.
Working as a team, Larry and his wife, Barbara, created the friendly atmosphere that defined the restaurant’s fame as the “Cheers of Redlands.” It grew in popularity as a place to meet for a beer, burger or prime rib.
In 2004, when Linda Crosby accepted the position of general manager, she expanded the menu, hired new cooks and reconfirmed the Tartan tradition of celebrating holidays such as Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas with superlative decorations and dining celebrations.
At the death of Larry Western in 2003, ownership had passed to his son, Larry Western III, who continued the Tartan popularity and eventually sold it to Jeff Salamon and his wife Lisa. In a seemingly restaurant tradition, it is now managed by their son, Jeffrey, who took the position during his last year of college. A few years previously, after accepting his dad’s request to become involved, he had worked at the tasks of janitor, dishwasher, busboy, experiencing all the needs of restaurant management and service.
Manager Jeffrey describes his greatest enjoyment of the restaurant business as the people. He finds daily pleasure in meeting customers, getting to know them and their friends and hearing their stories. He and the chef determine the menus and recently added a sirloin roast. Because their patrons like to know what the menu offers, they keep it pretty much the same, season by season, adding a creative dish often enough to sustain interest in the chef’s versatility.
The process of selection from the menu has become a feat of technology, where the waitress takes the order on a hand held pad and forwards it to the chef’s computer screen. Final invoices are prepared by computer, but all the technology has not impeded the personal relationships between waitresses and customers. Employees, during their years of service have developed preferences in certain customers, and longtime customers seek specific waitresses. They become Tartan friends, with definite menu habits and favorite table sites.
Per the manager’s description, Tartan customers include a more mature clientele, some of whom have been regular diners since 1964. He and the employees enjoy seeing familiar faces in what they describe as a true family restaurant that preserves its old-school bar, décor and atmosphere.
The live music groups that entertain on the patio on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, usually play 1980s music. Sometimes they include songs of the 1940s creating a friendly atmosphere for the second and third generation Redlanders who dine at the Tartan in the company of family, friends and shared memories.
Jeffrey Salamon smiles when describing Redlands as the last small town, definitely proven as he watches a waitress guide her diners past others, to their reserved space. “They always seem to see someone they know, persons they must stop to speak with, to greet, to share a comment. It’s like having a reunion every time they come to dinner at the Tartan.”
When asked about any future plans, he said that people here don’t like change and he and his people couldn’t replicate the services of the past years in another, newer building. “ We want to preserve the relationship and service we offer now, so our goal is a continuing improvement of the quality of our food, sustaining the excellence of our service and living up to my Dad’s motto of “Eat, Drink and Be Happy, at the Tartan.”
Tartan of Redlands
Where: 24 E. Redlands Blvd., Redlands
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Anniversary celebration: 5 p.m. to closing time on Monday, April 2, through Friday, April 7. Four-course dinner for two for $54 includes an appetizer, two soups or salads, two entrées, a bottle of wine or two cocktails and dessert.
More information: Visit tartanofredlands.com or call (909) 792-9919.