Alumni run riverside restaurant on the Payette

Alumni run riverside restaurant on the Payette

Northwest Nazarene University
Jul 8, 2016

The Payette River rushes below. Sunshine pours onto the valley floor. The aroma of pine trees and grilled burgers tarries. Whether you want a savory meal with an incredible riverside view or a quick snack for the road, Banks Store and Cafe is worth the stop. NNU alumni Mike and Stephanie Hammer have formed a business with all the right pieces—this establishment has a gorgeous view, tasty food, a rustic vibe and personable staff.

Nestled at the base of the fork in the main Payette River, it’s no secret Banks has a great mountain view. Its location has caused it to become a hot spot for outdoor activities—particularly water sports. From the deck of Banks Store and Cafe, one can watch rafters, kayakers and paddleboarders cruise down the Payette. Since local rafting companies are based beside this establishment, Banks Store and Cafe is perfect for rafters looking to replenish themselves after a full day on the river.

“It’s the first place you can stop that makes you feel like you’re in the mountains..."

In addition to outdoor adventures, Banks attracts many travelers. Stationed between Boise and McCall, Banks Store and Cafe receives visits from people passing through and Boiseans looking for a respite from city life. “It’s the first place you can stop that makes you feel like you’re in the mountains,” remarked Mike when talking of traveling from the Boise area. Only a forty minute drive from Eagle, Banks is an easily accessible afternoon destination.

While getting into the mountains is reason enough to drift toward Banks, Banks Cafe’s food is another pull. Class 5 Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, Kayakers Chicken Quesadilla, Big Falls Hamburger—the menu consists of hearty, classic American food done right. Mike’s favorite menu item—and the best-seller—is the Northfork Cheeseburger. The simple combination of perfectly seasoned ground beef, served with cheddar cheese, pickles, onion and Banks secret sauce has made it a customer favorite as well as one of the best burgers in the area.

Mike and Stephanie have definitely given their business its own flare. Most of the menu items are named after rapids or sections of the river, paying tribute to the Hammers’ earlier business, Headwaters River Company, which they sold in 2006. The Hammers’ two kids, Shae (8) and Wyatt (5) also named items on the menu: Shea’s Flying Breakfast Burrito and Wyatt’s Grumpy Face Pancakes.

While juggling this business and full-time jobs, the Hammers are intentional about prioritizing family life and including their kids in the business. “We try to include the kids as much as we can,” said Mike. “Even if it is just pricing water bottles.” One of the motives for taking on the business in Banks was for their children to be able to experience the outdoors. “We wanted our kids to be exposed to life outside the house,” explained Mike. “We wanted to immerse them in outdoor activities and spend that time together as a family.”

The area and community was another factor in deciding to open the business in Banks. “We love Boise and the Treasure Valley,” remarked Mike. “We tried leaving once, but it just didn’t feel like home without the great group of friends we made at NNU.”

Having run the business for over a year now, the Hammers have settled into their new role as owners of Banks Store and Cafe. “I love being able to interact with our customers and hear their stories,” Mike commented. They even expanded their business to include a 3-bedroom apartment in the downstairs of the store and cafe available to rent on Airbnb. So next time you’re traveling through Banks or want a close getaway, try out Banks Store and Cafe. You’ll find a great view, great food and great company.