What better time than a during a pandemic, with small businesses and restaurants closing every day, to start a new food-service business? And at only 10 or 12 years of age?
That’s what Royce Nelsen, 12, and his friend Colby Ames, 10, quietly did in July. The business partners and friends sell cold lemonade and hot dogs, grilled outdoors, on the patio at The Hub in Lacey.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Royce is the son of Marie and Rick Nelsen, owners of Ricardo’s Kitchen + Bar, the long-time favorite of steak eaters around this region. The unnamed hot dog stand sits on the patio outside of the restaurant, which has been closed for lunch since March but has recently opened its dining room starting at 3:00 pm every day but Monday.
The boys open their stand for lemonade only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Noon to 3:00 pm, and add the dogs on Fridays only. Colby and Royce built the stand with Royce's grandfather, Rick Nelsen, Sr., out of raw cedar with a stainless steel top.
Colby and Royce do their own purchasing, cooking, clean-up and even bookkeeping, with a little help from one or another of their parents. They chop and grill the onions, too.
This wouldn’t be much of a restaurant review without a comment about the food. “You should know that our hot dogs are amazing,” according to Royce. This reporter agrees; the hot dogs themselves are excellent, not spicy and just a little smoky. They come from Tri-City Meats in Olympia and are, according to Colby, “a Polish hot dog that’s a mix between sausage and beef”. No nitrates, either, according to Rick Nelsen of Ricardo’s. My dog was grilled to perfection, as you’d expect any meat to be if it’s served on the patio there.
Four flavors of mustard await Friday customers. With schools operating virtually, the boys say they might continue operations into the fall, swapping out lemonade for hot chocolate. To confirm future dates, follow Ricardo’s Facebook page.