Ray's offers good, homemade food and a great atmosphere
By Jennifer Pauly
Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce President
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce Ray's Tavern as the recipient of the Youngstown Business of the Year Award.
The Youngstown Business and Professional Association assists the chamber in providing a business nomination that reflects dedication and service to the Youngstown community.
Ray's Tavern, owned by Diane Eckert for the past 26 years along with her husband, Ken, is located at 1698 Lake Road in the Town of Porter (between the Village of Youngstown and Ransomville). It is a favorite among locals - and many visitors driving along Route 18 on the Seaway Trail who happen to find Ray's are glad they did.
The building itself is quite unique, built in 1929 with bricks brought in by horse and buggy from an old high school demolished in Lockport. At one time, a chicken coop was found on the second floor, where Ken and Diane now reside. A beacon, long ago destroyed by a windstorm, used to adorn the top of the building, signaling when the dining establishment was open. It was used as navigation for those on Lake Ontario, and also as a way to communicate during prohibition when it was safe to smuggle in alcohol.
This location has been a dining establishment for a long time. Diane's mother and father purchased the building in 1957, operating it as well as leasing it out. Ray's Tavern is named after Diane's father and was also known as "Ray's Rendezvous."
Diane was in the restaurant business and Ken was working in the electrical field when they decided to move from Florida to Western New York. They now have 10 employees as well as the help of their sons, Ken and Nick, who grew up working just about any job that needed to be done at Ray's Tavern - from busing tables to mowing the grass.
Open six days a week for lunch and dinner (closed on Tuesdays), Ray's Tavern caters to a good mix of local residents and visitors. Friday is the busiest night of the week and the crowds are heaviest during the summer tourist months.
Several notable events are held throughout the year that pack the house, including St. Patrick's Day with a special buffet, as well as Super Bowl Sunday, which is complete with giveaways.
The building has an outdoor wood boiler that helps to keep it warm. Paired with a gas stove in the dining room, it creates a cozy atmosphere for visitors. Over the years, updates have been made to the dining room and restrooms, with all improvements done by local contractors.
The menu contains a variety of options, but customer favorites include the fish fry, beef on weck, burgers as well as a bar menu. Lottery sales, a pool table, a music box and darts lend variety to the tavern as a casual bar with a dining room off to the side.
Diane likes to add to the menu, responding to customers' wants and requests. Word of mouth has been the best form of advertising and, according to Diane, her youngest son has one of the biggest.
With good, homemade food and a great atmosphere, Ray's may be off the beaten path on Lake Road, but it is one not to be missed.
Many organizations host meetings and get-togethers at Ray's Tavern, including the Daughters of the American Revolution, Red Hat Ladies, Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co. exempts (who meet monthly) and the Youngstown Business and Professional Association.
Ray's Tavern supports many organizations and events, including Ransomville Speedway, the Festival of Wreaths and the Ransomville and Youngstown firehalls, to name a few. The community is what drives Diane and Ken to enjoy what they do. As Diane said, "99 percent of all people are wonderful!"
The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce and the Youngstown Business and Professional Association proudly congratulate Ray's Tavern, the 2016 Youngstown Business of the Year.