Back in 1980, Judy Roush and husband Ken were in the market to buy a restaurant. At the time, they were living in Amherst, Mass., where Ken, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, was managing the well-known Plumbley’s Off the Common restaurant. Because both Judy and Ken had grown up in the area (Judy in Clarence, Ken in Cattaraugus) and their families still lived there, they knew they wanted to live in the Southern Tier area. But the choice of town was a little tougher
“We drove around with both of our fathers looking for a place that had the right feel,” she said. Then they visited Ellicottville.
Ellicottville was perfect, said Judy. It had the ski resorts as well as the year round population. Holiday Valley and HoliMont both were growing fast and the town was obviously becoming a resort destination. There still were a lot of manufacturing facilities at that time, too, and there were only a few other restaurants – The Barn, The Depot, the Silver Fox, The Birdwalk and the old Crystal Palace.
“We saw a real opportunity here,” said Judy.
So the decision was made – they bought the old Herbie’s Derby at 32 Washington St. and held a naming contest with the Plumbley’s staff back in Massachusetts. Tips Up Café was the winner.
At first, Tips Up was a tavern-style restaurant with a chalkboard menu listing the lunch and dinner options. Factory workers and office types alike all raved about the food, as did the skiers and other visitors in town. For several years, meals were served in paper-lined plastic baskets, until one day, Roush recalls, John Northrup told her that the food was too good to be served in plastic baskets! Soon after, meals were served on china.
Over the years, the restaurant has evolved. In 1985, after the Roush’s first child (a daughter) was born (a son came along the next year), they decided to eliminate lunch service and just focus on dinner.
“It was a family issue,” said Roush, who wanted to be home during the day with the kids.
The dinner menu started to get more ambitious, with more salads, seafood entrees and weekly specials. In 1990, extensive renovations were done on the first floor and they added the second floor dining space. Another renovation of the upstairs took place in 2006. And menus are now printed (although the chalkboard menu with daily/weekly specials remains a fixture). The latest menu, in fact, was just redesigned by Keystone Designers, who gave it a more retro look in keeping with the overall feel of the place.
Of course, some things have stayed the same at Tips Up. You will still find the orange whiskey chicken and the pesto pizza, both of which have been and remain the most popular items on the menu since the very beginning. Judy still runs the front of the house like the pro she is, and Ken is still active in the kitchen, preparing soups, sauces and dressings, expertly cutting meats and fish, whipping up his luscious desserts and coming up with new and creative specials alongside the two other talented chefs that now work with him.
After 32 years as a business owner in Ellicottville, Roush has no regrets about settling here.
“We owe our success to the full-time and seasonal residents, as well as the tourists, who all appreciate the uniqueness of our little town. They love our quaint shops and restaurants,” she said. “We offer something different and that makes Ellicottville stand out from the rest.”