Lindsay, Mitchell, Steve, Karla and Ashley Tart, along with Cameron Fenton and Kennedy Fenton, are pleased to welcome diners to Racks, in the former Tootie's Little Rock Saloon.  PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Lindsay, Mitchell, Steve, Karla and Ashley Tart, along with Cameron Fenton and Kennedy Fenton, are pleased to welcome diners to Racks, in the former Tootie's Little Rock Saloon. PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Oh, deer - Steve and Karla Tart have antlers on their sign...

And good food to tempt one's ribs.

"We tried to come up with a different name when we bought it, but everybody came back to the name 'Racks,' so that's what we called it," said Steve, co-owner of the new restaurant in Spring Valley, which features a deer buck's head as its logo. The Tarts purchased the former Tootie's Little Rock Saloon from Meredith "Tootie" Foster on April 17, and since they and their children are avid outdoorsmen, the name made sense.

The Tarts - Karla, who works at the Mayo Clinic, and Steve, who farms just outside of Wykoff - had considered buying Tootie's three to four years ago, but they didn't have the time at that point.

"It's more that Karla always wanted to own a bar and grill, and we dealt with Tootie and Jimmy a little, and then Tootie talked with Grafe Auction," said Steve. "We'd shown interest in it in the past, but when she got more serious about selling, we got more serious about buying. We finally quit talking and actually did it."

Having officially opened a week ago on June 5, the staff at Racks is ready to serve patrons. Steve felt "excited...because this is something we've never done before."

As soon as they took possession of the restaurant, they hired contractors to update the bar and give the dining room a new shine. They installed new windows in the lounge, overhauled the bar itself, put in a door to the north, brought in flat screen televisions for both the bar and dining room, repainted the building's exterior, the dining room and bar and put in an entirely new kitchen and handicapped accessible restrooms in an effort to brighten the establishment and make it more efficient and friendlier to customers of all ages.

"We want it to be a family restaurant and bar and grill - try to keep them separated, with one end being the restaurant and the other end being the bar," said Steve. "We wanted a fun place with home cooking, a place that people can hang out at and have a good time."

Karla pointed out, "We eventually will have a patio out on the north side and host beanbag tournaments, and the bingo people are anxious to get back into our dining room."

Steve and Karla have also considered what Racks might do to serve hunters this coming fall, and they might challenge them to "some fun things, like bringing the antlers from the biggest buck," and have installed wi-fi for diners who like to bring their laptops to lunch to continue working.

Racks' menu will feature burgers, appetizers, steaks, ribs, chicken wraps, wings, Windsor pork chops, lunch specials and a children's menu, with "full dining until 9 p.m., and then there'll be bar finger food," according to Steve. The restaurant will serve dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon on Sundays because the rest of the eateries in town offer breakfast during the work week but are closed on Sundays. Jeff Gaulrapp is the kitchen manager, and the Tarts are certain he'll have plenty of tasty ideas to tempt palates, adding that "if it's not on the menu, we're open to suggestions."

The restaurant endeavor is truly a family affair, as their daughters Lindsay and Ashley and son Mitchell will be working at Racks. Steve and Karla are also grateful for the efforts of various members of Steve's extended family who have pitched in to help the family reach opening day, dusting, vacuuming, stocking, moving furniture, doing dishes and more.

The Tarts were hoping to be able to welcome Tootie Foster to the renovated establishment, but she died before the retirement party the Tarts wanted to hold in her honor. Steve observed that the family admired her willingness to contribute to the community through opening her business to organizations that raise funds for school activities, noting that "she'll be missed. Tootie gave a lot to the community and kids, and we'll continue her tradition of good fun and food."