The red and white café on the highway going east out of Payson has been a place for regulars to gather for several decades.
In May, The 260 Café found new owners and a manager who melded healthy choices with the home-style menu.
George and Adrian Bien-Willner are the new owners of The 260 Café. "We had eaten at The 260 Café many times while visiting or driving through the area," said George. When it became available, the couple purchased it and put its management in experienced local hands.
"We've built a family here with staff and customers," said general manager Lori Oxford. "We kept the staff that wanted to stay and the owners joked they couldn't purchase the 260 unless Maria was in the contract. Maria started with the original owner who built the café."
The original restaurant was just a trailer. The back room was added later and has come to be known as Maria's room because of her long association with the café.
Good-natured teasing between the regular customers and the staff goes on all the time.
Patron Jim has been joking with Maria, other servers and regular customers for years.
"If you don't have a sense of humor, don't come in the restaurant," he said with a wink.
"The girls (waitresses and manager) spoil me and I like it," said Earle, a patron of 15 years, who said he comes in for coffee or breakfast every morning and in the evening to eat and do the crossword puzzle.
"I know everybody," Earle said. "When the newbies come in we try to talk to them and make them feel welcome."
The café returns the favor.
"One evening he was in here and said he was going to go get a sub for dinner. I said, ‘I can make you a sub.' I did and I put it on the menu as the 260 sub," Oxford said.
Turkey, ham, salami, Swiss and American cheeses, lettuce, tomato and onions are layered between the buns of the 260 subs.
"We strive to satisfy everybody," Oxford said. "We still make all our own homemade pies, soups, sauces, french fries, onion rings and hash browns."
The menu has old favorites such as chicken-fried steak or a green chili cheeseburger.
A grilled chicken breast is on the dinner menu plus a slew of dishes like grilled salmon, a turkey burger and a vegan veggie burger under the healthy choice heading.
There are daily specials, and Monday is family night, when children eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. A double discount (20 percent) is offered for seniors on Tuesday evening. Wednesday is all-you-can-eat spaghetti.
More than the menu has changed, new doors and windows bring more light into the café. Customers can now enjoy a meal outdoors.
More people seem to enjoy it on the weekends and it is working out great for folks with dogs, because the animals are allowed there too, said Oxford.
One thing that hasn't changed is that customers can smoke in the front booths or at the counter. Maria's room is nonsmoking.
"I think we've done a good job of blending the old with the new," said Oxford.
The 260 Café is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and is at 803 E. Highway 260, Payson. For more information, call (928) 474-5881.