RIDGWAY — Tom “T.O.” Fitch has a passion for Ridgway and showcasing what it has to offer, and his Boot Jack Road restaurant and lodge is just another example of that.
Summit Fireside Lodge and Grill, operated by Elk County natives Fitch and Tracy Sorg, has operated for 32 years. Fitch bought it in 1988, and Sorg came on board about 20 years ago, he said.
Summit started out offering bands and karaoke, and as the demographics changed, gravitated more toward food, Fitch said, and providing a family atmosphere.
The bar and restaurant is full every weekend, Fitch said. Since its opening, he estimates it has sold 14-21 million chicken wings, which are offered in 100 flavors. Steaks cut to size, burgers, fried fish and ribs are other popular diner favorites.
Fitch himself is active in the community. He is a former Ridgway Chamber of Commerce president, and current Elk County Wilds Tourism Association president. Fitch is also a contributor to the Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous and local banner program.
The lodge has eight rentable, remodeled rooms for those traveling into the Ridgway area, as well as a a large play area available for children in the back room.
Summit has a year-round coloring contest for youth, choosing three winners each month, as well as a Christmas party with around $1,000 worth of presents.
“We try to always help the kids,” Fitch said.
The business has earned a spot in the “wing hall of fame,” Fitch said. It also had the “biggest 11 pound burger in the country” 30 years ago.
Sports team photos and an elk head are hanging on the wall, and there are more than 200 seats, as well as fireplaces, a wood burner and a penny bar.
The facility employs around 20 people, Fitch said, including head cook Bonnie Compton.
Another Summit mission is to support local farmers, using items like fresh eggs, potatoes, elk meat and corn, Fitch says, as well as offering local beer. There is also a greenhouse where they raise their own produce. They’ve joined the “gluten free” movement, too, offering pizzas, fish fry and other menu items.
Summit aims to give back to the community as much as it can, donating to local fundraisers, Fitch adds.
The venue has also welcomed its fair share of famous artists, including Johnny Paycheck, Tanya Tucker and Quiet Riot
Fitch’s latest project was placing a “bird cage” structure over the outdoor deck area, including a beer-bottle chandelier, where diners can enjoy a summer-themed drink and meal.
For more information, visit “Summit Lodge N Grill” on Facebook or call 814-776-2311.