The Lazy River eddies back to Saratoga


March 24, 2022

Mike Armstrong

Michelle, left, and Scott McIlvaine are happy to bring the Lazy River Cantina back to Saratoga. The Cantina was first founded in 1996 by Scott and his father, Bob.

Scott and Michelle McIlvaine love Wyoming, Carbon County and especially the town of Saratoga, where Scott was raised.

Scott, along with his father Bob, founded the Lazy River Cantina (Cantina) in 1996. Scott graduated from the Colorado Mountain College - Steamboat Springs with a restuarant and culinery degree. The Cantina was a place he put his education to work.

In 2001, Michelle came to Saratoga for a summer job. Scott had a rule about dating employees which went out the door when he met his future wife. The couple is celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary this year.

Michelle is from the East Coast and introduced Scott to Ocean City, Maryland, a major beach resort serving Baltimore and Washington D.C. . Scott found himself liking it well enough that he and Michelle bought a house there.

Then, on February 3, 2011, Chris Duke made an offer the Cantina. Scott and Michelle decided to take Duke up on his bid and sold the Cantina.

The couple live in Ocean City from 2011 to 2015, where Scott and Michelle worked for high volume restaurants and bars.

They came back to visit Saratoga often over the years and found themselves wanting to come back to the Valley.

"I grew up here," Scott said. "It is home and I missed the place and the people."

The Mcilvaines moved back to Saratog, started a landscaping business and did some catering on occasion. They got involved in the Sartoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce and both log in days to help with the summer festival, Saratoga Days.

"We love this community," Michelle said. "That is why we get involved."

Scott said it was while playing in the Platte Valley Pool League on the Bearcat team, he and Michelle were in Duke's (the current Cantina), when owner Chris Duke told them he wanted to sell.

"After 11 years we realized we wanted to be a part of the Cantina again," Michelle said with a laugh. "We tried to stay away, but we just couldn't do it."

"It was so fast," Scott said. "We were signing papers in three weeks. What is funny, 11 years to the day, we bought back the Catina on the day we sold it to Chris."

"We wish Chris the best," Michelle said. "We are happy we will still get to see him when his band plays here."

Staff at the Cantina can be seen wearing shirts which read "Cantina 2".

"Michelle designed them," Scott said. "Kassie Westering made them."

The name was picked because there are many components of the old Cantina in their food and drink menus with some new aspects.

The Cantina margarita goes back to original recipe that Scott started with his father.

"When we were in Ocean City, we were in a competition for the best Margarita in town," Scott said. "We won,"

That is no small accomplishment in this resort town that goes from 5,000 people in the winter to over 300,000 in the summer, making it Maryland's 2nd largest city during this time.

The drink menu offers homemade red and white sangria. There are eight malt beverages (seven beers and Twisted Tea) and Michelle has brought a cocktail, the Orange Crush, from Ocean City.

"That is why we are calling the place Cantina 2," Scott said. "There are dishes and drinks from when we were open the first time, but we wanted to bring some things from our experiences elsewhere. That is why we have the Blue Crab Dip and Maryland Style Steamed Shrimp on our menu."

"Most of the dishes are primarily Mexican because that is what the Cantina was known for," Scott said. "We aren't doing everything we did before but then we are also introducing new dishes we have experienced such as Chicken Tinga and Chorizo Diablo."

"We have a favorite place in Steamboat we go to that has inspired us with some of the new dishes," Michelle said. "But we are still so new and deciding on what we want to feature, the menu is still being developed."

"There are dishes we will start off as specials and then bring it to our menu on a regular basis later," Scott said. "Because every thing is fresh, we also want to make sure we can make sure if we put something on the menu it can be done consistently."

Scot said the Cantina will source locally where they can. He and Michelle suppliers were running out of product and prices were going upwards.

"We just paid $1.50 for a single lime, Michelle said. "Chicken is as expensive as beef. It is a challenge to get all that we need, but this business is never going to be known as easy. We want to carry certain tequilas but they are just not available."

"It is a crazy time for restaurants and bars," Scott said. "That is why we are trying to keep our menu with meals we can consistently offer."

The Cantina will be serving burritos, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, tacos and taco salads in addition to the specials they put out.

There was a lot of replacement as far as the physical plant goes. Michelle pointed out all the plumbing was new along with the bathrooms. Light fixtures were replaced and all new tables were brought in. The McIlvains said a lot of work has gone into revamping the Catina.

Michelle and Scott have not decided when they will do their grand opening. They want to make sure the venue is ready.

They are getting there.

"We have to thank our staff for all the hard work they have done in getting this place clean and ready to go," Scott said. "We never would have been able to open without them."

Michelle said they had retained almost 90 percent of the staff from Duke's.

"It cannot be overemphasized how important they were to us being able to open," Michelle said. "They really have been invaluable."

Scott said the support from the community has been gratifying.

"So many people have come in over the past few weeks to tell us how happy they are that we opened," Scott said. "It is great to hear when people tell us this because we have missed being here."

"We needed to do this because we love to work and our landscaping business shuts down for about four months," Michelle said. "Working here now is perfect for us."

Scott agreed.

"We love we are able to be able to see old customers and have the opportunity to make friends with new ones," Scott said. "One of our strongest goals with the Cantina is to serve the community that Michelle and I love so much."

The Lazy River Cantina (2) is open Tuesday to Saturday starting at 2 p.m. with the restaurant closing at 10 p.m. and the bar closes at 12 a.m.

"Its good to back," Scott said.

"It sure is," Michelle concluded.


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