The Sandpoint Reader: Breakfast served all day long

By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Columnist

Fall is in the air, and it’s not just the weather that is changing. With a heart that dwarfs her freshly baked behemoth cinnamon rolls, Wendy Hansen Franck is hanging up her apron and handing over the keys to her iconic café. On Saturday, Oct. 1 (give or take a few days), new owner Josh Butler takes a hand at pounding out those infamous Hoot Owl Chicken Fried Steaks.

In her early years (and mine), Wendy and I were busy with young kids and businesses, requiring much of our time. I was running a startup tour train enterprise and Wendy was turning out homestyle meals for breakfast and lunch — huge tasty portions at reasonable prices.

I may not have been her first customer, but I count myself among the earliest crowd that called the Hoot Owl home. I’ve sat at the counter, rolled silverware, poured coffee and shared morning politics with the other countertop diners. All the while, if Wendy wasn’t cooking, she worked tirelessly, transforming her tired, old, slanted roadside café into the best breakfast eatery in Sandpoint.

Strong faith, peppered with blind faith and serendipitous timing, brought seller and buyer together. Josh was waiting for his catering order at the Hoot Owl and mentioned to Wendy that he sure would like to find a food truck to purchase. 

“Why would you buy a food truck when you could buy a restaurant?” she asked. 

Then, waiting for his large order of burritos, he answered her question with one of his own: “Do you know of any for sale?” 

The rest is history.

Negotiations happened quickly. While Wendy was thoughtfully preparing an earnest announcement, a misinformed Facebook poster stole her thunder by throwing a rude rant (aimed at the new owner) on social media. It’s still a sore subject for Josh and Wendy, and she’s upset that she missed the chance to share the news first with the “Coffee Boys,” her favorite old-timers who have gathered at the same table since she opened.

My kids all grew up working for me in one capacity or another in food service, and no one appreciates hard-working (my kids would say over-worked) kids like me. Josh’s young daughter Bella can keep pace with the most seasoned servers, greeting guests with water, menus and an effervescent smile. His younger son, Kaleb, helps at the gift counter, and these two kids already have a following.

Employers, friends, family — we all get treated the same. I only once recall Wendy closing the doors, during a heat wave last year. It was 123 degrees in her tiny kitchen, and she was worried about the crew. I challenge everyone to find anyone with a bigger, kinder or more generous heart than Wendy’s (her middle name could be “Fundraiser”). 

I’m pleased that Josh aims to carry on the traditions of chili feeds, spaghetti nights and community Thanksgiving dinners. He already organized a hamburger fundraiser last month for his wife Elizabeth’s coworker, who required medical assistance.  

I like Josh, and I’m glad to hear he’s not planning any changes (he’s promised to keep serving the community-voted “Best Breakfast in Sandpoint” all day long), except to add a Mexican dish or two, and Wendy claims his Mexican food to be delicious — and I’ll be the judge of that. 

Wendy used to cater our year-end train crew parties at Riley Creek Campground and was always game to try any crazy idea I came up with. One year it was a “pitchfork fondue” (steaks and potatoes pierced on a pitchfork tine and fried in a cauldron of hot oil). Another year, it was a Hawaiian luau featuring her first (delicious!) roasted pig.

She also helped me cater my daughter Ryanne’s wedding, a reception for 200 that included American and Italian buffets and appetizers for the cocktail hour, and I’m still grateful. We split the cooking duties, and as I’d finish prepping lasagna and other family favorites, I’d deliver carloads of food to her to freeze, load, heat and serve at the venue. Wendy also hauled a monster-heavy, hexagon-shaped table from her place to the Forum because nothing else would do for the five-tiered wedding cake I made. Who does that? Someone who has a big heart and a nonexistent ego, that’s who.

I will miss Wendy’s affordable lunch specials and surprise pop-up baked goods. I will also miss the free Friday cookies, delivered warm to your table until they run out.

You can join me in wishing Wendy a happy retirement on Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Ponderay Event Center from 5-8 p.m. Pop by for a light refreshment and share a Hoot Owl memory as we wish Wendy a fond and well-deserved sendoff into retirement.

She’s not sure what will fill her time now, but I imagine she’ll still be baking plenty of cookies. It’s what we grandma’s do. And so, this reminds me that it’s time to start my baking for next month’s trip to see the Montana bunch.

Glazed oatmeal cookie recipe • Nothing says autumn like the aroma of cookies baking in the oven, especially these! Makes 6 dozen quickly-disappearing cookies. Sometimes I add ground pecans and sometimes I add a bit of maple flavoring to the icing. Both are tasty additions.


Cookie dough: 

• 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 

• 2 cups all-purpose flour 

• 2 tsp baking powder

• ½ tsp baking soda

• ½ tsp salt

• 2 tsp cinnamon

• ½ tsp fresh nutmeg (if possible), ground

• 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature 

• 1 cup dark brown sugar packed 

• ½ cup granulated sugar 

• 2 large eggs room temperature

• 1 tsp vanilla extract


• 2 tbs milk 

• 2 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Add the old-fashioned oats to a food processor and pulse 8-10 times. Don’t over pulse! In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk to combine and set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter with the brown and granulated sugars and mix until the batter becomes fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears into the batter. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and continue to mix, adding the vanilla. 

Add half of the oat and flour mixture to the wet mixture, mixing on low until blended. Slowly add remaining dry mix flour mixture until blended. Don’t overmix! 

Using a 2 tbs cookie scoop, level dough with knife, drop into hand and roll the dough into balls. Place on the baking sheet 2-inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms just begin to brown. Do not over-bake. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cookies rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the icing is somewhat thick. Place the icing in a shallow dish and dip the tops of cooled cookies into the icing. Shake off excess. Set the dipped cookie on the rack until the icing has set.

Store in an airtight container. They also freeze well.

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