We’re proud to share the results of our nationwide search for America’s Best Restaurant Families, an award program founded in 2006 that recognizes the accomplishments of today’s leading restaurant families.


Grand Prize Winner: The Ross/Freidhof Family, Bettendorf, Iowa

Harold Ross opened Ross’ Restaurant in 1940 to provide great tasting food in a place where people felt at home. Now more than 70 years later, Ross’ has become a community meeting place and Quad City landmark destination serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours a day. Still family owned and run by Harold’s daughter Cynthia Freidhof and her husband Ron, Ross’ is as famous for their homemade cinnamon rolls and chili, a recipe that takes more than 24 hours to make and uses more than 25 different spices, as they are for hosting politicians and entertainers. Known as the home of the “Magic Mountain,” Texas toast topped with ground beef and a choice of French fries or hash browns then smothered in signature Cheddar cheese sauce and optional chopped onions, Ross’ represents the true Midwestern Diner.

According to Harold’s Granddaughter Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers, who has been the General Manager for the past 12 years, Ross’ Restaurant carries on the tradition that her grandfather began by supporting not only the local community but also serving locally produced and grown products. Ross’ uses more than 5,000 local cage free eggs from Iowa farms each week. Freidhof-Rodgers also acknowledged that Harold would be proud that the family’s fourth generation recently started working for the business.

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(L to R) Ron Freidhof, Melissa Freidhof-Rodgers, Philip Jones, Rylan Freidhof and Cynthia Freidhof.



Finalist: The Hanson Family, Duluth, Minnesota

(L to R) Ken Klahn, Jeff Potcoff, Louis Hanson and Bryon Coleman.

Established in 2001 by Tom and Jaima Hanson, the Duluth Grill is a family affair that offers homemade comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. They also have a full-service catering department run by son Louis, who is also a partner and manager. Daughter-in-law Ashley is the front-of-house supervisor and a server. The Hanson’s have a scratch kitchen where they make everything from ketchup and mustard to jams and dressings, fresh breads, and caramel and chocolate for their homemade desserts.

The restaurant’s tagline is “Fresh, Local, Organic” and they mean it. More than 30 percent of their purchasing comes from a 100-mile radius of the restaurant, plus they have beehives on the roof of the restaurant, an orchard in their parking lot and a green house at their home that includes a 4,500-gallon fish tank with an aquaponics system for growing fish and plants.

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Finalist: The Kiesendahl Family, Hawley, Pennsylvania

Woodloch Pines Resort, established in 1958 by Founders Harry and Mary Kiesendahl, offers traditional family-style service for up to 600 people in their Main Dining Room, a practice that has remained unaltered throughout the years. Still family owned and operated, the Kiesendahl family remains committed to Woodloch’s original mission to treat all guests as if they were company in their own homes. In addition to the Main Dining Room at Woodloch Pines, the family also runs the Grille Room at The Country Club at Woodloch Springs, and The Boat House, a Woodloch-owned facility nestled along the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos.

Nearly a dozen Kiesendahl family members, spanning three generations, remain active in the family business that is also the largest employer in Wayne and Pike Counties in Penn., employing more than 1,000 staff members. The resort has won multiple awards and accolades from the likes of TripAdvisor, Fodor’s and But according to Robert Kiesendahl, Co-owner and Food and Beverage Director, most important to the Kiesendahl family is their commitment to carry on a tradition of excellence and warm hospitality. “It’s our family’s enduring dedication to very personalized treatment of guests that truly sets Woodloch apart from other resorts.”

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Finalist: The Powers Family, Rochester, Minnesota

(L to R) Ken Klahn, Joe Powers and Bryon Coleman

Established in 1984, Canadian Honker Restaurant & Catering was founded by Joe Powers at the age of 21. Although the Rochester, Minn.-location Joe selected had eight restaurants fail in a 10-year period of time, Joe’s passion and past work experience at all levels within the restaurant industry helped to convince the bank to give him a loan. The rest as they say is history, as the restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, has served nearly 3 million people and celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2014.

The family run business now includes four generations, including Joe’s brother Chris who heads up the catering division, sons Joey and Nick who run the Rochester Event Center and Canadian Honker Restaurant respectively, and Joe’s 83-year-old mother Bunnie Powers, the matriarch of the Powers family, who has provided many of the time tested recipes the restaurant serves. Although officially retired, Bunnie is still found at the restaurant several times a week and her famous Coconut Cake is made from scratch daily and has sold more than one million pieces.

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About the 2014 America’s Best Restaurant Families contest

The America’s Best Restaurant Families award program was eligible to any family who currently owns and operates a commercial restaurant in the United States. Entrants were judged on a number of criteria including: values and/or business philosophy of the founders of the family operation; breadth and depth of family member participation in business functions; and level of accomplishment and success of the family business in terms of restaurant longevity, awards, honors, accolades, etc.

Nearly 100 restaurant families from Maine to Hawaii submitted applications over a six-week period in early 2014. A judging panel that included former winners of the contest and members of the Fox Valley Technical College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality faculty selected the grand prize winner and three finalists listed above.

The Grand Prize winner was treated to a 4-day trip to Chicago for up to four family members. The trip, which took place May 15-18, 2014, included a visit to Jones Dairy Farm, passes to the National Restaurant Association Show, and $500 spending money. Jones Dairy Farm covered all travel and lodging expenses. The winning family also received $1,000 in Jones Dairy Farm products and a displayable America’s Best Restaurant Families award. The three finalists received $500 in Jones Dairy Farm products as well as the displayable America’s Best Restaurant Families award.