From the outside, Silver Star Cafe looks like a cozy eatery at the base of Park City Mountain’s Silver Star chairlift. But on the inside, it’s so much more. It’s a community gathering place for locals who return week after week, a home for its 35 employees, and part of the bedrock of Park City.

And at the core of this establishment are owners Jeff and Lisa Ward.

Both Jeff and Lisa were transplants to Park City: Lisa from southern California in 1981 and Jeff from Long Island in 1984. They met while working in the dining room at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in 1986, started dating a few years later, and got married a few years after that.

Jeff was running several restaurants and Lisa had her own marketing and public relations company when they decided to purchase Silver Star Cafe in 2010. At the time, the space was a deli and small grocery, but when the Wards took it over, they decided to turn it into a sit-down restaurant that offered delicious food in a space that felt warm and welcoming — a restaurant where you could come as you are, be yourself, and feel comfortable.

“It’s kind of a reflection of what Park City is all about: come and be yourself. Everyone is welcome here,” Lisa says. “What we discovered early on is that we would have failed miserably if we did it any other way than who we are as people.”

The couple is very involved in the restaurant — there is no job that they aren’t willing to do. Often, they find themselves bussing tables and running food to guests when things get busy.

“Our team works really hard and we want it to be right for our guests,” Lisa says. “We want the guests to understand that we really care. It’s not often glamorous, but we work really hard and we want that to shine through.”

At home, the Wards, who’ve now lived in Park City for nearly 40 years, enjoy family dinner nights with their two grown sons and their families — and a handful of dogs. “There are eight of us and are often as many dogs under the table as there are people,” Lisa laughs. “Our kids and their partners are all wonderful people and it is so satisfying to spend time with them.”

Back at the cafe, the Wards also consider themselves to be stand-in parents to their 35 employees. While they expect their staff to perform at the top of their craft, Lisa says they work hard to make sure their employees feel comfortable, accepted, and cared about.

“We have an authentic atmosphere and want our employees to feel good as people,” Jeff says. “We wanted to have the high standards of a fine-dining restaurant without the stiffness and rigidity. A space for everyone, our staff included, to be themselves.”

Although they spend a lot of their time at the cafe, the couple loves the outdoor activities Park City offers — especially hiking and skiing. They also enjoy cooking, wine tasting, and live music, all of which help inform the cafe’s menu and atmosphere. In their spare time, both have been involved in community boards and nonprofits — Lisa in mentorship and Jeff in community development — and are all about giving back and committing to the community at large.

Because Silver Star Cafe isn’t on Main Street, it takes a little more effort to find; people have to seek out the dining experience, which they often hear about through word-of-mouth.

“We are so grateful that the community has embraced us so much,” Lisa says. “We are consistently busy and growing and in return for the support, we hope to always offer a truly unique experience where our guests feel cared for.”