The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 12, 2009

Northwoods Cafe and Grill opens doors

Restaurant has own recipe for success

MANKATO — Mark Herrmann sat in his newly opened restaurant Monday and gave his take on the recipe for success in the Mankato market.

Pricing is the most important, followed closely by quality entrees and large portions.

“If you can get them all, it’s going to be a hit,” said the owner of Northwoods Cafe and Grill, who knows a thing or two about why its corporate-owned predecessor failed.

Northwoods is in the building formerly occupied by Timber Lodge Steakhouse, which closed in July.

Herrmann worked 12 years for the chain, the last four as manager of the Mankato restaurant, where patrons’ dinner tabs averaged about $22.

That might fly in the Twin Cities, but not in Mankato where salaries are lower, he said.

Northwoods dinners will average $13, and Herrmann said the restaurant’s independent ownership also should be a plus for people weary of chains.

“No more corporate America. I’m an owner here, and I can do what I want to do. People in the community will get behind a mom-and-pop kind of guy.”

Count in Leann Zenk, for one.

The North Mankato woman was in the restaurant’s gift shop eyeing a jar of the lingonberry jelly she’d just enjoyed with her breakfast.

When she balked at the size of the jar — too much for her because she lives alone — Herrmann went into the kitchen and promptly returned with a half-filled container.

“He shouldn’t have really done that, but I appreciate it,” she said as she headed for the door.

Perhaps the most salient feature of the restaurant is its emphasis on breakfasts, which are served all day starting at 7 a.m. — 6 a.m. during hunting season.

“A lot of places don’t do that, but why not give it to people when they want it?” Herrmann said of the restaurant’s breakfast fare that includes 13 kinds of pancakes and six kinds of french toast, including stuffed banana.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News