With the return of seasonal residents and the increase in business that follows, spring has heralded the birth, rebirth and return of three dining establishments with very different personalities.
This summer, Hackensack will be sure to have dining for all tastes.
Kristi’s Coffee Corner
Owner: Kristi Bodahl
Specialty: Gourmet coffee
Kristi’s Coffee Corner, owned by Kristi Bodahl, is a cafe and coffee shop serving up gourmet coffees, sandwiches with homemade bread, and fresh soups. It opened Feb. 18 as a culmination of Bodahl’s longtime dream.
“I love going to coffee houses and I love simple, good sandwiches and soup, and I’ve always wanted to open up a coffee shop,” she said. “People seem to be enjoying it. The community has been phenomenal. They are just really happy to have something different in the community. It’s been great and it’s been steadily growing.”
Though she only recently opened her doors, Kristi’s is already beginning to expand and Bodahl is looking for more employees. Plans are to expand the summer menu to include fresh lemonade.
“I’m going to be needing waitresses come summer,” she said.
Though Hackensack has fewer than 500 residents and already more than its fair share of dining establishments, Bodahl said she doesn’t have competition.
“I don’t think I do because each restaurant offers something totally different. So, I don’t think there’s any competition,” she said.
She expressed a love for breakfast at Vittles and Joe, and Thai food at Udom’s, the restaurant that resided in the building now rented by Kristi’s, demonstrating how so many restaurants can occupy such a small space, all thanks to a supportive community.
“I love Hackensack and I think the community has been really supportive of me and I appreciate that,” she said.
Owners: Paul and Udom Mitchell
Specialty: Pad Thai
Locals may recall that Udom’s Thai Restaurant is actually starting its second year of service in Hackensack, but if you haven’t gone through town lately, you might not realize the restaurant moved.
Last year, Udom’s was located where Kristi’s Coffee Corner is now. Today, you can find the restaurant located in a building that was a former gas station, though you would never know by looking at the interior.
“Nothing is the same as it was before,” said owner Paul Mitchell.
Udom’s made the move once the owners realized they could buy their current location for the price they were previously paying to rent. In addition, the new location had plenty of space to expand.
“The kitchen’s double the size it was before. We have 10-12 new employees between wait staff and bus people, cooks and food prep people,” Mitchell said. “This is more than double the space. We could fit 30 in the other place, and that was pushing it. Here it is 75. That’s a lot bigger.”
Regulars will be happy to learn that Udom’s will still serve all their favorites, with just a few more options.
“It’s remained basically the same because people enjoyed it last year. It made sense to them and why change something that’s working,” Mitchell said.
He said his wife, Udom, had her eye on the building long before they purchased it.
“It’s a building my wife looked at every time we drove by and she said, ‘Some day we’re going to own that building’,” he said. “We got a good price on it. So we bought it.”
Mitchell feels much the same as Bodahl regarding the small town of Hackensack.
“We don’t have any (competition), there’s nothing like this until you get down to St. Paul. There are some restaurants in St. Cloud but they aren’t like this,” he said. “One of the mistakes a lot of restaurants like this make is they try to bend the menu to match the American palate and that’s a huge mistake. She has cooked food, just like you would eat in Thailand, you would eat here. Same spice levels and all that. People know they can get something really different here.”
Mitchell knows his family’s business depends entirely on his customers, locals included.
“We’re just tremendously grateful for the people that live around the area here. Even though we were in Thailand for three months this winter, when we got back people stopped us on the street, called our home, knocked on the door when we were painting and working and stuff, and they wondered when we were going to open,” he said.
Udom’s reopened its doors in its new location April 26. It will continue to be a seasonal restaurant and will be closed from December until April.
Char House and Bar
Owners: Rick and Linda McNamara
Specialty: Steak and prime rib
This past winter Hackensack was witness to the abrupt closing of The Riverhouse, a familiar local establishment. Some will be glad to know that the building’s short hiatus will soon be at an end, though a name change will not be the only change in store.
Owners Rick and Linda McNamara said a name change for the iconic local restaurant was due.
“The biggest change, I hear it’s received very well, the name is going to be changed to Birchwood Char House and Bar. We know that to some people it will always be the Riverhouse and that’s fine, but we just heard from some people in the community it was time for a name change and we wanted to incorporate the name of the main lake in town. We also wanted to let them know by ‘char house’ that we have steak, ribs and chicken,” Linda said.
Linda, daughter of Steve and Dolly Paulie, who owned the Riverhouse years ago, heard about the opportunity to purchase the business from her parents when they were contacted by the most recent owner.
“Word of mouth got around and someone asked them if they wanted to run a restaurant again and they said, ‘No, but our daughter might,’” Linda said. “So Rick and I are purchasing it and their (her parents’) knowledge and expertise are helping us to no end.”
Though the business will now have a new name, there will be familiar faces, as some of the former staff will return. Linda also said the menu will feature many familiar items, but it will be roughly half the size.
“We are going more for steaks. We’re going to have a shorter menu, but the menu before was five or six pages,” she said. “We’re going to offer only two or three because everything is going to be fresh food.”
Though the Birchwood will serve primarily dinners, the McNamaras hope to add a lunch menu.
They also plan to have prime rib on fridays and Saturdays, though it could become an everyday menu item in the future.
Linda also doesn’t see the other restaurants in town as competition, but merely variety.
“To me we are all going to compliment each other. We all have something different to offer, so it’s kind of neat for the seasonal people to come up and have such choices in Hackensack. We have a Thai restaurant, we have coffee, we have the pizza place, we have Vittles and Joe, and we have a steak and rib place. You’ve got so many choices right there, yet we all offer something different,” she said. “I was in Udom’s the day she (re)opened. I’m supporting her and I hope others in the community support them, too.”
Like her fellow restaurateurs, Linda understands the importance of the surrounding town.
“I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the town. I’m already getting such a warm response and we haven’t even closed on the loan yet,” she said. “I love the community atmosphere and I think Hackensack has so much to offer and we need to keep that promoting and keep this town going and alive.”
The McNamaras predict that the Birchwood Char House and Bar will open in mid-May.