By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, MN Hojies Grill & Smokehouse in Dassel may have closed Dec. 13, but the famous chicken wings and BBQ pulled pork haven’t gone far.
Craig Hagen, who owned Hojies for the past 13 years with his wife, Marcella, started working at the VFW Post 906 in Hutchinson last Monday. His influence is already apparent, with the introduction of a new menu Feb. 5.
“Pretty much whatever we had in Dassel the main specialties will be served here,” Hagen said.
A few of the well-loved specials include smoked baby back BBQ ribs, bourbon roasted pork tenderloin, and flame-broiled burgers.
“We also have a few new things we didn’t have in Dassel,” Hagen said.
“Salad” sandwiches, served on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, spinach leaves, and a tomato slice, are one tasty addition. They come in turkey, tuna, or salmon salad, and are served with soup, salad, or one side.
“Our soups are all homemade,” Hagen said.
Hagen said he has always been attracted to the art of cooking.
“I’ve tried different occupations, but I’ve always come back to restaurant work,” he said. “It’s what I enjoy doing.”
Growing up in Cokato, Hagen made BBQ ribs and sauce from scratch for his family each Christmas.
“That’s kind of where it started,” he said.
Hagen also helped his parents, Art and Rosemary Hagen, who managed Dairy Queen restaurants in Cokato and Spicer.
“I learned it over the years, starting with fast food,” he said.
Hagen met Marcella while they were both working at the Prairie House, which later became Hojies.
“We ended up owning that same restaurant,” Hagen said.
Hagen and Marcella also lived in Florida for 10 years, managing three fast food restaurants called Checkers Drive-In.
In August 1996, Hagen purchased the Dassel Diner, along with his parents. The name was changed to Hojies Grill to reflect the nickname that Craig had as a bat boy for the DC Saints.
When Hojies was getting ready to close its doors, the VFW managers approached Hagen to see if he’d be interested in cooking for them.
Hagen saw it as an opportunity for his customers to continue to enjoy Hojies-style food. Marcella is helping with the catering, banquets, and serving, he added.
“We have a lot of people who know our food was good,” he said. “We have a reputation for good products and good prices.”
For Hagen, the best part about cooking is creating things and coming up with new recipes for people to try.
“I cook at home, too,” he said. “When I have time off, I try to create things. If it works out, I try to incorporate that at the restaurant.”
To reach the VFW Post 906, at 247 1st Ave SE in Hutchinson, call (320) 587-9929.
To see the new Hojies-inspired menu, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.