By Kristen Miller
After a few hurdles to jump over, Wahoo’s Bar and Grill is now open for business in Darwin.
Owners Lauretta and Karl Madsen of Litchfield officially opened the doors Aug. 7 at 3 p.m. as soon as the state health inspector gave them the OK.
“There were so many people waiting for us to open,” Lauretta said. The couple intended on opening in mid-May, but work with state regulatory agencies delayed the process.
The couple bought the former Country Saloon in November, after the building had sat empty for nearly three years.
“I think Darwin is a sweet little town,” Lauretta said, who remembers living north of town and working at the former Twine Ball Inn restaurant.
The couple was looking to do something as a family the name came from Karl’s son’s nickname and also give “a little something back to Darwin.”
Starting in December, the Madsen family have put extensive hours into remodeling the restaurant and bar area from floor to ceiling.
It was important they keep the original copper ceiling, but they cleaned it extensively from years of tar build-up, Lauretta explained.
They also added a window to the west wall, and wainscoting to brighten it up.
The floors, which were once blackened by oil, were also sanded to their original state, she explained.
“We wanted to have some fun with it, and keep it a little rustic,” she said.
Next year, the couple plans to add a patio to the north side of the building for an outdoor seating experience.
The couple also wanted to incorporate some of Darwin’s history and charm into Wahoo’s menu, including the Rice City burger, named after what the village was first called. It is made with a half-pound Angus beef patty, Swiss cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and their house mayonnaise, served on a toasted pretzel bun.
Also special to their menu are the Bavarian pretzel sticks, Wahoo dogs, which allow customers to create their own beef hot dogs; the Wahoo Chix Deluxe sandwich, and a Little Wahoo menu for the kids, featuring the classic, PB&J.
Starting this fall, Wahoo’s will serve homemade chili and soups. Lauretta would like to host a chili cook-off, along with beer and wine tastings throughout the year.
The bar serves strong beer and wine, and set-ups for hard liquor.
The couple wants to promote Minnesota breweries and wineries and locally grown food, as much as possible, and has Fulton and Third Street brews on tap.
The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and closed Tuesdays.
Live entertainment and meat raffles are also planned.
“We’re just happy to be here and finally be open,” Karl said, adding he enjoys seeing the look on customers’ faces when they walk in the door and see what they’ve done to the place.
Though it was a long road, “We made it,” Lauretta said. “We’re hoping to be a good staple for the community for years to come.”
A grand opening celebration is planned for Labor Day weekend.