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Willows is comfortable eating spot in New Richland, Minn.

The Willows Restaurant and Lounge

Address: 100 State Highway 13, New Richland, Minn.

Hours: Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday brunch is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., restaurant closes at 10 p.m.

Best sellers: Steak, ribs and walleye. Ribeye is their most popular steak at $17.95, served with a choice of potato and salad bar. A half rack of ribs is $10.95 and a whole rack is $14.95. Hand-battered or broiled walleye is $15.95.

Call them at: (507) 463-1000

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NEW RICHLAND, Minn. — Jim and Beth Blake saw potential in a burned building that stood vacant in New Richland.

"It was a shell of a building," said Jim.

It used to be a restaurant, Jerry’s Inn. The couple liked its location, near the junction of Highways 13 and 30. They had owned Thompson’s Boat House in Waseca for 15-and-a-half years, but sold it when a good offer came their way. A year after making that sale, the couple bought the burned New Richland property.

After 11 months of renovations, they opened The Willows Restaurant and Lounge in December 2007. Willow trees in the back of the property were the inspiration for its name. The couple brought their son, Travis, on board as manager.

"It’s a little upscale, but still casual enough for everybody," Jim said. "...We get a lot of compliments on the food and the atmosphere."

Their menu is mixed with traditional and original recipes as well as dishes Jim picked up in his lifelong career in food service. They offer appetizers, soups, wraps, sandwiches, hot beef and turkey commercials, burgers, steak, chicken, shrimp, walleye, barbecue ribs, pasta, a kids menu and full service bar. Their very own Willow Burger is a grilled beef patty, covered with spicy homemade chili and melted cheddar cheese, served open face on grilled wheat bread for $7.50.

There are specials for every night of the week. Monday is taco night, Tuesday and Saturday feature pork loin, Wednesday offers prime rib, Thursday spotlights filet mignon and shrimp, on Friday it’s the New York bourbon steak and Sunday has become popular for their morning brunch.

For $11.95, brunch customers may take their pick of the buffet of breakfast foods, salad bar, meat, fish and dessert.

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Jim said it’s the steaks he wants to emphasize, but their walleye and ribs also get a lot of attention. In the first year of competition at Waseca’s Ribfest last year, The Willows took the Sweepstakes Award and People’s Choice Award. Jim isn’t giving away any secrets about his ribs, and proudly displays the awards on the salad bar.

The restaurant seats 150 people. Takeout is available on all their menu items. They do off-site catering and also host parties. During the holiday season, they had a disc jockey play music on the weekends and are considering keeping that longer into the year.

The Blakes wanted to capture the feel of an old supper club inside. The dining area is decorated with historical photos from the Waseca County Historical Society.

Twenty-one people can grab a seat along the bar’s granite counter or get cozy in the area’s high-top table near the gas fireplace. The bar has three wall-mounted, flat-screen televisions.

— Heather Thorstensen

If you have a favorite restaurant that you would like to have featured in Agri News, drop us a note. You can write us at Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903. Or you can call us at (507) 285-7659 or e-mail wilmes@agrinews.com.

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