Taking on a new restaurant isn’t easy at all, but the Knudsens are determined to succeed. They’re prepared to take on a lot of work, which works in their favor.
However, the restaurant isn’t the only thing on their plates (literally and figuratively!). The couple is expecting twins. The babies are due in August and will be their first children! The Knudsens, Krista and Kevin, are familiar with restaurant work, however, and are positive they will make it through.
Krista managed Matty’s restaurant when it was his. Kevin is currently the bar manager at Zorbaz on Gull, where he has worked since 1998. Before that, it was The Channel Inn at Granny’s Pub’s until Zorbaz bought it.
Kevin used to split his time between lake area and agriculture. He grew up in the city of Milroy in southwest Minnesota. He farmed, sowed in the spring and harvested in the fall. He’d worked for an accounting firm during the winter. He worked at Granny’s in the summer. A graduate of Brainerd High School, Kevin went to Concordia College in Moorhead.
On the other hand, Krista, who grew up in Fairmont in southern Minnesota, has years of experience in bars and restaurants. The Knudsens said they liked the area with the nearby Bar Harbor and Zorbaz, and the business community. Both residents and businesses in the area were accommodating and supportive, Krista said.
About Cowboy’s Restaurant and the Community
The couple believes in the help of the community and lean on them in times of need. When certain drinking glasses had not arrived on time one day, Zorbaz offered to lend to cover the gap. Kevin said the Zorbaz ownership attitude was a belief that having more attractions in the area would benefit all of the businesses there.
The couple lives minutes away from their restaurant, making the purchase of the closed building even more appealing. Matty’s closed February 27 in Lake Shore. Cowboy’s opened just about three weeks ago. The new restaurant has brought many of the employees back.
“That is a genuine blessing,” said Krista. “We all know what to expect.” Cowboy’s anticipates employing at least 15 people this summer. “It’s one big family, really.”
Krista said that after Matty closed, one of the hardest things missing was the people she worked with and the regulars who walked through the doors. Now she said she is grateful they are back. Family support is there for assistance especially when the twins arrive. The Knudsens said they also regularly offer staff members help to ease their workload where they can.
The name of the restaurant came from Kevin’s nickname, which began as a good-humored friend telling a bar patron that calling Kevin “Cowboy” was the best way to get his attention. The name then stuck. Therefore, when people heard the building was bought by the Knudsens, they called and said, “You must name it Cowboy’s.”
So even though it’s called Cowboy’s there’s no Western theme or mechanical bull waiting for customers. That is not the picture the couple wanted to create. Krista described Cowboy’s, which has a full bar with a seating area, as well as a dining room and a group room, as a burger and sandwich joint that focuses on the type of service that has staff waiting at the door to greet clients.
The restaurant features a list of wines, a wide selection of beer with 11 varieties on the tap and 36 in bottles, a notable selection of Scotch and a list of martinis among other items. A shuttle service in the area offers patrons pick and drop service so they can go for a meal and a drink and try out different spots without getting behind the wheel.
The Knudsens have credited Lakes State Bank with assisting them through the transition of ownership, and Lake Shore’s Bud and Jason Sourdiff, Property Services Plus. They hired Dan Heck as Chef to head up the kitchen.
At Cowboy’s, special orders are welcomed and considered a creative challenge. The restaurant features “build-your-own burgers,” among other delicacies. A fried-egg topped burger with three kinds of cheese is a popular choice, as is the sliced cucumber basket with a homemade dipping sauce. If burgers aren’t your thing, there are other items to choose from. Other options include a veggie burger, tilapia sandwich or roman lettuce salads topped with a meat selection. Fries come with a sweet spice sauce and are served fresh cut, beer battered or as sweet potatoes.
The restaurant can seat up to 88 people so it’s pretty roomy. The Knudsens refurbished the interior, especially the bar area, taking the floor down to the cement and adding an acid washer and sealer.
Kevin used barn wood from his family’s farm in Southern Minnesota to accentuate one of the walls, frame menus and also restore the bar. The barn wood is a mixture of worn gray boards and those from more protected areas which retain their original red colour. A sealer has been used to make the wood smooth to the touch while retaining its uniquely weathered look.
Musing upon the barn wood’s origins, Kevin said, “A little bit of the farm is still up here.”