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At The Hop owner Marlys Stahlecker, behind the counter of her 1950s-themed restaurant. (Marie Nitke, Forum Communcations)

'Hop' into Ottertail's new '50s-style diner

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There's a new spot to hit for malts, root beer floats, sundaes, burger baskets, all-day breakfast and more in Ottertail - At The Hop Diner.

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With full breakfast, lunch, dinner and to-go menus, the '50s-themed summer restaurant opened last Wednesday, and the joint's already been hoppin'.

Owner Marlys Stahlecker, who has lived south of Dent for the last 20-plus years, said so far at the restaurant, "things have been great. The community has been very supportive."

Business picked up a little bit every day last week, she said, and by Saturday the parking lot was packed.

Located just off Hwy. 78 in the old Angler Inn building, At The Hop features specialty burgers like the 'Jucy Lucy,' the 'Blue Onion' and the 'Jack Stack,' as well as frozen treats like banana splits, ice cream cones, slushies and the 'Chubby Checker Twist' (half ice cream, half slushy).

There are also daily specials, twice-monthly 'Classic Car Cruise Nites' and an affordable kids menu, plus Wi-Fi Internet, broasted chicken, a salad bar, homemade pies and much more.

Featuring checkered stools, '50s music playing in the background, a mini-jukebox on the counter and era-appropriate decor, At The Hop has the feel of a malt shop from the good ol' days. There is also a deck for some outdoor seating.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," said Stahlecker of opening the business. For years she had been driving by the old, closed Angler Inn, wondering why no one was buying it.

Then, "it became apparent to me that the reason it was not open is that I had not purchased it yet," she said.

So, last winter she bought the place - and got to work. Because the building had sat empty for five years, there were "quite a bit of renovations" to do, she said. But, fortunately, the remodeling was done in time for the start of the season.

Before buying the building in Ottertail, Stahlecker had been a partner in a mobile concession business called At The Hop Concessions. For two summers, she traveled around Minnesota and the Dakotas, working fairs and festivals.

"It was very fun," she said of that time. "But I decided I wanted to have a restaurant without wheels."

Though the business is still new and still getting organized, Stahlecker said it's really coming together, thanks in large part to a "great staff."

At The Hop will be open May through October, seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

During the off-season, Stahlecker said, she will enjoy time with her two children and five grandchildren.

For more information, visit the diner's facebook page, or go online to: www.atthehopdiner.com.

(Marie Nitke writes for the East Otter Tail Focus in Perham)

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