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New BBQ shack opens in DL

No, contrary to what people in the lakes area have been hearing for the past few months, there won't be a Dickey's Barbecue Pit franchise in Detroit Lakes -- but as of this past Thursday, BJ's Barbecue Shack is open and ready for business.

Owners Brent and Jodi Blake parted ways with Dickey's earlier this month, and opted to start their own restaurant and bar without the benefit of the Dickey's name being attached to it.

"It became pretty apparent that the marriage (with the Dickey's franchise) wasn't going to work," said Brent Blake. "Our particular venue is more of a destination than a typical Dickey's setting."

The other Dickey's restaurants typically offer more of a drive through, quick service format than the Blakes were looking to establish.

"We weren't given the flexibility (by Dickey's) to use the approach we wanted," Blake explained.

So the Blakes came to an "amicable" parting of the ways with Dickey's, so that they could establish the type of family-style, destination restaurant that they wanted, he added.

BJ's Barbecue Shack not only offers barbecued beef and pork entrees, sides and a full-service bar, but plenty of fun for the whole family.

"We're offering free miniature golf for anyone who comes to our restaurant to eat," Blake said.

Besides a full miniature golf course, the restaurant also has space set aside to develop four beanbag tossing areas -- more commonly referred to as "corn holes" in the south, Blake noted. (One beanbag toss has already been set up.)

He said the opportunity exists to establish both a miniature golf league and a beanbag league if there is enough interest from the community in doing so.

"And we also have the ability to offer mini-golf at night," he added.

There is also a space reserved to set up an outdoor stage for live music during the summer months.

"And we have an area in the back corner of the restaurant that we can set up for live music too," added Blake, noting that the intent is to offer live music year-round.

Already, he said, he's lined up some popular local music acts to perform, including Tim Eggebraaten, Emma Wood and Dan Holt.

"We might do an open mic night too," he said, adding that in the summer months he plans to bring in some larger bands to perform as well.

There are also plans to add a children's playground in the next few weeks.

There's plenty of both indoor and outdoor seating for guests, with the outdoor area offering the additional attraction of a bonfire in the center of the dining area.

"We have outdoor seating for between 70-80 people, and about the same number inside," Blake said.

And then, of course, there's the food. The menu at BJ's Barbecue Shack includes beef brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis-style pork ribs, marinated chicken and turkey, as well as mouth-watering sides such as homemade coleslaw and potato salad, macaroni and cheese and baked beans.

Some of the homemade items are listed on the menu with names like "Darlene's Sweet Slaw" or "Mama Jan's Potato Salad" -- and all of the names used come from actual relatives of the employees, Blake noted.

Besides the food, there is also a full-service bar -- known as the "Wet Rock Saloon" -- which offers no less than 16 different beer taps, as well as bottled beers, wine and mixed drinks.

Working in conjunction with their neighbors at Seven Sisters Liquor Store, Blake said they hope to include a wine special of the week as well.

The décor of BJ's Barbecue Shack is a combination southern/western theme, with some touches based on old mining towns as well.

"We tore down an old barn by Lake Melissa, and the wood above the bar comes from that barn," Blake said. "We're trying to incorporate a local feel into the décor."

A native of Crookston, Brent Blake said that he and his family have made Detroit Lakes their home for the past 12 years. They decided to switch careers from medical sales to restaurant ownership not only to spend more time with their kids, but also to be more involved with their community.

"I was in medical sales for 18 years," Blake said. "I got tired of the travel. I've had my eye on this location (for a restaurant) for a few years now."

Their new venture is definitely a family business, as all three of their kids have been involved in getting the restaurant set up over the past few weeks, Blake noted.

And they hope to increase their community involvement as well, by catering various local functions.

"We bought an old ambulance that we plan to use as a catering vehicle," Blake said, noting that the vehicle's built-in generator will enable them to keep food heated, or cooled, during transport.

One thing he said they'd like to do is to cater to the ice fishing crowd, bringing their vehicle out on the ice for fishing tournaments and other events.

They hope to make their restaurant a stop on the trail for snowmobilers -- and during the summer and fall, for antique car clubs and motorcycle runs as well.

Currently, the Blakes have about 15 employees, but plan to add about 5-10 more during the summer months. The restaurant will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the bar staying open until 1 a.m. (there will be a limited bar menu available after 10 p.m., Blake added).

For those who don't really want to go inside to eat, they will be offering a take-out window as well, he said.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454