Normally, the off-the-beaten-path location of Spanky's Stone Hearth, on the shores of Rose Lake in between Frazee and Vergas, is a selling point for its customers.
But since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic prompted Gov. Tim Walz to first close all dine-in restaurants and bars in Minnesota, Spanky's remote location now is more of a challenge than an asset.
That didn't sit well with rural Detroit Lakes residents Jesse Omdahl and Rick Besser, who decided to do something a little unorthodox to show support for one of their favorite eating establishments.
"They’re not right in town," said Besser, adding that "it's a jaunt" to get to Spanky's, whether patrons are coming from Detroit Lakes, Perham, or somewhere further afield. "We want to make sure they’re taken care of so that when this pandemic is done, their business is still there for us."
Their solution? On Sunday, March 22, the couple enjoyed a "date night" at Spanky's by phoning in and picking up their order, then setting up their own table, chairs, linens, plates and eating utensils right there in the parking lot.
"Josh (Hanson, the restaurant's owner) and the staff out there are just great, and we've tried in these crazy times to support these local restaurants that are really struggling," said Besser, noting that Spanky's was not the only restaurant they had ordered takeout from since the COVID-19-related closures started.
Omdahl, who is home-schooling their children while the public schools are closed, said that finding time to enjoy a "date night" together has become more important to them than ever in recent weeks.
"It was a lot of fun," she said of their al fresco dining experience. "The food is always incredible, and the atmosphere was just as good outside as in — we still got a view of the lake, and were able to wave to all our friends inside the restaurant.
"It cheered us up a little bit but I hope it cheered their staff up a bit too," said Besser, noting that they ordered the "Trust Me" item on the menu, which is essentially a chef's choice selection that differs from day to day. "We know it's going to be good, and we just trust that they will do something wonderful like they always do, with great customer service."
"In times of crisis I think it is admirable and fortunate to have neighbors and guests like Rick and Jesse," Spanky's owner Josh Hanson said. "They are a prime and influential example of making the best of the situation at hand. It truly lifted my spirit seeing them take the opportunity to have their 'date night' at Spanky’s, despite not being able to dine-in. It’s the little things that will help us all navigate through these times, and we’re lucky to have such supportive patrons."
If you (to) go
What: Spanky's Curbside Menu
Where: Spanky's Stone Hearth, 34785 County Highway 4, Frazee
When: Through Friday, May 1.
How: Orders can be placed at any time of day, Tuesday-Sunday, for pick-up outside Spanky's anytime from 5 to 8 p.m. Visit spankysstonehearth.com to see the complete curbside menu, then call 218-334-3555 to place your order.