By mary macdonell belisle, wording for you
People savor experiences—in memories that can be called to mind and stories that can be shared. These often center around a meal, and a random smell will typically trigger thoughts of days gone by. A whiff of wood smoke. Sigh of a special BBQ sauce. Waft of an aged whiskey.
Anton’s Restaurant has been the site of good food, good spirits, and good times since 1920 when a rustic log cabin was erected, operating as a speakeasy. The place was called “Bricky’s,” part of the Woodland Lodge, a small cabin resort. Its structure and history still speak volumes
today, with the entrance boasting an original still used to make Minnesota 13 moonshine during Prohibition. However, it is the spirit of owner Anton “Tony” Gaetz, who passed away last year, that pervades the place. Many a first date and family celebration have unfolded in this one-of-a-kind supper club, now owned and operated by Tony and his wife Lorraine’s five children.
“My Dad was always creating memories for people, simply because of who he was,” says Betzy Gaetz. A gregarious, big-hearted man, Anton scooted among patrons’ tables, saying hello and sharing stories. Whenever he was inspired to make a menu or décor change, “you just let him do it,” laughs Betzy. She tells of his decision to put a roof over the outdoor brick patio to make a four-season dining area. The structure was erected so swiftly that it overhung the outdoor umbrellas, still covering the tables. A live tree that obstructed the roof wasn’t a problem, either; Tony simple hacked off the top of it. The ceiling-high “stump” continued to sprout leaves for the next two years!
The covered-wagon awnings over the booths were Tony’s whimsical idea. His are the humorous license plates on the wall––G Y NOT, PLATE, SNOT NA (Anton’s spelled backwards). A gold sign over the bar reads “Police Headquarters.” (Tony loved gold paint.) Anton’s features an eclectic mix of speakeasy, western, and river décor, notes Betzy. The artifacts harken to Prohibition and the early 20th century, and the cabin section of Anton’s is the original structure.
In keeping with the speakeasy theme, creative menu offerings include: Moonshine Sirloin, Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Drunkin’ Chicken, just returned after a 20-year hiatus.
The giant popovers are notorious. Here’s the story: Tony really wanted the recipe for the giant popovers his friend served at his supper club in Walker, Minn. The two made a trade; Anton’s got the recipe and the friend got permission to use the covered-wagon idea for his restaurant decor. Thus far, the competition has not duplicated this famous menu side, served with honey butter.
Tony’s 40-year-old recipe for BBQ ribs and secret sauce are also secure with the family.
Co-owners Betzy, Dan, Dave, Nancy, and Toni plan to keep all of these secrets and follow in their father’s footsteps with regard to the philosophy of offering memorable food, brew, and experience. The family remains true to their father’s vision, guided by Tony’s spirit.
2001 Frontage Road N, Waite Park, MN
320.253.3611 | www.antonsrestaurant.com