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Rebirth of the Lake Elmo Inn

Chef John Schiltz of the Lake Elmo Inn recently remodeled his award-winning restaurant inside and out, and revealed a new menu featuring Hereford's top-grade 1881 beef. Have you eaten off the Lake Elmo Inn's new menu? What do you think?

The Lake Elmo Inn has gotten a makeover.

After shutting the restaurant down for 11 days, owner and chef John Schiltz reopened the Lake Elmo Inn July 12 with fresh look inside and out.

He has also revealed a new menu.

The main dining room, adjacent to the bar, was the only room in the restaurant that hadn’t been remodeled since Schiltz bought the place 29 years ago.

“The time was right,” Schiltz said.

The furniture in the dining room was outdated, the room was full of carpet and the color was “getting old.”

“We wanted to bring some energy into the room,” Schiltz said. “We have a great atmosphere in the bar, but when it was full, people wouldn’t go into the dining room. It didn’t make sense.”

'All of a Sudden it Looks Complete'

The newly renovated main dining room now mimics the bar.

“The idea was to feed off of the bar with the cherry wood and the richness and energy the bar gives out,” Schiltz said. The room was freshened up with new booths, light fixtures, paint, hardwood floors and windows.

Schiltz also added three front windows in the dining room, which gives the exterior of the building a more uniformed look when paired with limestone finishes.

“When you look at the building, all of a sudden it looks complete,” Schiltz said. “It has continuity and looks like it was meant to be.”

And that’s no easy task—the bar dates back to 1881, the main dining room was built in the 1920s, the backroom was added in the 1960s and the Kohler Room was built in the 1990s.

Add in the first-of-its-kind glass veranda with a retractable roof, and as Schiltz says, “that kicks it up another level.”

A Rebirth

The idea for remodeling the dining room started five years ago when Schiltz hired an architect and came up with the designs for the dining room, but never finalized the plans because the economy went sour.

“It was like someone shut the door,” Schiltz said. “It was a struggle for a number of years.”

After seeing a slowdown in business again this year, Schiltz decided to get the remodel done.

“What we’re doing is the rebirth of a restaurant,” he said. “We’re bringing in a new dynamic.”

Now Featuring 1881 Hereford Steaks

Remodel aside, that new dynamic also comes by the way of a new menu that features fine steaks for the first time in Schiltz’s impressive career as a chef and restauranteur.

It’s a big deal because Schiltz is featuring more than one steak, he’s featuring a line of 1881 Hereford beef (coincidentally the same year the Lake Elmo Inn’s bar was built), which is the top 2 percent of the Hereford brand cattle.

"The genetics of the animal gives us great flavor, juiciness and tenderness," Schiltz said. “It’s the way beef used to taste.”

The 1881 Hereford line of beef is only sold in two places in the Twin Cities, Schiltz said. One is Seven in Minneapolis, and now the Lake Elmo Inn. The steaks are cooked under a new infrared broiler, the same kind used by Murray’s Steakhouse.

But the Lake Elmo Inn is not a steakhouse. The menu still offers many award-winning favorites, along with new items and the option for smaller portion sizes.

“I’m not forgetting my roots,” Schiltz said. “We are still doing business as the Lake Elmo Inn always has.”

That means Schiltz will still be serving duck, pasta, lamb racks, sunfish and all meals will still include side dishes. But the Lake Elmo Inn will also be featuring late night breakfast in the bar; offering smaller portions and healthier options; and have a gluten-free menu.

Customers will also have to opportunity to order fresh, made-to-order guacamole, a raw oyster bar on Wednesday nights, salads and pork tots.

“There’s nothing like meat that is deep-fried for a guy drinking at the bar,” Schiltz said.

'A Scary Venture'

Throughout the entire remodel process, Schiltz said he and his staff have listened to the customers every step of the way.

Schiltz said he has always enjoyed buying local, and with this venture he hopes to attract clientele who want to eat local, rather than going to Minneapolis.

“Our dining is world class,” he said. “We’ve always been at the forefront in the Twin Cities and we’re taking it up a couple of notches.

“The rebirth of this restaurant is a scary venture. We believe we are doing the right things and hope that if we deliver to the public, they will come here in droves.”

Paul Whackernutz July 26, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I'm curious to read of others' experiences after the re-do. This used to be one of our favorite "special occasion" restaurants, but over the years, it seemed to me that there wasn't much special about it any more. The food was so-so and didn't justify the price, the wine list wasn't as interesting as it used to be, and the end for us was crummy service experiences two visits in a row. There are plenty of alternatives for a fine piece of cow and a $100 bottle of wine in the city. Here's hoping the re-do brings back the magic.
Mommers July 27, 2012 at 03:15 AM
What happened to all those salt & pepper shakers??
Shawn Hogendorf July 27, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I asked that, and they are still in some of the dining rooms, but as of now, they are not in the main dining room.
jduy July 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I love these additions! GREAT! p.s. The photos need color corecting/cropping. They look like they were shot on a towel at Walmart.
Tom Grant July 27, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I had a "new" filet steak and it was outstanding! We are fortunate to have the Lake Elmo Inn so close by.
Darlene Diesch July 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Our very recent eating experience there was a disapointment, the quality of the food did not match the prices. Place is lovely, our service was excellent, but our food was not. For four of us, we ate steak, walleye and shrimp. Better walleye at Tavern on Grand, by a long shot!
Edward July 27, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Question about the steaks -- do they put a "rub" or otherwise spice them up? Lately I can't eat steak at many places because they put on seasoned salt or hot spice. I prefer mine plain, with steak sauce on the side if needed. A good steak should be naked, in my opinion.

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