Roving family runs restaurantDwayne, Marion and Jeff Thiel serve up a welcome and tasty burgers at a lakeside gathering place that dates back to the Prohibition, daring bathing costumes and boat rides for a nickel. The Brush Lake Pavilion at Brush Lake may be steeped in history, but it is a happening gathering spot for weekenders in search of a chocolate malt and a plate of hot, crispy French fries.
By: Lauren Donovan, The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
BRUSH LAKE, N.D. (AP) — Dwayne, Marion and Jeff Thiel serve up a welcome and tasty burgers at a lakeside gathering place that dates back to the Prohibition, daring bathing costumes and boat rides for a nickel.
The Brush Lake Pavilion at Brush Lake may be steeped in history, but it is a happening gathering spot for weekenders in search of a chocolate malt and a plate of hot, crispy French fries.
The Thiels, longtime-residents-turned-mobile-homers, returned this year to run the restaurant, after being away from it for a long time.
They’ve aged a bit in the 14 years since they last operated the restaurant, but they’re back for the same reason they operated it then.
“We do it because we enjoy the people,” said Dwayne Thiel.
The screen door to the pavilion opens and slams shut constantly Friday through Sunday throughout the short North Dakota summer, starting Memorial Day and closing Labor Day.
It is a mainstay, a part of the Brush Lake culture, where the 170-plus cabin owners can send kids for an ice cream cone, or meet fellow lake friends for a burger.
Plenty of non-Brush Lake folks stop in, too.
Customers like Reed and Beth Jorgenson, of Antler, stopped in to greet their friends, the Thiels, and have a bit of lunch.
“Oh my gosh, these are crispy to perfection,” Beth Jorgenson said to Dwayne Thiel, who, wearing an apron over a T-shirt and shorts, steps from the kitchen to say hello.
Dwayne Thiel said the French fry trick is one he learned long ago from a food salesman. “They’re cheap, so load ‘em on the plate,” he said.
Marge Dick, of Bismarck, and Dorothy Krueger and Joan Lasher, of McClusky, met there for a malt on a warm summer afternoon. Out the windows, the lake sparkles behind the trees, a visual seasoning that makes everything taste like summer ought to taste.
The pavilion — an antique metal building of the kind “they” don’t build anymore — is where church service is held every Sunday morning, followed by a $10 breakfast buffet with egg bakes, biscuits and gravy and homemade caramel rolls.
Thiel said he orders enough supplies to fill five freezers and four refrigerator coolers. “They’re filled every Monday and they’re empty by Sunday night,” he said.
Menu prices are reasonable, giving Thiels enough to pay vendors and the restaurant lease from the Mercer Brush Lake Cabin Owners Association, with some to put in their traveling kitty.
“After Labor Day, we’ll clean it up and then we’re out of here,” back to a motor home park in Nevada, Dwayne Thiel said.
Rich Goetzfried, of Bismarck, is president of the association, which has somewhere between 75 and 100 members and is itself 100 years old, older than the pavilion building.
“This (pavilion) goes all the way back to when (“Wild Bill”) Langer was governor and a lot of political dignitaries would frequent the place,” he said.
In a long, rich history of Brush Lake, there are stories of cheap, forbidden beer, Sunday baseball games, rodeos and roller skating in later years.
The association owns and maintains the pavilion, along with a free camping area and public boat dock. Association meetings are held to open and close the summer and a board of directors takes care of business year-round.
The pavilion is a special place for Brush Lakers.
“If we closed that restaurant, people would really be upset and angry. People are there all the time. (The Thiels) do an excellent job. You can’t get a finer burger, or chicken than at that restaurant right there,” Goetzfried said.
“It’s where we meet lake neighbors from across the lake and see people we haven’t seen for a couple of weekends. It’s a nice, nice place to go,” he said.
Dwayne and Marion Thiel, with help from their son, Jeff, are taking their venture a year at a time, especially with Marion Thiel’s knee replacements.
Marion Thiel said the two of them work well together, with help from their son, and the lake folks are great supporters.
Next year is next year, but for now, it’s good old summertime. The ice cream is cold, the burgers are fresh, the water is inviting and the pavilion is open for business.