CROSBY — Crosby’s continuing transformation from an ore deposit to an outdoor enthusiast destination has caused, maybe even forced, a surge in redefining the Cuyuna Range.
The latest transformation happened on the east end of the main drag through the old mining town. What was known for years as simply The Crosby Bar is now Trailside Tavern and Patio.
This neighborhood hangout and eatery is the concept of two well-seasoned bar and restaurant workers Mike Potter and Pete Brook.
“Crosby is on the up and up with tourism, but we wanted something for everyone,” Potter said. “We certainly wanted to capture some of those tourism dollars and this is a place where people can come and have a drink and have a good burger and some really good smoked wings and then just hang out with their friends. People can congregate here. It’s a community gathering place.”
With an interior remodel, Trailside uses softwood borders and low light to create a warm, relaxing atmosphere. Gone is the off sale position of the business and in its place is a larger dining area for bigger groups. There’s a pool table and more space. In this time of COVID-19, that’s a good thing.
But despite the pandemic, the new business venture was built out of necessity.
“Me and Pete, more so me, had been laid off partially since March all the way to June,” Potter said. “Buying a bar after they were allowed to reopen was kind of a scary thing with the cloud hanging over our head that we could be shut down. Buying the bar and spending all that time with the remodel without a paycheck was a scary deal, but we got the doors open and things are good.
“We’re practicing the guidelines to keep everyone safe.”
Potter said the duo is banking on good food and a good location to keep people returning.
“We wanted to have a simple, small menu, but we wanted everything to be good,” Potter said. “Everything on our menu is fresh -- fresh ingredients. A lot of our sauces are made in house. We cut our own fries here. That’s one of our bigger undertakings. All of our fries are cut fresh here. We get the potatoes and cut them and soak them. We parfry them and then cook them to order. That’s why they’re so good.”
One signature menu item is the Tavern wings. The wings are soaked in a brine and then smoked instead of fried. The brine and smoke pair well off of each other and the Cajun dry rub is a top seller Potter said. There’s also Buffalo and barbeque sauces.
In the 2 1/2 weeks the Tavern has been open, Potter said the chicken tacos are a popular choice. The marinated chicken is grouped with cotija cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo and accompanied with three flour tortillas.
The Tavern Burger is the signature burger. The 6-ounce Angus beef is topped with A1 steak sauce, pepper jack cheese, applewood smoked bacon and house-made onion straws.
There are nine other burgers and sandwiches on the menu, including a bison burger as well as Brook’s famous Prime Rib Au Jus he perfected while working at Coaches in Deerwood.
There are five different appetizers, including a fancier style buttermilk chicken tender. The usual salad and soup menu items are also available.
Trailside enjoyed a learning experience with a soft opening Sunday, Sept 27. Potter said the feedback was good.
“We were hammering nails up until the night we opened,” Potter said. “We didn’t get any kind of a break. It was busy. We did a seating at 5 p.m. and then another one at 7 p.m. It was challenging, but in the end, it worked out and we learned some things.”
Trailside is going just off the menu, but they hope to incorporate nightly specials and what Potter says is the best happy hour in town. They recently had a rib dinner special.
“As we catch up here we’ll bring back the good nightly specials,” Potter said. “We’re just having a hard time keeping up with all the prep work because we’ve been so busy.”
Despite the new name and new interior, Tavern is not running away from the Ranger roots. A Scorpion snowmobile shrine is displayed along with many old pictures of the mining days. There are even old Crosby Bar signs throughout the establishment.
“We’re respecting the history,” Potter said. “but we’re also wanting to do our own thing.”