Beach idea leads to Cedar Lake restaurant
By Mary Matsumoto
Mary Matsumoto photo
Owners Debbie and Ray Brickner and General Manager Tammy Westphalen have overseen the success of The Cedars Restaurant on Cedar Lake.

Ray and Debbie Brickner never really intended to build a cabin, a pavilion, and last of all, a restaurant, complete with Tiki bar. What they originally set out to do was simply to restore the beach.

Debbie had brought the couple’s kids out to Cedar Lake when they were young. It was here that they learned to swim and enjoy the beach. So the place had sentimental value to her.

The Brickners had just retired from manufacturing so they had the time and resources to take on a project that was of sentimental value to them.

So they bought the land. Their plans for a public beach and park that was open to the public could be a reality.

All summer the couple worked hard gathering debris and garbage at considerable cost to themselves. It was the vision of a free public swimming area for everyone, rich and poor, that kept them going.

How about a meeting place?

And when the grounds were cleared, the locals talked to them about a meeting place, somewhere to hang out. Could you build a pavilion with bathrooms and a kitchen?

So, with help from a lot of volunteers, the pavilion was built. And a cabin to accommodate seven or more people, too.

But what about a restaurant, said the locals.

A restaurant?

The Brickners had never been in the restaurant business. But the locals convinced them to build a restaurant and bar.

So with the help of Steinthal Builders and Kiel Building Supply, they drew up plans for a beautiful restaurant with a wall of windows so customers could sit at tables and enjoy a breathtaking view of the lake.

And then, in the summer, people would sit on the ample deck and order exotic drinks from the Tiki Bar, listen to live music outside, and enjoy the view of the lake—and the sunbathers.

The idea for The Cedars Restaurant was born.

Hiring locals to do work

They hired local people to do the job. In fact, they hired people who were out of work, people who had lost their jobs, for the most part.

“So we helped them out, and they helped us out,” Debbie said. “They were here from morning to night.”

“It was a fun project,” said Ray.

“It really was,” said Debbie. “I was feeding them all. It was like the good old days.”

The couple did their best to design a working kitchen, but this was all new to them. So when they hired their first chef, Nate Paulish, he set up the kitchen the way a chef wants it to be. Since then, Nate has gone on to “bigger things,” as Ray put it, but he left behind a running kitchen, and the couple are grateful for his help, as they are for the help of dozens of other people.

In the beginning, the Brickners sat

down to create a menu, something simple, maybe hamburgers and hot dogs. Something like that. That, too, however, evolved into a menu much more elaborate. In addition to the burgers, wraps and paninis they offer during the day, at night they have a full dinner menu. On Thursdays, for instance, there’s all-you-can-eat ribs. Friday is fish fry—perch, cod, walleye, and salmon.

New menu coming

But the Brickners are really looking forward to a new menu that promises to make its debut before the four-year anniversary of the restaurant on May 17.

In addition to the menu, something else to look forward to are the special events and bands that are scheduled. In the past, the restaurant has seen events like an ice hockey tournament, a Christmas tree burning party (complete with Tiki Bar refreshments), a recliner race on the ice, and a fishing tournament. Bands, including Black Iris and Strawberry Jam Band, are scheduled for the summer. By subscribing to their newsletter online, customers can hear about events ahead of time so as not to miss out. The public is also invited to sign up for Open Mic

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