By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

At Elsie’s Bar & Grill in Caledonia, the challenges of the 2020 shut-downs have been turned into opportunities. “Everything’s different,” proprietor Elsie Babler said last week. That’s because she and husband Lee kept busy last year remodeling the interior of the building – especially the dining areas.

There are new booths, new tables and chairs, and new flooring. The project features the rich glow of new wood siding surrounding those booths, tables, portions of the walls, and more. The woodwork sets off with fresh hunter green paint and new décor on the walls. 

“We used car siding throughout,” Elsie said. “We used to have metal poles visible in the dining room. There were four, two in the front by the door and these two back here. He (Lee) just cased them with the car siding. Gave the room a little more privacy for everyone and a little more space. 

“Lee made all the tables,” Elsie grinned. “It kind of works out nice. I design and he builds...

“We also put in new flooring, matching the floor in the other (adjoining) room. And we put a fireplace in the upper seating area. We used to call that area the bullpen...

That separate part of the dining area features the aforementioned fireplace, which springs to life at the flip of a switch. Standing in the room, Elsie gestured to the screen on the wall. “This used to be a window, and it just looked into our storage room,” she noted. “So I told Lee ‘Let’s just make it into a fireplace.’ Made it cozier in here.” 

So all in all, the COVID closures and resulting downtime were put to good use, making room to work in different parts of the building, while patrons were still purchasing take-out meals.

“My downfall is that I keep thinking when I have downtime,” Elsie said. “So then he (Lee) ends up working.”

Lee’s brother (Terry) even created a brand-new indoor sign for the re-modeled area. It features much more than a name, with strutting turkeys, jumping trout, and whitetail deer along a forest and stream background. “It fits right in,” Elsie said. “We also redid the pool table area (on the bar side), too, during the COVID shutdown. And then this summer, we’re going to add on to our patio.”

It’s a whole new look. “We were trying to get away from the cafe’ look, into more of a family restaurant-type look. What we came up with has a rustic feel.” Elsie explained. “I’ve got a friend that likes to decorate, so she helps me with that.

“It was a way to keep our thoughts off of the COVID (pandemic). We wanted to look to the future, and hopefully bettering ourselves. You can’t dwell on things that are past. You have to move forward.  

“It turned out really nice. We’re very happy with it. It’s come a long way since I bought this.”

For those who are interested in seeing the updated dining areas and try the menu, Elsie’s Bar & Grill is located at 226 E. Main Street in downtown Caledonia. The restaurant opens daily at 6:30 a.m. Call 725-3313 for more information or see their website at https://www.restaurantji.com/mn/caledonia/elsies-/.

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