Franke remodels Virginian into sports bar and grill
About 18 months ago, Keith Franke got a tour of the closed Virginian Supper Club and was hooked.
"I loved its size," he explained. "It was bigger than the other places I had.
"And I liked the area. It had a small-town feel to everything. I wanted a place where I could get to know the customers and not make it a big-brand, big-box restaurant."
The end result is the Virginian is now Franke's Big River Sports Bar and Grill, located on Hwy. 10 between Ellsworth and Prescott. It opened to the public early last month.
Franke lives in Cottage Grove, Minn., and is the owner of two other establishments, the Park Café and Franke's Corner Bar in St. Paul Park, Minn.
"I'm not averse to helping out the community," he explained. "That's one of the reasons why we did this. We now have a place for functions."
But it was a long road getting there.
Franke explained nearly everything inside Franke's is new. The only thing they kept from the Virginian was the bar top.
"For about the last four months, it was my friends and I that finished up the construction," he said. "Between getting this place ready and my other places, I was putting in 18-20 hour work days five days a week."
The interior will catch guests' attention. The bar area is decked out in green and gold, colors of the Green Bay Packers, while the restaurant portion are the colors of the Minnesota Wild.
Franke explained that, after the initial design plans, he said, "if we're going to do it, let's go all out. I wanted to make a place where I'd like to hang out with friends."
Franke went with the Packers' color and images in honor of his father-in-law, who grew up in Milwaukee and is a diehard Packer fan (Franke said he likes both the Packers and Vikings.) The Wild color and images are from him, as he's a big fan of the native National Hockey League team.
What's also noticeable is the bar and restaurant are separate from each other, something Franke insisted upon.
"I wanted to create a family-friendly restaurant," he said.
Franke even added a deck, dance floor and a stage.
The stage will get some usage, as starting this Friday, karaoke will be held every other Friday. Franke later added they will have a musical act on occasion as well.
"Having it in this location will give us space to grow," he said.
And in just that one month, he's been pleased with the reception so far.
"It's been good," he said. "The people have been great and have been giving positive feedback. They've been receptive, kind and helpful."
Franke has worked in the tavern industry for almost the last 25 years.
"I like being around people and putting out a good product," he said. "It's a good feeling when someone tells you've they've had a good meal."
Franke said kitchen hours are 4-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays. Appetizers will be served until 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. For more information, contact Franke's at 425-7711.