In existence since 1936, the Lonesome Pine, just off Highway 18 on Katrine Drive
near Deerwood, has undergone few changes - reflecting the easygoing outlook of
the past owners - until recently.
The Goolsbee family has also owned property and been a part of the community of
Bay Lake since 1936. In October 2002, Bill Goolsbee, who now resides in Gardnerville, Nevada, purchased the restaurant. He asked his nephew, Josh Goolsbee, to run the operation as general manager. Josh, living in Minneapolis at the time and having worked in the restaurant business all his life (albeit he is a mere twenty-five years old), had always dreamed of having a restaurant of his own. The Lonesome Pine was his dream come true.
The Lonesome Pine immediately became a family affair. Josh’s parents, Gary and Dianne, offer help at every turn.
Amy Kleven, Josh’s girlfriend for five years, is unrelenting in her quest to make every aspect of the restaurant an unforgettable experience. And of course, Uncle Bill is a commanding, yet long-distance presence as well.
The Goolsbees focus their attention on three areas: Uphold an unbending commitment to quality and service, remain open year round, and finally - by revitalizing and restoring the Lonesome Pine - play an important role in maintaining historical continuity at Bay Lake and the surrounding communities. The Goolsbees’ philanthropic ideas have encompassed their desire to be a part of the local community. The family chose two neighboring nonprofit groups for the focus of charitable contributions.
With the restaurant and Goolsbee family properties located on Bay Lake, the Bay Lake Association Environmental Fund is dear to the family’s hearts. Last June, the Lonesome Pine hosted a fundraiser for the environmental fun. The J.R. Spencer Band gave a charitable performance that rocked the house, while patrons danced the night away. All proceeds from the door were donated directly to the fund.
The second nonprofit group is the Wild and Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, located nearby in Garrison. In collaboration with Cash Wise Liquors of Brainerd, the Lonesome Pine hosted an inaugural wine-tasting benefit with 100 percent of the proceeds returned directly to Wild and Free. There are plans to make this an annual event.
While hosting the fundraising events for the two organizations, the doors remain open to the public. Josh believes it’s important to remain open and connect with the locals who frequent the restaurant. “We love the tourists,” says Josh, “but we don’t want to be just a tourist stop,. We want the locals to feel comfortable to come in, as the are, anytime, without worry.”
The Goolsbees’ tenet for success is summed up by Uncle Bill. “Having an exquisite focus on everything that impacts our guests’ experience,” he says, “from how they are greeted, the physical environment, the quality and timeliness of the service and attitude of the staff. Ultimately, the attitude is infectious for our staff and spills over to our guests.”
The charm, warmth, and casual elegance of the highly polished cedar tables beckon guests to escape the ordinary and relax with impeccable service and excellent food. There is even a small, but well-used playground area outside where children of all ages can burn off a little energy while parents relax with friends.
The Lonesome Pine offers a full-variety menu, including pastas with homemade sauces, steaks, and weekend specials such as prime rib and a fish or seafood entree.
On a recent visit to the Lonesome Pine our party enjoyed several entrees. The sauce of the fettuccini Alfredo was pleasantly creamy and smooth, the broiled walleye was enticing and fresh, and the calzone was enjoyable. The evening’s special was a tender, flaky mahi-mahi, presented beautifully with colorful mango salsa. The children devoured a pizza and burgers.
Josh and the staff make an effort to personally greet every guest. Whether it’s a visit to your table by Gary to refill your water glass, or a wave and a smile from Amy, every effort is made to enhance your dining experience.
(Originally published in the Lake Country Journal, January/February 2004)