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Historic Sherwood Forest Tavern to re-open in May

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News Brainerd,MN 56401
Brainerd Dispatch
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Historic Sherwood Forest Tavern to re-open in May
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

LAKE SHORE — Sherwood Forest Tavern, that iconic and storied log restaurant along a winding Interlachen Road, is expected to open in Mid-May.


Workers were busy inside and outside the building, getting the interior ready and expanding a back deck late last week. Sherwood Forest, settled on a narrow strip of land between Gull Lake and Lake Margaret, has been part of the area since the 1920s when redwood logs came from California bound for Duluth harbor and were abandoned at a lakes area depot. Those logs were then used to construct Sherwood Forest Lodge and surrounding cabins.

The cabins are now in a private association. The lodge became a restaurant, but has been closed since 2010. Mike Mulrooney was driving by on the scenic County Road 77. As soon as he saw the “for lease” sign, he knew he was taking it.

“I always wanted a place up here,” Mulrooney said, standing inside the main dining area with its new carpeting covered by a plastic sheet as work crews move in and out of the building. “I just love the building.”

Mulrooney, whose family has vacationed in the area since the 1970s, has experience behind the vision. He owns Blarney Pub and Grill in Minneapolis.

He said Sherwood Forest’s striking look will help draw people inside and then his goal is to provide a memorable meal as well as the atmosphere where people will want to come back.

“I’m really focused on the food and service,” Mulrooney said. “We want to make a place that exceeds expectations.”

Mulrooney describes Sherwood Forest Tavern as a casual and relaxed dining experience with full bar and menu. The outdoor deck will have a wood fireplace and full dining. Yard Designs is creating the fireplace.

The idea, Mulrooney said, is to create a place where the family can go, as well as friends out for a meal and a beverage in a place where they can still hear themselves talk and without breaking the band.

The restaurant seats about 100 inside with a main dining area, a separate veranda and a lounge and bar off the main entrance. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mulrooney is planning a 12-month season and will be open seven days a week, opening at 11 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. on weekends with breakfast and a Sunday brunch buffet.

The restaurant is currently hiring with plans to employ 40 to 50 people during the summer peak and about 20 during the off-season.

To get things started, Mulrooney brought people in who worked for him in the Twin Cities.

They made changes to the bar area, adding a hand-crafted redwood slab for the bar counter, which was moved across the room. A lounge area with couch, chair and love seats are going in across from the bar. They put in new fixtures and ceiling fans. They’ve renovated and expanded the bathrooms. Landscaping is one of the final touches yet to come.

But Mulrooney said the building itself is a draw. Once inside, patrons will have to find the menu and service appealing to be frequent return guests. That’s where Mulrooney plans to make an impression.

He said signature menu items include as stuffed pork chop with sauteed mushroom bacon risotto with vegetables. A pan sauteed walleye is covered in wild rice walnut mushroom creme sauce.

The menu includes daily pasta specials and burgers, Mulrooney expects to be a staple.

“I think our burgers are going to be great,” he said. “I’m pretty convinced anyone who has one of those will come back.”

Another item of note is walleye fish ‘n’ chips. The menu includes homemade soup and chili and big, hearty salads, such as grilled steak, strawberry chicken or garlic shrimp.

Desserts include key lime pie, northwoods ice cream sundae, apple bread pudding, strawberry cheese cake, chocolate cake and berries and sorbet.

There are appetizers and vegetarian options.

As for price points, Mulrooney said the steaks are the only thing on the menu more than $20 and all the burgers are less than $10.

Mulrooney said it’s a good location and the economy is starting to turn around, although there is still room for improvement.

“I think our price fits the economy,” he said.

Mulrooney said he wants the business to be part of the community and the faces of the restaurant will be with Michelle Dolesy, general manager, and Brian Simberg, who is the front of the house manager.

Simberg hails from Hibbing originally. Dolesy is from Black River Falls, Wis.

“I’m excited to meet people and become part of the community,” Dolesy said.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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