Al and Alma’s Enchants Lake Lovers

Al and Alma’s Supper Club.

Come by boat or come by car, Al and Alma’s Supper Club is a destination. Drop anchor in Mound along the grassy, tree-lined shores of Cooks Bay. Whether by land or lake, the trip to Al and Alma’s is a worthwhile journey.

Landlubber access to this waterfront restaurant is just a couple of bridges and a few roundabout turns, but that’s all part of the freshwater fun. “It’s off the beaten path,” says Jay Soule, general manager. “Drive down for a winding adventure.”

It’s a rite of summer; nothing beats landing on Phelps Island for a meal at Al and Alma’s. “They like to come by boat,” Soule says. “It’s not the only way, but it’s the easiest way.”

Even in a state blessed with an abundance of lakes, dockside dining on an island is rare. Al and Alma’s Supper Club is a distinct feature. For 61 years, this restaurant has been “a part of the lake life and tradition of Lake Minnetonka,” Soule says.

Relaxed lake living, colorful sunsets and so-good comfort food are the perfect ingredients for a nostalgic night out. Soul-warming traditional American food fits right in at this Minnesota lakeside environment. Picture a huge rock fireplace with a panoramic view of the bay in the background and a generous spread of food and drink in the foreground. Steeped in tradition and surrounded by water, this place has a Nantucket-like feel tempered with Midwestern sensibility. The restaurant’s boating theme is reinforced by a cruise ship fleet and plenty of shore-to-shore hospitality. “There’s a good chance you’ll meet one of the owners,” Soule says.

Al and Alma’s remains open almost year-round, with a hiatus from January to early February. The staff swells from 20 to 120 during the peak of summer. Most employees are college students and many are legacy employees working there, just as their parents did, through school break. One of Soule’s management goals is to “build a legacy staff.”

Supper clubs embrace an era of relaxed evening dining – no membership is required. This is a place to come for something extra-special. Al and Alma’s is a prime spot for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers and other special occasions. A vaulted loft with a bird’s-eye view is available for private events. On the move or entertaining big? Catering and a to-go dockside menu are other options.

For locals, Al and Alma’s is a meeting place where neighborly camaraderie swells. A welcoming feel extends to everyone, including kids. Al and Alma’s is the kind of place where they try something new, like their first steak. Sometimes parents dine inside while their children play on Chester Park’s jungle gym—within easy view.

The steak, ribs and walleye are standbys that have delighted many a diner. American-style entrées come with all the fixings. The humble bread basket, a homey touch all too often missed, makes a fitting starter. The broiled garlic cheesy bread is the star. “At one time we tried to change it, and our customers would not have it,” Soule says.

The camp-style walleye gets the outdoorsy treatment. Fried in a cast iron-skillet, it’s the kind of food that brings back memories of a family vacation at the lake. Cracker-crumb-coated walleye retains a moist flakiness. Don’t forget the signature fried brown potatoes—akin to French fries, but the whole potato.

Generous portions almost spill off the plate. “If you come to Al and Alma’s, you’ll have a big meal for sure,” Soule says. “Almost everyone leaves with something to take home, and we box it up for them.”

Throw caution to the lake breeze and indulge in dessert. Among the housemade pies, the Key lime shines with a luxuriantly creamy quality. It may be a stretch after a hearty meal, but worth the effort. “I think most of our desserts get shared,” Soule says. With coconut cream, French silk and a frozen turtle pie, no one need be left out.

The menu preserves top picks, some three generations old. Yes, there are newbies, but old standbys are still here, many just as popular today as they were in the 1950s. The reliability of the menu adds to the restaurant’s homespun feel. Traditions run deep at the longest-operating restaurant on Lake Minnetonka.
Al and Alma’s Charter Cruises
The Minnesota definition of summer includes boating. On Lake Minnetonka, a day or evening on the water is a social event. For more quality time with friends and family, kick back and let someone else do the nautical navigating. Al and Alma’s Charter Cruises have all the details covered, from customized private events to public cruises.

“Cruises are an extension of our restaurant,” Soule says. Food and beverages are part of the excursions. A fleet of six luxury charter boats offer pre-arranged public cruises and customized private cruises (call to arrange private events). All cruises require reservations and pre-payment.

Six public cruises offer a range of tour routes and dining experiences for parties of one to 15:

Signature Sunday brunch cruise: Offers memorable views of the upper Lake Minnetonka shoreline on Sundays from noon-2 p.m. $36.

Sunday-Funday cruise: A fajita bar sets the stage for south-of-the-border fun on Sundays from 4-6 p.m. $40.

Genuine Lake Minnetonka sunset cruise: Soak up the sunset in style on Friday and Saturday nights from 7-9:30 p.m. $46.

Sips and sights: Come on board for a relaxing cruise and be greeted with a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider. Monday through Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. $42.

Genuine Lake Minnetonka picnic lunch cruise: Enjoy a catered summer picnic while boating. Saturday from noon-2 p.m. $36.

Other signature cruise events: The Bella Vista hosts themed cruises throughout the season, including wine tasting, live jazz and martinis with manicures.

Rates are lower for children ages 3 to 10; children under 2 are free.

For any cruise, plan ahead for an enjoyable excursion. The season runs from May through October. Boating tip No. 1 is to dress for the weather. Soft-soled shoes are more comfortable. Bon voyage!

Better Than Ever
Davanni’s has a new environment, and the same great food.

Food trends change with the frequency of Minnesota weather, but Davanni’s is here to stay. Still, even old favorites need an update now and then. Yummy pizzas and hoagies are even better in sleek new surroundings.

The Minnetonka Davanni’s combines the old with the new in a recent remodel. Pizza fans take note: The space looks better than ever. A cavernous interior has three party rooms, a new nine-seat bar and customer-friendly updates at every turn. The makeover goes from floor to ceiling. An updated color palette creates a relaxed feel. A new retail kiosk sells frozen pizzas, jarred sauce, glassware and T-shirts.

Extra touches reflect the area’s history. Reproductions of local prints are all over the restaurant. Party rooms are named after prominent artworks. “They really draw customer’s eyes,” says Jennifer Kaufmann, operations supervisor/director of training.

Gone are the clunky old pillars and 1980s-style game room. (Kids are more inclined to play on phones these days). Traditional board games and parlor game amusements—now dubbed retro—are still available should the urge to go old-school prevail.

The restaurant has a multi-generational fan base, from customers and staff alike. The children of former employees work here. The Anderson family holds the record: Ten members had jobs here. The love of pizza spans all ages.

The Minnetonka Davanni’s ranks as a top-tier performer among the 22 restaurants the family-owned chain operates. “We decided for us it made more sense strategically to upgrade our more successful places rather than add new,” Kaufmann says.

This is not the first transformation for the building. Before Davanni’s took over the space in 1983, it was a motorcycle shop. Some remnants remain. The old knotty pine paneling is a nod to the past décor.

The latest construction took six months to complete. “We never actually closed and we are proud of that,” Kaufmann says. “Our customers during this were real champs.” A spring opening customer party celebrated the new digs.