Red Rooster Bar and Restaurant in Long Lake has been a beloved family gathering place for over four decades, serving up classic American pub grub—from burgers and wings, to fries and rings. When local restauranteur Tim McCormick and his business partner Michael Simpson acquired the restaurant in April of this year, they were wary of making any major changes to this thriving institution.
Still, regulars at the cozy local hangout may have noticed some subtle changes that the new team has made to the décor over the past few months, as well as the less-subtle changes they have made, and continue to make, to the menu including a menu of milkshakes, in both kid-friendly and adult-only versions.
Tim McCormick is no newcomer to the restaurant industry. Together with Simpson, he has been operating McCormick’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Wayzata for the past eight years. When the long-time business partners learned that Lorraine and Dave Lundberg were looking to step down as owners of the Red Rooster after 33 years, it seemed like an obvious fit. “We were already in a place where we were looking to take on some more responsibility,” McCormick says. “We wanted to make a bigger impact in our community, and this seemed like our chance.”
Like his own family restaurant, the Red Rooster has always been “more than a restaurant,” McCormick says, praising the previous owners’ on their commitment to community service, which is integral to his mission as well. “We wanted to do what we could to carry on that tradition.”
For McCormick, being a community center means offering an easy-going lounge atmosphere, with activities and menu items to please visitors of any age, and a personable staff who are genuinely enthusiastic to serve. As the new owner, McCormick is dedicated to participating in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant and says there is a great value in being a hands-on business owner: “Being present means getting to know people, treating each interaction as more than just a transaction.” The Red Rooster has long been a supporter of local clubs and organizations such as the West Tonka Lions Club, and McCormick hopes to maintain and even expand these community connections.
“We live and work here,” he says. “We take an interest in the issues that our community cares about, and we participate if we can. I’m not out to brag, but if someone comes to see me for a donation—a raffle, a dinner for two, whatever it is—I’m going to say yes.”
While they saw a great deal to preserve, McCormick and his team also recognized that adaptability is key. Responsiveness to current tastes and trends would be fundamental to the Red Rooster’s continued success. To keep their menu relevant, he and his team have instituted a series of careful but broad-ranging changes to the food and drink offerings over the past half-year. “The Red Rooster is a local favorite, an icon,” McCormick says, recalling his first months as the new owner. “We wanted to learn as much as we could from their operation. At first, we were just trying to watch and listen and observe as much as possible.” After several months of observation, McCormick and his staff made their first round of changes, leading to what McCormick admits has been a “major overhaul.”
The new menu went into place last June, followed by a second revision in August. The menu will change seasonally “Alongside hospitality, we place a high value on the quality of our food,” McCormick explained. And for McCormick, good food means fresh food: locally-sourced ingredients with an emphasis on from-scratch preparations. “We make all our dressings, sauces and condiments from scratch now—everything: mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, Thai peanut sauce, tartar sauce. This is really hand-crafted and wholesome food. But to do that we had to bring some focus to the menu. We had to consolidate. Before, the menu was really broad, but it has now been paired down to make as many items as possible from scratch. There was a huge array of options. But, you can’t be all things to all people.”
In keeping with the Red Rooster’s reputation, burgers are key feature of the updated menu. “That’s always been what the Rooster is known for, and we’re hoping to keep it that way. We want to be the restaurant people think of when they go out for a burger,” McCormick says. The burgers are sizeable, 1/3-pound seared patties made from Minnesota-raised beef—“fresh, never frozen!” The Juicy Lucy is a favorite, served with griddled onions, pickles and molten cheese. A newer offering is the rice- and quinoa-based veggie burger, topped with caramelized onions and mozzarella cheese.
McCormick also notes a few hot sellers from the sandwich menu, including a traditional Philly Cheese Steak with house-made cheese sauce and the Walleye Sandwich, which features parmesan-crusted walleye, lettuce, tomato and the house-made tartar sauce. “If I had to recommend just one meal, it would be the Walleye,” McCormick says. He recommends pairing this with tater tots and one of the Red Rooster’s irresistible, old-fashioned malts and shakes, hand-spun from Minnesota dairy. “For me, it would have to be the Strawberry milkshake. Now, if you ask me, that is the perfect meal!”
Although trimmer than the old menu, the new dinner menu is still rich in choices. When ordering from the burger or sandwich menus, diners can customize their order with a range of sides: with a side salad, cucumber-cottage cheese salad, baked beans, fruit cup, chips, fries, onion rings, or—McCormick’s favorite—tater tots, these accompaniments run the gamut from healthy to indulgent. Tater tots are also a featured Starter and can be served either plain or “loaded”—that is, piled high with house-made pork green chili and cheddar cheese. For lighter fare, the Red Rooster also has several salads, with the most popular being the Apple Cheddar Salad and the Chop Salad—both available as wraps as well.
Recent bar guests will have noted the addition of sports memorabilia, as well as several high-definition televisions along the walls. The fourteen taps also reflect McCormick’s efforts to blend the old with the new, with no-frills classics like a Schell’s seasonal served up alongside a rotating selection of craft beers from Minnesota microbreweries including Lift Bridge, Summit and Modest. A skilled mixologist, McCormick has also added several specialty cocktails of his own to the menu, including the Cockeyed Rooster and The Bootleg (see sidebar).
In the months ahead, McCormick and his team will continue to observe and adapt. The next update is set to include expanded burger options. “We’re listening to our customers. We want to know what they like and what they want.”
THE COCKEYED ROOSTER
For a double-duty dessert, McCormick recommends this 21-and-up milkshake. Decadent and potent at once, this boozy delicacy features vanilla ice cream, Kahlua liqueur and Bacardi white rum. Whipped cream and a cherry to garnish.
This Minnesota Lakes Region original is super fresh. For your own Bootleg copy: squeeze lemon, lime, and orange juice over your choice of vodka, gin, or bourbon. Combine with a touch of cane sugar and an egg white for a creamy finish. Fresh mint tops it off. Serve iced.