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Published June 22, 2011, 12:00 AM

Lakeside Hangouts: Sunlite Bar and Grill on Little Floyd builds a devoted following

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Sunlite Bar and Grill opened in 1956 as a ladies hair salon, gas station and grocery store on Little Floyd Lake about four miles north of here.

By: Heidi Shaffer, INFORUM

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Sunlite Bar and Grill opened in 1956 as a ladies hair salon, gas station and grocery store on Little Floyd Lake about four miles north of here.

When husbands began drinking beer around a freezer as they waited for their wives to get their hair styled, the place became a bar.

Today, Sunlite still houses a small grocery store and full-service bar, but the restaurant is better known for serving up lakeside burgers and other grill fare to families, tourists and locals who make Detroit Lakes both their summer and year-round home.

When owner Wayne Crawford and his family purchased Sunlite in 1999, he wanted to take the business from making 70 percent of sales on liquor to more of a family hangout.

“When we bought it, I had three very small children,” Crawford said. “I wanted it to be a place that anybody could walk in and feel comfortable.”

It’s that laid-back atmosphere that keeps the place busy all day year-round, said Gus Weber, who lives near Big Floyd Lake.

“We’re very comfortable here,” said Belva Grindberg, who lives on nearby Cotton Lake and stops at Sunlite once or twice a week with her husband, Ralph.

“It’s a place where anybody can come and feel welcome, whether you’re dressed up in a suit and tie or you come in a swimsuit with flip-flops,” Crawford said.

Craig Kinsella of Bemidji and his friend Ryan Nelson stopped in for a quick meal after a round of golf at the Iron Man course across the highway.

Fishing boats and pontoons often dock for a quick bite to eat behind the restaurant, where diners can take in views of Little Floyd on an outdoor patio while enjoying a fresh ground-beef burger – priced at $5.75 to $8.

Sunlite’s burger basket with fries is probably the most popular menu item, but the restaurant also offers a selection of fish, pizza, chicken and bison burgers, said Crawford, who owns the business with his wife’s cousin Brent Beck.

The family-owned and operated business is looking to attract an even wider following later this summer by expanding its parking lot across the highway and putting in a second dock on Middle Floyd Lake.

Crawford, who grew up just down the street from Sunlite, gets help from his whole family.

His wife, Kathy, daughter Amy, niece Krysti and brother Ron all pitch in behind the bar and grill, and bus tables. Crawford’s 15-year-old son Brady and 14-year-old daughter Katie lend a hand doing dishes.

Sunlite is open daily at 10:30 a.m. and closes at 1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sundays and Mondays.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511


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