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Published August 10, 2011, 12:00 AM

Lakeside hangouts: A lesson in lakeside living

Ye Olde School House serves up good food, relaxing vibe
ERHARD, Minn. – When regulars walk in the door of the Ye Olde School House, owner and chef Bryan Stetz knows what they’re going to want.

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

ERHARD, Minn. – When regulars walk in the door of the Ye Olde School House, owner and chef Bryan Stetz knows what they’re going to want.

But Stetz said he tries not to be presumptuous, so instead, the man known as “Sumo” greets them with a big smile and a baritone “What can I get ya?”

It’s not just the nostalgic atmosphere of a renovated schoolhouse or large portions at small prices that keep many of the residents and visitors around the Anderson, Tonseth or Kempfer lakes area coming back. Instead, most say it’s Stetz.

“It’s just a fun place to come. Also the fun is him: Sumo. He’s a good person to know,” said customer Karan Johnson.

“It’s the camaraderie,” said customer Scott Meder. “The food’s great; the service is always good. We’re all family here.”

The former rural schoolhouse saw its last class in 1976 before it was renovated into a restaurant by former owners.

Inside, black-and-white class photos are hung on the walls, with a few of the last color pictures believed to be remembrances of the last graduating classes.

In May 2009, Stetz – a former professional chef – bought the Ye Olde School House and began to modernize the building while keeping the home-style feel and menu. He also saw a method to fulfill a lifelong dream.

“I wanted to smoke and sell but I was running down the road so much I never got a chance to do it,” Stetz said.

He now specializes in smoked items such as ribs, chicken and beans.

“People don’t smoke beans anymore, but I do that,” he said.

Although smoked items may be a customer favorite, the Ye Olde School House carte is varied, with burgers and sandwiches to chimichangas and “surprise fries” which change periodically.

“I pick something different just about every time,” said customer Donna Johnson.

Homemade soups also vary, but all are made from garden fresh items, many of which are brought to Stetz by regular patrons from their own gardens.

Stetz said his busiest time is usually in the evenings. Although regulars frequent the Ye Olde School House, newcomers are welcomed with the same warm greetings from Stetz and fellow guests.

“We look at the guest book and they’re from all over,” Stetz said.

Stetz continues to upgrade the building as well. Last month, he built a new ramp to the front door and outdoor deck for easy access.

The fun Stetz creates inside, has spilled over to the décor outside, where he has painted a mobile home school-bus yellow.

As the summer progresses, Stetz plans to continue painting the mobile home, eventually adding a mural of children to look like a school bus next to the school house.

Customers say it’s just another way his sense of humor boils past the doors of the Ye Old School House.

“We can josh with him whenever we come here,” Johnson said. “The food, the atmosphere, everyone is friendly, and we love it.”

If you go

What: Ye Olde School House

When: Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday,


Where: 24028 Emery Drive, Erhard, Minn.

Info: Specialties include smoked ribs, chicken and chops. Indoor seating as well as deck seating. Handicap accessible.

For more information: Call (218) 842-5588 or go online to Facebook.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

Click here for previously featured Lakeside Hangouts