Burnsville Ale House opens in familiar location
dream for veteran
Wendy Karn’s bar and restaurant has seen many operators come and go while sometimes fighting a reputation as a rowdy biker hangout.
But this bar and restaurant, Karn’s first as an owner after her nearly three decades in the business, spoke to her.
“It was time,” Karn said. “And when I walked in here, I sat at the bar right over here and I just looked around and saw what was possible. Aside from that fact that there was nobody even in here, I liked the feeling of it.”
Karn and a partner, Kirk Berg of Bloomington, own the Burnsville Ale House, former site of the short-lived The Edge Bar and Grill. They bought the building at 3809 Highway 13 W. in January and kept The Edge going before closing briefly and reopening as the Burnsville Ale House on April 14.
Karn and Berg gave the place an interior makeover and were careful to include “Burnsville” in the new name.
“My general feeling was this had been a little alienated from the community, and I wanted to bring it back into the community and soften its image a little bit,” Karn said.
She grew up in Mendota Heights, where she remembers her father taking her to a local establishment called Dandy’s and ordering her a kiddy cocktail while he had bourbon.
“That was the beginning of my love of the bar-restaurant business,” Karn said.
She transferred from Sibley to Burnsville High School for her senior year, graduating in 1981. Karn then drove bus for a while in School District 191, sometimes celebrating happy hour with workmates at the very bar she now owns.
Before long she was working at La Fonda’s Restaurant in Eagan, another Highway 13 landmark. Then Karn went to work for the Jennings family in St. Louis Park. Over a dozen years she managed each of the family’s restaurants on Excelsior Boulevard — Jennings Red Coach Inn, Gippers and Timothy O’Toole’s.
After a stint as an opening consultant and later bartender for the Champp’s in Richfield, Karn went to work for Linda Young, who owned the Axel’s restaurants, including Axel’s River Grille in Mendota, which Karn managed.
She followed Young a brief stretch up Sibley Memorial Highway (Highway 13) to her new place, Lucky’s 13 Pub in Mendota, which Karn also managed.
Then she was hired to open the Crave Restaurant location in St. Louis Park, which asked her to stay and manage. Karn was eventually transferred to the Crave in Edina’s Galleria.
“And during my stint there, I started looking for a place, and voila,” Karn said on a recent afternoon at the Burnsville Ale House.
Businesses that preceded the Ale House include Renegades (which preceded The Edge), Southside Music Cafe, Toohey’s, Jose’s and even the old Mr. Steak restaurant chain.
Karn and Berg tried to brighten up the place.
“I told everybody it looked like an industrial man cave,” Karn said. “I just wanted to soften it up and make it warm and welcoming. All you can do then is just hope and pray that people like it.”
They removed the stage and rigging from the south end of the L-shaped interior. That brought in daylight from previously hidden windows.
Berg, who works in commercial construction, built all new tables and booths, Karn said.
“I think there were 11 tables in here when we bought it, and there were hardly any chairs,” she said. “I think there’s 33 (tables) now.”
Bare steel paneling on the lower walls and on the bar was painted brown and stained for a warm feeling. Some new ceiling tiles were added, and “gallons and gallons and gallons of paint,” Karn said.
A lower, built-in platform will now serve as the stage for what Karn described as “smaller-venue” acts playing classic rock, blues and acoustical music. The Wayback Whens will launch a new series of bookings on June 9.
“And we do it a little earlier than most places,” Karn said. “We do it from 7 to 11.”
The full menu includes $6.95 lunch specials.
“The food is fantastic,” Karn said. “Our burgers are called ‘beer burgers’ — all of them are made with Guinness and seasonings. … The meatloaf sliders are probably the hit of the menu so far.”
“This is a bike run,” Karn said, gesturing toward Highway 13. “Of course we want you to come in.”
The previous operator, Steve Higgins of The Edge, said in an interview last August that the Renegades period brought a concentration of biker clientele.
“It was too exclusive,” he told Thisweek Newspapers. “According to police, they said it got to be a little rowdy toward the end.”
Karn said there’s room for all.
“I want them (bikers) to feel at home and I want everybody else to feel at home,” she said. “I don’t want people to be afraid of it anymore. … I haven’t had one stitch of trouble since I’ve been here.”