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Garfield Diner fulfills a dream

Garfield Diner recently opened in the building that used to be Jo Jo's Cafe.

In 1927, John and Peter Delmonico went against the grain by opening a restaurant in New York City that offered different foods set at different prices.

At the time, this service was unknown for people in the U.S. who only ate out of the house when guests were present.

In these cases, they went to inns where food was served at a specific time and everyone ate the same thing.

But the brothers saw promise in their idea. They operated their restaurant with a policy to serve only the very best - a concept that has been the foundation for the restaurant industry - and the motivation in many chefs' minds, including Chef Dan Soden who recently opened a restaurant in Garfield.

"We take pride in the quality of our food and our exceptional customer service," Soden said about his newly formed restaurant and six employees.

Though his dream of owning a small town restaurant by his cabin on Lake Ida did not become reality until 2011, his love for cooking began at a very young age.

Growing up, Soden, also known as Chef Dano, studied for three years in Germany, and worked 41 years in culinary with 35 years of experience as an executive chef in hotels and country clubs.

Currently, he is the executive chef at Andes Tower Hills.

But in August of 2010, Soden set his eyes on a rustic brick building in Garfield - the former Jo Jo's Café. After six months of renovation, Soden's goal was finally accomplished in March of 2011 - the Garfield Diner was opened.

Soden is the owner, head chef and dishwasher.

"I haven't been a waitress yet," Soden laughed, "but that's because we can't find a skirt that fits me."

Still, his cooking is more then expertise.

Some of the most famous breakfast dishes at the Diner are eggs Benedict, the Garfield omelet and create your own breakfast. Along with hash browns that are made daily with baby red potatoes and the largest caramel rolls in the county.

Unlike some restaurants in other areas, all of the Garfield Diner's food is homemade and fresh.

"So much now, we see pre-made, frozen and instant foods," Soden said. "Here, everything from soups and salsa to sandwiches and desserts are made fresh."

Over the years, Soden has formed numerous recipes - all of which have found their way onto the Garfield Diner's menu. And still, he constantly continues to make new ones.

"The menu is entirely new, but it is always open to customer's opinions and needs," Soden emphasized.

Some of the other highlights on the menu are the Dano Burger, German Reuben Soup, Greek Gyro and Taco Salad.

Aside from normal hours, the Garfield Diner also caters up to 64 people and, in the future, would love to serve dinner if his customers want him to.

Along with the food, Soden has made improvements to the building.

"When the building was first constructed in 1938 it was a barber shop on one side and a bar on the other. Some years later it became a café," he noted. "Since I bought it, I've put in all new plumbing, electrical and décor."

The diner now gives off a homey feel with the mint green walls, wood paneling floral curtains and tablecloths.

On the outside, a white and red awning stretches over picnic chairs and white-bordered windows.

Stepping through the door, Garfield residents and tourists visit the diner regularly.

"I actually think the regulars have their names etched underneath the tables," Soden joked. But then added that he also gets a lot of people from out of town who hear about his diner.

Either way, Soden's goal of opening his own diner was achieved. And whether his customers come from out of town or are residents, order the baby red hash browns or a Philly steak sandwich, Soden is happy to serve them quality food - a true example that after 184 years, Delmonico's ideas and concepts have lived on.

The Garfield Diner

Phone: 320-834-2660

Address: 107 State Street South Garfield, MN 56332 -

4 miles east of the Garfield exit on Interstate 94

(right off the Viking Bike Trail).

Hours: Tuesday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.