At just 14 years of age, Mike Rakun found he loved to spend time in the kitchen. He often spent time cooking with his grandmother and was influenced by the likes of Julia Childs and Jacques Pépin.

And now at the ripe age of 40, the Twin Cities chef just opened his fifth restaurant – Longtrees Woodfire Grill in Alexandria. Rakun, who received his education from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, will be opening another restaurant – Mill Valley Kitchen – in downtown Alexandria inside The Rune. That restaurant is slated to open in the spring of 2022.

Longtrees, which is in the former Doolittles building along Highway 29 south, opened to the public Monday, April 19. And Rakun said his father-in-law, Rob Thompson, owner of CI Construction in Alexandria, couldn’t be happier as Thompson has been trying to get him to open a restaurant in the Alexandria lakes area for many years.

Rakun said that Thompson happened to own the building and when Doolittles closed down, it was the perfect opportunity to get him to open a restaurant in this area.

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Rakun’s wife, Abby, was raised in the Alexandria area and attended St. Mary’s Catholic School. During a media preview night Friday, April 16, Abby and Mike Rakun both noted that Longtrees tries to incorporate locally sourced food whenever possible.

“The closer it is, the fresher it is, the better it is,” said Abby.

Longtrees Woodfire Grill features signature items such as this grilled sausage plate. The new Alexandria restaurant, owned by Mike and Abby Rakun, is now open. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Longtrees Woodfire Grill features signature items such as this grilled sausage plate. The new Alexandria restaurant, owned by Mike and Abby Rakun, is now open. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Mike said although the menu will feature its signature staple items, he plans to transition some dishes with the seasons, incorporating locally hunted, harvested and foraged ingredients. He added that field-and-forest-to-table ingredients are the bread and butter of his scratch kitchen. Menu items include bison steakhouse burger, Kadejan Farms rotisserie chicken, Comfrey Farms double cut pork chop plus a grilled sausage plate, garlic monkey bread or even a hot pastrami and kraut sandwich.

Chicken wings are just one of the appetizer items found at Longtrees Woodfire Grill, the new restaurant in Alexandria. It officially opened to the public on Monday, April 19. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Chicken wings are just one of the appetizer items found at Longtrees Woodfire Grill, the new restaurant in Alexandria. It officially opened to the public on Monday, April 19. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

The drink menu includes what the company barman, Dan Newkirk, has labeled cock tales because “behind every good cocktail is a great story.” And there are stories behind many of the restaurant's drinks, which include the Big Ole, Valhalla, Blood and Runestone, and Swedish Geppetto.

The namesake of the restaurant is a mythical man, Tom Longtree. A St. Paul native from the turn of the 20th century, fable has it that he left behind his life in the city to pursue a new life living off the land, working with his hands and reveling in the bounty of the great Minnesota North. His adventures and way of life are the inspiration for the restaurant that highlights the best of the wild’s offerings, said Rakun.

Bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers are just one of the items on Longtrees Woodfire Grill's appetizer menu. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)
Bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers are just one of the items on Longtrees Woodfire Grill's appetizer menu. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)