Restaurant Revisited: Bronk’s Bar and Grill

by in Shows, December 5th, 2012

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleFacing the imminent closure of their 11-year-old restaurant, Bronk’s Bar and Grill, husband and wife owners, Erik and Tracy Brunkow, turned to Robert Irvine for help in saving their business. This Lake City, Minn., eatery had been serving dishes made mostly from frozen food in an out-of-date, unadorned space, but thanks to Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team, it reopened with a fresh menu and vibrant decor to match. We checked in with Erik a few months after the transformation to see how Bronk’s is doing now.

Immediately after the renovation, sales at Bronk’s grew significantly, doubling during weekdays and tripling on weekends. Erik says that customers have come from near and far to see and taste the changes, and everyone is wowed by the updated decor. “They say it’s brighter, fresher and more open,” he explains. “People are noticing our tin ceiling all of a sudden, which was there originally.”

Bronk’s is still serving the updated menu exclusively, and Erik notes that they’re using only fresh, never-frozen ingredients. He adds that the specialty sauces that Robert created have been extremely well-received by diners. “People want us to bottle them and sell them at the store.”

Since Erik has taken on full responsibility of Bronk’s, he says that he’s able to make decisions more quickly and easily. “I feel I have a better grasp of the whole running of the restaurant. Issues get taken care of a lot faster because I’m there all the time and I don’t have to ask Tracy for her opinion.” He admits that his and Tracy’s relationship is still a “work in progress,” but explains that he and his family have been sure to spend quality time together on Sundays. Tracy is still working at Bronk’s but only one day a week.

Reflecting on his Restaurant: Impossible experience, Erik tells us that he’s especially impressed with the impact the renovation has had on the community. “Many businesses in town say that we have inspired them to take a look at their own businesses and take time out to make new changes.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Rohrer’s Tavern (November 28)
Poco’s on the Boulevard (November 21)
Oleander Bar and Grill (October 17)
Valley Inn (October 10)
Whistle Stop (October 3)
The Maple Tree Cafe (September 26)
Michele’s (September 19)
Paliani’s Restaurant (September 12)
Frankie’s (September 5)
Gusanoz (August 29)
Stella’s (August 8)
Italian Village (August 1)
Zandi’s (July 25)
The Main Dish (July 18)
Longbranch Steak and Seafood (July 11)
Horton’s Kids (June 13)
Pollard’s (May 30)
University Grill (May 23)
Ristorante Barolo (May 16)
Pappas (May 9)
Mama Lee’s (May 2)
Pelican Grill (April 25)
Valley View (March 14)

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Comments (144)

  1. Jay Sullivan says:

    Me, my wife and 4 1/2 year old son drove the 40 some miles from Eagan, Mn to Bronk's in Lake City today (Aug. 3) because we faithfully watch Restaurant Impossible and needed to personally see a place that the show helped. We had to circle the block a few times to find it because of our unfamiliarity with the town but that was the only negative. The atmosphere was bright and we felt part of the show in some weird way. Our food was excellent (don't pass on the cheese curds) and service was friendly and attentive. I got to walk around and talk to some of the servers about the experience of Robert Irvine; there was even a photo book with detailed info. (We wonder if R:I does this for everyone?) Before we were done eating we met the owner, Erik, who I asked if Irvine was as intimidating as he seems on tv. It was a great experience and we expect to return to Lake City for the view and to Bronk's for the food again.

  2. Doris72 says:

    I've always wanted to eat at one of the restaurants from R:I. Tonight (Sep 8, 2013) I got my chance. Happy to report that, on a Sunday night and just a few customers at the bar, the service was perfect and the food fantastic. Usually when you see a "bar and grill" restaurant you expect greasy burgers. My party ordered the turkey burger with basil and feta, hamburgers and the tenderloin medallion salad. ALL the food was fresh and very tasty. My dad loved the spicy ketchup. I ordered the tenderloins to be cooked just beyond medium thinking I would get something too rare or way overcooked. They were EXACTLY the way I ordered it. The place was nice and clean. Will most definitely go back on another visit. Hopefully the owners will see this post and update their web site so people can post comments on that.

  3. Mustang Sally says:

    I was wondering what happened to all that frozen food too. My guess is they donated it to a food bank and wrote it off their business taxes.

    The wife was going to work at the restaurant less and focus on her teaching job and her kids. But it seems like whoever is managing the staff is not making them give good service and letting them sit at the bar on duty. Maybe the wife should give up the teaching job and go back to the restaurant (but this time full-time) and kick some butt on the staff to improve the service/promptness before the entire restaurant goes under and they have to file for bankruptcy. Otherwise, all their hard work and the contributions of R.I. will go to waste.

  4. Deneen says:

    Was there today for the first time and found out that they are closing in a couple of weeks. 10/26/13

  5. Steve S. says:

    Went to Lake City last Sunday and Bronk's was closed. We were told by a local that they closed 3 weeks ago due to lack of business.

    • Dave says:

      We also went to Bronk's and sure enough it's closed for good so the sign says on the door, pity not a lot left in that town to see now .

      • Dude says:

        Not all cities can thrive. Some must die. That's just the way it is and has always been throughout history. Some are created for mining or milling originally, and when those industries go away, if nothing substantial replaces them, the towns go too. C'est la vie.

  6. Ex Employee says:

    The Bronks bar and grill is completly shut down. Business never picked up after the remodel. That place needed more then some IKEA furniture and a menu that suited Lake city more, as a previous employee I know how Eirk and Tracy are and I know what they will never change their ways. Erik also failed to mention his anger issues while cooking in the kitchen. If you look at any of the freezers or coolers in the background they are all beaten up and dented badly. That's mostly from Erik himself, having temper tantrums and not being the "layed back" guy that they say he is. He has even drop-kicked a bucket full of batter accross the kitchen and yelled at the staff to clean up that f**ing mess. There was so much more needed to turn this place arround. Sorry Chef Irving but your show just wasted a bunch of food and $10,000. I do belive a lot of the food was donated to the local Food shelf in lake city to help those in need.

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