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 This Lake City, Minn., eatery had been serving dishes made mostly from frozen food in an out-of-date, unadorned space, but thanks to Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team, it reopened with a fresh menu and vibrant decor to match.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. Kristal says:

    I thought that this transformation was Awesome. It made the place look a lot brighter and cheerful with a touch of heart. You have to have a good support structure to run a business, so for Robert to help them get a handle on their relationship was right on. Employees Need to be on broad for any business to be sucessful as well. Good staff/employees can be hard to find, if the right attitude is not present. Thank you Robert for helping people keep there dreams alive!

  2. Jack says:

    I just watched this remake and hope that they make it. Seeing the three young children and the late father of the wife was touching and the makeover looked very nice!
    Good Luck!

  3. simon77047 says:

    I had to stop watching. Restaurant Impossible has turned into the Dr. Phil hour. too mushy mushy

  4. mallesmom says:

    full disclosure: I have not watched the episode featuring this restaurant. That being said, I read the interview given by the couple for the local news paper I grew increasingly annoyed as I read. The couple sounds ungrateful. They complained Robert was too intense. The complained about the quality of the redesign. They more than doubled the menu that Robert left them. If they owners knew what they were doing all along, then how did they end up on RI? I can only imagine the waiting list of businesses wanting RI's help. Note to owners: Be grateful. Take the criticism and don't make any major changes right away i.e. wait 9mo to a year. Remember there's a reason you were on the show. JMO.

    • oldcarguy says:

      I just watched the show, read the review and your making a mountain out of a molehill, get over it, the interview was a true portrayal of the the show. Next time watch the show before commenting.

    • Kris says:

      The reasoning for added to the menu was because locals were complaining of not enough choices. Once the ri hype wears off, its the locals that will be making them money. Also the decor quality may have something to do with a bunch of the wooden barstools breaking.

    • Kay says:

      1. Robert can be intense. 2. Quality of redesign may have to do with all the bar stools that broke within the first week. 3. The menu had more added on to it because locals were complaining. After all the hype is done with the ri it's the locals that are going to be the ones that keep coming in to support them. I'm happy myself the menu had more added on to it. The menu that Robert created was great but it's hard to go out to eat with a young child and have nothing for them to eat besides the mac n cheese. 4. I think they are grateful it was just a lot of changes all at once. It's overwhelming. I myself think they have a lot of changes yet to make and i'm sure they will little by little.

    • Dude says:

      You're right. They are now closed.

  5. toby taylor says:

    i have been to bronk's many of times over the last 11 years as we would stop in after golf trips along the river, and you could see little by little it was slowly going down hill, it never really knew what kind of place it wanted to be, a sports bar, family place, will stop in again in spring when golf season starts and will check it out and see how business is and if the food is better, lake city needs a place like this to succeed, there are a couple places that cater to much to the yacht and sail boat wannabees, when we stop all we want is a cold beer and some good food

  6. Guest says:

    We visited Bronks on New Years Eve for the first time. The place was just lovely. It was bright and the decor was inviting. The place was a little dirty. Our booth had food and crumbs on the seat. Our waitress was charming and very kind and conscientious! We ordered the onion rings (yummy!). I really liked the spicy ketchup and honey mustard sauce. My daughter had the Reuben which was very good

  7. Rick says:

    Actually the design of the restaurant was HORRIBLE. The colors weren't coordinated and the overall look was disjointed. Robert needs an accomplished designer and needs to give them $25k.

    • jjmclure says:

      if you read Taniya's bio youll see she;s accomplished….btw…most people won't work under the time and money pressure…..their too wimpy

    • Pusser says:

      Rick, ANYONE can do a makeover with $25k. Doing a great job with an unlimited budget is not the challenge. To do so on a budget is. Get a grip on what the show is about.

    • Sharon says:

      Did you go and see the redesign, or just see it on TV. I love the redesign – not just the colors etc. but the way the restaurant feels so much better when you eat there – much more personal, cozy and inviting.

  8. Dennis says:

    We just came back from Bronk's and liked what we saw. Very good service, nice and clean. Good decor. Good food. Enjoyed talking to the owner. Next time we go to Red Wing, we will stop at Bronk's for food. Love the Food Network and being a foodie. Love the quant downtown's of older cities and Bronk's fits right in the downtown.

  9. Debra Charette says:

    Just watched the airing of Bronks and this is where I grew up so it was refreshing to see Robert help this couple be successful. Bronks was the BlueMoon in my day but its always been a favorite spot for Lake City residents. Will be sure to eat there when I return.

  10. Jeff Howell says:

    Hey Erik,
    I read alot of the posts, I havent' eaten, and I don't know Robert on any level. Here is what I know, I work in an industry that has a basis of hiring on integrity. so after 20+ years in this industry, Mr. Irvine has integrity. As far as counsiling goes, your probably better off with a guy that has integrity, than a guy that has a PHD. I wish you well, I look forward to vistiting your restaurarnt, and partaking of the fresh menu, and I am sure I will enjoy every bite. Stay strong my friend. Love your wife, be a father to your kids, and take no BS in your business.


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