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THE EATBEAT: Top-rate cooking, friendly service at Winger’s Depot Cafe

You feel — for all the world — like you are sitting in a depot from days long ago. And the restaurant in Winger, Minn., is in fact the restored depot from years long gone.

It houses a wine shop and a food market along with a restaurant called the Depot Cafe.

And now that the lake season is opening, there are more cars pulling up in front. More people who want to eat at the Depot are out and about.

One of them on a recent weekday was Bonnie Stewart, of nearby Fosston, Minn. She comes often, bringing a friend, and ordering a Reuben sandwich. That is a best seller because it’s done just right in the kitchen where Renae Sistad is the head cook. The grilled Reuben is served on marble rye bread. Some lunch customers split it and order side salads.

The menu is pleasing with a homemade soup of the day. Salads are over and above average because the cafe bothers to go beyond plain white lettuce and serves a pleasing variety of greens.

We found the salads just right when Sue Huus (SH), and I drove over for lunch. While my wild rice soup was thick and good, it was a tad too salty. Overall, SH and I agreed the menu and quality of the food was well worth the drive.

New owners of the restaurant are Jody and Nathan Anderson, who also farm in the area. They bought it from Quinn Olson who has taken over the bakery at nearby McIntosh, Minn., and supplies baked goods.

Jody Anderson is an enthusiastic restaurateur who counts on her husband to occasionally help with cooking. She has had years of experience in restaurants in the Fargo area.

She likes the stream of business at Winger. And she counts on the hearty appetites of faithful customers from the nearby stockyard. They come in to eat during the sales on Saturdays.

There’s a cattlemen’s breakfast ($8.95) that includes three farm fresh eggs, three strips of bacon, two sausage patties with crispy hash browns and toast.

Other breakfast specialties are biscuits and gravy with eggs. And the Depot has its own version of French toast — creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

The restaurant is roomy and homey with a counter and booths as well as a dining area with tables and chairs near a fireplace. And there is a train bulletin on the wall.

Located eight miles south of Erskine, Minn., the Depot draws summer visitors. It is near McIntosh on Highway 2, a place that attracts area travelers. Along with a bakery, McIntosh has the B&B Cafe, a grocery store and a meat market to attract area shoppers and travelers. Neil’s Meats has been drawing area customers and travelers on the highway ever since Neil and Carol Bursheim bought it 43 years ago.

Quinn Olson features Grandma Nellie’s Orange Rolls along with other pastries and breads at the bakery. The interior has been revamped into an inviting place to sit and drink coffee.

Olson sells baked goods to the Depot Cafe in Winger. And he keeps an inviting counter in McIntosh full of blueberry fritters, strawberry Bismarcks, raised glazed and maple donuts, monster cookies and cinnamon twists.

Depot Cafe, Winger, Minn.

Owners: Jody and Nathan Anderson.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Seating: 50 to 55.

For reservations: (218) 938-4646.

Report card: An exceptionally good small-town restaurant with personality. Top rate cooking in unusual depot surroundings is a draw. Prices in line. Service is friendly.

Reach Hagerty at or (701) 772-1055.