Luke Clausen used to be an oil man. It was a difficult job made no more comfortable by the dining options around an oil field. Luke lived through many a cold sandwich in the cab of his pickup truck. When he could return to some island of civilization in the middle of nowhere, he only wanted steak. The grayish shoe leather served at dives and truck stops had to do.
Imagine a man who dreamed of great steak for decades. He would want to open the Stage Stop Saloon & Grill.
Well, reopen, in Luke’s case. As a Mandan native Luke had frequented Stage Stop long before he could run it, and he witnessed the hangout’s gradual decline over the past decade. A shrinking menu. Much-needed renovations. Luke wanted to save his favorite neighborhood bar and grill as much as he wanted his own restaurant. Two birds with one stone – he bought the place.
Now, lest you imagine Luke had tunnel vision, he had a much bigger idea than a steakhouse alone. He saw a place for everyone. Where families could enjoy a decent, personable environment to bond over great food. Where the working man and woman could shake off the dust of the day with a beer and a shot. Where the lively crowd could come after dark to play pool and listen to rock and country music and sing karaoke. Where grandmas could play bingo.
This had to start with a massive renovation, but Luke knew better than to sterilize an institution like Stage Stop. He kept its classic tin panel ceiling and other rustic accents right where they belong, yet also modernized it with giant televisions (because state code requires North Dakotans to stay up to date on football). He extended the bar so patrons wouldn’t have to scramble over each other to get the barkeep’s attention. He gave the attached 3,500 square foot liquor store a total makeover.
Luke was especially proud of how well Stage Stop’s new upstairs dining room turned out. The only problem with it, he reasoned, is that it is upstairs, so he made the restaurant completely accessible with the addition of a new elevator. Now any venerable bingo player can ascend to the action regardless of their level of mobility.
Stage Stop’s kitchen is also newly renovated and serving up cowboy haute cuisine. Stage Stop’s fresh walleye fried in buttermilk breading beats anything you could find in Minnesota, the self-proclaimed capital of the fish. The Brutus dog, a monstrously long hot dog at 22 inches, needs no greater description. Stage Stop’s beloved classic dishes remain on the menu as well. The wagon wheel pizza is still made according to its original family recipe, and the famed Wimpy burger has been upgraded to a nearly 20 percent larger patty.
But what about the steak Luke had longed for in the vast and cold oil fields? He stripped the old kitchen down to its cinder blocks to make sure his cooks had the space they needed to cut the juiciest ribeyes and sirloins in-house, and also to grill them to perfection. A Stage Stop steak is quite literally a dream realized.
Just like the entire restaurant itself.
Stage Stop Saloon & Grill is more than a family restaurant with decktop dining, or a bar with live music, or a bingo hall. It is authentic – a local man’s idea of what a North Dakotan dining establishment should be. In the wake of the very bad thing that has happened, it is more important than ever to support businesses where locals serve their own. A corporate boardroom in another time zone might think they can replicate that, but nothing will ever beat the real hometown experience that a place like Stage Stop can only keep offering with the community’s generous support.
Enjoy the finest dining and support local at 611 6th Ave SE in Mandan. You can also see Stage Stop’s menu and their upcoming special events at stagestopsaloon.com.