The Hitching Post: great food, friendly service, minutes away


The Hitching Post is conveniently situated between Clearwater and Annandale on Hwy. 24.

Stacy and Donny Handeland (center), with employees Ashley Gries, Amy Ellestad, Tracy Rapinac, Josh Glunz (standing), Crystal Long and Lisa Beuning, converge at a corner of the Hitching Post’s newly expanded bar.

Waitresses Rachael Miller (foreground) and Bridget Beckman exemplify the Hitching Post’s amiable work ethic, serving up great food with friendly smiles. “If the Hitching Post isn’t your favorite place to eat, then you’ve never been here.”

A grinning Muskie at the front door adds a local touch to a friendly welcome.

The Hitching Post is a popular spot for people of all ages to gather, relax and unwind. (Photos by Katie Friedman)

 

Spring has sprung, and the welcome mat is out at the Hitching Post, where a newly-remodeled bar and dining area combine to set the perfect backdrop for relaxing over a refreshing drink and a delicious meal.
 
Conveniently located between Clearwater and Annandale on Hwy. 24, the Hitching Post has built a strong reputation for its fine food and friendly atmosphere. Donny and Stacy Handeland invite Maple Lake-area residents to take a short drive and discover what many of their neighbors already know – that good eating and top-notch service are really just minutes away.
 
“We’re just nine miles from Maple Lake,” said Donny. “We’re proud to be one of Maple Lake’s favorite spots to go.”
 
As general manager and head chef, Donny’s been at the Hitching Post’s helm for three of the four years it’s been open. His brother, Tom, who runs a similar establishment in Marshall as well as LeRoy’s in Cottonwood, took ownership of the former Lake Center Bar and Grill in April 2011. From its inception, the Hitching Post has been a busy place – a popular spot for people of all ages to gather, relax and unwind.
 
Specialties served with pride
 
Starting out in the late 70s, the Handeland brothers share nearly four decades of restaurant industry experience. Donny – who honed his culinary skills at St. Cloud Technical and Community College before cooking at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Lincoln Del – is proud to offer a generous menu that includes everything from the great American staples to a couple of his own mouthwatering in-house specialties.
 
“We have our own smoker now,” Donny said. “We smoke beef brisket in the kitchen, and we serve beef brisket sandwiches in two different styles. It’s really good – it’s delicious.” 
 
In addition to several new sauces and a new chicken dish that’s “fantastic,” Donny said, “We cook our own ribs here, too. And we make each one of our rib dishes per order – they’re not kept hot on a steam table all day.” 
 
A two-time spare rib blue-ribbon winner at Taste of Buffalo, Handeland takes his reputation for making excellent food in stride, but not for granted. His menu, he said, is in a constant process of re-evaluation and change, and new items are added on a regular basis.
 
An intrepid staff of about 20 employees adds its own personal touches to the Hitching Post’s warm ambience, providing great food with attentive service.
“Our staff is really good,” said Donny. “They are unmatched, if you ask me. They are experienced, they’re well-rounded. We have great bartenders and great servers. They really are excellent. I’m very proud of all of them.”
 
His wife, Stacy, manages the wait staff and handles administrative duties.
“Stacy is the glue of the place,” Donny said. “Without her, we’d crumble.”
 
Positive change 
 
The Hitching Post underwent a tasteful remodeling process over the winter, closing for the month of February and reopening in March with a floor plan that’s more open and yet, more intimate, as well.
 
Most notable is the expanded bar: Converted from an L-shape to something more like a horseshoe, it seats nearly twice as many people as before, and is much more conducive to eye contact and conversation. 
 
“The new bar is beautiful,” Donny said. “People love it. It’s changed our whole bar crowd. People who never sat here before sit here all the time now. By having three corner areas, four people can sit and talk to each other at each one. It’s really changed the whole character of our bar, and it’s really increased our bar crowd, too.” 
 
The Hitching Post features a Happy Hour from 4-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and meat raffles every Saturday at 2:30 p.m. On Tuesday nights, customers are invited to play Keys for Cash, a free-to-play progressive jackpot, with a drawing at 7:30 p.m. 
 
Groups are always welcome, as are parties and celebrations. Catering service is also available, either pickup or onsite, for backyard barbecues, weddings, grad parties and more. The Hitching Post can be found at 10480 State Hwy. 24 NW. Kitchen hours are 4-9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 320-274-5400.
 
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