SUNBURG - For nearly two years there was no place in Sunburg to get a cup of coffee, a hot breakfast or a hearty dish of Norwegian klub that had always been the Tuesday noon special at the small town's cafe.
Sunburg's only restaurant, which was built and equipped by the city in 2004 and has been leased to a series of individuals, closed in December of 2016.
That left the farming town of about 100 residents in the far northwest corner of Kandiyohi County without a common meeting place to share food and solve the problems of the world.
"It's been tremendously missed," said City Clerk Nancy Feldman. "People have just been missing the fellowship and socializing."
That changed on Saturday when a new operator opened the doors of the cafe once again.
"I love to cook and make people happy," said Dustan Jones, who was thrilled that 75 people came to eat that first day thanks to word-of-mouth advertising and a community eager to have their home cafe open again.
Jones, of Willmar, decided in early November to run the business and has spent the last few weeks doing an inventory of equipment, ordering supplies and meeting with community leaders to find out what people in Sunburg want to eat.
With past experience as a chef and restaurant owner in the region, Jones said he intends to slowly add his specialty items to the menu, like smoked ribs and pasta with homemade sauces.
But he said there will always be community favorites on the menu - including klub that was served on the first Tuesday he was open.
"It's good," said a man who was halfway through eating the two large potato dumplings with a side of ham.
Jones said the Sunburg City Council went the extra mile to help him get the business started. "They're great people," he said of the city leaders.
Feldman said the community is more than thrilled to have the cafe open again and people are coming in the door.
"It's a real asset," she said, adding that steady support by patrons is needed to keep the business going.
Feldman said the City Council had been advertising statewide for two years seeking someone to operate it. In the meantime the city paid to heat and maintain the cafe, which is connected with a hallway to the town's small assisted living facility.
The absence of a cafe all this time meant senior citizens living in the facility could not have a meal out and the 20 children in the town's Norwegian preschool program had to get their noon meals elsewhere.
Jones said he hopes to eventually provide meals for the school and senior facility. Because there is no grocery store in town and the only gas station burned down four years ago, Jones said he may also stock a few items such as milk and bread.
The cafe's name has changed with every new operator. It currently has the Norwegian name of Kaffestua but Jones is changing it to the Sunburg Sportsman's Cafe.
It's open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, call 320-366-3465.