Lou and Linda Radich talk more than 40 years of cooking, serving food
Lou and Linda Radich talk more than 40 years of cooking, serving food
Lou and Linda Radich broke new ground in 1975 when they dared to put pizza and other Italian dishes on a Chisago Lakes area restaurant menu. Locals of Swedish descent cautioned the couple that they might not get many patrons for cuisine from outside of Scandinavia. But as Lou and Linda looked to continue their careers after running their first restaurant in South St. Paul, they trusted that families in Lindstrom, Chisago City and other area towns were indeed ready to leave their home kitchens and dining rooms for the occasional night out for pizza.
The couple was familiar with the Chisago Lakes area after enjoying a cabin they owned on Green Lake, next to another lot owned by Lou’s parents. Lou and Linda had become parents, first welcoming their daughter, Amy, and then finally they made their permanent move north after their son, Jeff, turned 1 year old. “We had his birthday party the week that we first were open (for business),” Linda said during an interview this week. The couple introduced their Italian dishes, steaks, seafood and sandwiches in Lindstrom’s Dinnerbel.
Lou and Linda owned and operated the Dinnerbel until 1986, when they switched their attentions to Trappers restaurant, which they took over when it was located west of Wildwood campground between Shafer and Taylors Falls. They never saw the volume of patrons there over two years, like what they had enjoyed at the Dinnerbel, so the couple took a chance and hit the road – with their building. The structure was lifted and hauled 10 miles west to Chisago City. They had to build a new front porch, and replaced some porthole-sized windows on the opposite side so new patrons could gaze out and enjoy the rural landscape around Lake Martha. Lou and Linda eventually spent more than half of their careers at the “new” Trappers on the west end of Chisago’s business district.
They are retiring, and closed on a sale of the building to Jessica (Fredlund) Johnson, who was raised in Center City, and her husband, Chad. The Johnsons received a liquor license from the Chisago City Council as they prepare to open the Northern Lake Tavern and Grill, bringing with them more than 30 years combined in restaurant management. Lou and Linda appreciate the spark they have seen from the younger couple. “We’re very, very happy and fortunate to have found a couple that’s just like us,” said Lou. “It’s just really, really special.” Lou Radich grew up in South St. Paul, and after graduating high school he attended a St. Paul Technical College culinary program. He did not head out to a metro business for an internship, but rather he flew to Basel, Switzerland, where he worked as a chef’s apprentice in a posh restaurant. When the time came to return home, in February 1968, Lou made a pit stop to visit a sister who was living in Hollywood, Fla. He attended church with her, and there he met Linda, who was native to that area. “He ended up staying a couple of weeks after he met me,” Linda said. Lou told Linda of his dream to open a restaurant in Minnesota, and after a while he said that he envisioned she would be part of that plan and share his life. Back at his parents’ home in South St. Paul, Lou began writing to Linda every day.
She recalled, “I think his mother figured something was up because he didn’t like to write.” After more contact only by phone and many letters, Lou and Linda became engaged in July 1968 – “I wouldn’t move up here until we got married,” she says. They wed that September at the church in Hollywood, Fla. They opened their first kitchen in Lou’s hometown, at Armour Avenue and Concord Street, inviting the public to visit Uncle Louie’s Restaurant and Pizza Parlor. The couple started their family while living above that business. Linda says that it was just a series of rooms, rather than a real apartment, but they found more suitable accommodations with their young children on the Dinnerbel’s upper level, when they moved to Lindstrom. The couple found that along with some menu items they had served for years to guests in South St. Paul, it was also new for this area for a restaurant or any business to stay open well past dark. Lou said many metro businesses had moved to 24-hour service, but, “I think the town (of Lindstrom) shut down at 8 o’clock.”
The area’s new restaurateurs gave curious customers a chance to miss seeing the 10 p.m. news at home. “We started staying open until 11, and we were really busy,” Linda said. Halfway into their time at the Dinnerbel, the family moved out of the former hotel but they stayed in the neighborhood. The next big move, entailed hauling their Trappers building from Taylors Falls to Chisago City in three hours, between midnight and 3 a.m. on a snowy night in February 1989. Any other road traffic was detoured from the Highway 8 intersections at Pleasant Valley Road and other points as the building made its move. The couple had to pay for power lines to be removed and reconnected on the route. Linda missed the trip, as she was sleeping between shifts for a temporary job she had at the former Big Ben restaurant in White Bear Lake. But Jeff, then 14, rode “shotgun” in the truck that hauled the building away from its hilly foundation. “He called it ‘meals on wheels,’” Linda said.
After three months of renovations, they reopened Trappers on Memorial Day weekend. Lou had owned the Chisago City land for more than 10 years. “I enjoyed greeting the people (at Dinnerbel and Trappers),” Linda said. “I was very appreciative for everyone that came in. It was great getting to know them. “(Lou) did the hard work in the back, and I got to visit with the customers. I got all the compliments,” she added, noting she would make sure to walk back and tell Lou whenever patrons would express favor for one of his soups or another new dish. Lou and their staff made and presented nearly everything from scratch.
“We thank everybody for their support over the years. That is heartfully meant,” Lou said. Their words also extend to many valued employees. Linda shared much of the couple’s history in written form, where she concluded: “A few weeks ago, a couple came in (to Trappers) for dinner, and as I was talking to them, I realized that they had worked for us when they were 16 years old at the Dinnerbel. “After high school they married, and had children, and now are grandparents. That took me by surprise because I don’t feel old enough to have employed kids that are now grandparents also. “But I guess now that Lou and I have been in the restaurant business for a total of 44 years, it is time to step aside and let another young couple make their memories.
“We are looking forward to retirement and doing things together as a couple. We want to thank the community for all of the years that you supported us. We will really miss serving you, but we aren’t going anywhere because we have some soccer games to go to this summer, and seven grandchildren to spend time with,” she concluded.