One of the city's most popular eateries has a new proprietor.
Lefti's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, 2001 Second Ave. N., is now owned by Steve Fuller, who was until recently the general manager and golf pro at the Fort Dodge Country Club.
Fuller said he took over the helm at Lefti's from the previous owners, Merrill and Theresa Leffler, on May 6. He said the name of the establishment and the menu will remain unchanged.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Steve Fuller, left, the new owner of Lefti’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill,, stops to chat with customers Marsha and Jim Royster, of Duncombe, during a recent visit to the restaurant for lunch. Lefti's is located at 2001 Second Ave. N. in Fort Dodge.
"The (Lefflers) had just changed the menu in February. It's a very good menu and people are happy with it, so we're not going to change it," Fuller said. "I'd call it a sports-bar type menu - sandwiches, burgers, chicken, pizza, paninis, wrapped sandwiches."
The restaurant and bar is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fuller said food service is available continuously during those hours.
Lefti's has seating for 75 indoors and features an outdoor patio that is open as weather permits. Fuller said the patio can accommodate about 20 people and helps set the restaurant apart from the competition.
"It is very popular," he said.
Sports fans find Lefti's an attractive venue because it is outfitted with seven televisions that make watching an event easy from just about anywhere one might choose to sit. Additionally, since the screens are fed by five different receivers, Fuller said it is not difficult to accommodate customers with competing viewing interests.
Fuller, who grew up in Fort Dodge and graduated from St. Edmond Catholic High School in 1984, has spent most of his adult life in the golf world. He said, however, that the chance to purchase Lefti's was too good a career option to pass up.
"I enjoyed what I did, but it was just time for a change. I had been doing that for a long time," Fuller said. "This was a good opportunity. The Lefflers built up good business here. This restaurant has a good neighborhood feel about it."
He said the previous owners built an excellent enterprise staffed by a superb group of 20 employees who will now be part of his team.
"The Lefflers set the bar very high," Fuller said. "My goal is to maintain that and try to exceed it."
His immediate agenda for Lefti's is quite straightforward.
"I just want to provide excellent food, excellent service and a great, fun atmosphere," Fuller said.
The clientele at Lefti's is diverse and includes many regulars.
"It draws from the whole city," Fuller said. "Like last night we had a whole table of high school girls in here and Tuesday we had a group of regular seniors that comes in."
As a very hands-on owner, Fuller said he understands that one challenging part of the restaurant business is the long hours. He said, however, he particularly enjoys the customer interaction aspect of his new career.
"I like to meet new people," Fuller said. "When you are standing behind the bar or walking around, you can hear people laughing. I like that."
Meet Steve Fuller
After graduating from St. Edmond, Fuller continued his education at Iowa Central Community College. Then it was on to Lake Panorama National Golf Course for his first assistant golf pro job. He was there from 1986 to 1988.
"Then I was in Okoboji at Brooks Golf Course for nine years as director of golf," Fuller said. In 1998 I was in Arizona. Then I came back (to Fort Dodge). I was back in 1999."
Fuller was a key part of the staff team at the Fort Dodge Country Club for 14 years. He said he now has no role there except playing golf recreationally.
As someone who has spent much of his life in Fort Dodge, Fuller said he is enthused about the economic boom the town is experiencing and expects that its continuation will be good news for his business.
"There are a lot of great things going on in Fort Dodge right now," he said.
And with respect to Lefti's, Fuller has a welcoming message for potential patrons.
"Come on in and try it. Give us a chance," he said. "We're happy to prove ourselves to you."