One of Fort Dodge's most popular restaurants is about to open at a new location.
The Cellar Restaurant and Lounge, long housed at 116 Kenyon Road in the Budget Host Inn, is moving into one of the town's most historic buildings - the former clubhouse at the Fort Dodge Country Club. Built in 1911, that building now is in its second century as a local landmark.
Bernard Condon, who owns The Cellar, purchased the clubhouse.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Bernard Condon looks over what will soon be the dining room at The Cellar, which is moving into the former clubhouse at the Fort Dodge Country Club.
It has undergone an extensive renovation and shortly will be ready to welcome patrons as his restaurant's spectacular new home. Condon said he expects the new location to be ready by Friday.
The former dining room in the clubhouse will be The Cellar's main dining room with seating for about 100. The former ballroom will be a location for special catered events and can accommodate about 150 guests. There will be a lounge where the Country Club's lounge was once located and an outside patio area adjacent to the lounge.
The renovation of the building, which Condon emphasized has been handled by local contractors, has been extensive. He said all the public areas have been upgraded. The kitchen was gutted and rebuilt. Restrooms have been redone. The air conditioning has been updated. Everything has been brought into sync with the latest code requirements for a business of this type.
"We're making it wheelchair-accessible everywhere," Condon said, as one example.
As for the decor, the owner characterized it as "modern traditional - upscale but not too formal."
Condon said he is delighted to be able to move his restaurant and lounge to a dramatic location that has been an important part of the story of Fort Dodge for more than a century.
"I love this building," he said. "It's a historical landmark. I'm very excited about it. It's such a neat building. This is an old building, solid. ... I remember in high school, we had our winter dance here. I thought it was the coolest place I had ever seen. ... You're looking out over the city of Fort Dodge and the Des Moines River."
In addition to the city and river views from the ballroom and patio, the dining room overlooks the golf course.
While much of the building's interior will have a new look. Condon said he has intentionally kept the lounge area similar in appearance to what past patrons of the Country Club will recall.
"We're leaving it like the golf course had it. I wanted leave something that was similar," he said, noting that pictures that are property of the Country Club will be on the lounge walls.
"They own these pictures, but they are going to store them here," Condon said.
Additionally, a downstairs area that once housed what the Country Club called "The 19th Hole" is being reworked to feature its brick walls and a fireplace that was uncovered during the renovation. Condon said this area might become a wine cellar, but he is still evolving plans for it.
The menu at The Cellar essentially will be unchanged, but Condon said it is always a work in progress. It has steaks and seafood items that have been customer favorites over the years, but also includes fish and pasta.
For two decades, outstanding steak dinners have been an important part of what keeps customers coming back to The Cellar. That will remain a priority at the new venue.
Condon said that longtime patrons will find both the menu and the staff team familiar.
"We've already hired some new staff, otherwise most will be transferring," he said.
Condon said he hopes both The Cellar's regular clientele and people who may never have stopped by will be as enthusiastic about the relocation as he and his team are.
"I just think it's going to be a really nice public restaurant," he said, emphasizing that while the building may once have been a private clubhouse, The Cellar, as always, is open to the public.
Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.