A new walk-up food window has filled the space left vacant in downtown Stillwater when Chicago Dogs closed last year.
For 10 summers, Bruce Chesin served hot dogs from a walk-up window in the Isaac Staples Mill building at the north end of downtown Stillwater. He decided to hang up his apron last year, but died unexpectedly, just weeks before he planned to close up shop.
Netty Q’s, the independent Italian walk-up restaurant that opened in the space last weekend, will honor Chesin’s memory by serving Chicago-style hot dogs alongside the likes of crab ravioli, fettuccine alfredo and paninis.
Lynnette Bryant-Thompson, owner of Netty Q’s, said honoring Chesin seemed appropriate, because he and Chicago Dogs were a staple in Stillwater for years.
Bryant-Thompson, who grew up in Stillwater and now lives in Hudson, Wis., is eager to share her own cooking, as well. Her recipes are customer-tested, because she spent last summer selling her cuisine out of a food trailer.
Although Bryant-Thompson has cooked for decades, it only became her passion in the past five years or so. Having lost two children to cancer, and with her remaining son approaching 30, she sees cooking as a gift, a new dream to pursue.
“It’s like I found a new passion to move on with my life,” she said.
She took the leap in to business ownership after spending 14 years working in investor reporting devision of a mortgage company. She decided she didn’t want to live in a cubicle any longer.
Last year Bryant-Thompson bought a food trailer and planned to name it “Netty’s BBQ,” using her childhood nickname.
She shortened it to “Netty Q’s” at her husband’s suggestion, in case she wanted to change the menu. That turned out to be a good choice, because in doing market research, she realized barbecue is ubiquitous among food trucks and trailers. Not so, for Italian food.
“You can’t find Italian food in a food trailer,” she said.
Because her product was unique, she was invited to many festivals and events and saw success.
The trailer experience prepared her for her newly opened store, which is similar in size.
Since opening May 5, Bryant-Thompson said business has been good. On May 9 she said she’d already had repeat customers.
“My chicken fettuccine alfredo is on fire,” she said. Her personal favorite dish is the crab ravioli.
“I think what overflows in it is my love to cook,” she said. “I like the details. I like spices.”
One day, she’d like to buy a commercial kitchen to prepare food and run several small shops or trailers. For now, she’s looking forward to the summer.
Netty Q’s will be open seven days a week through October, before closing for the winter. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. It’s located at 402 Main St. N., in Stillwater.
Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]