Design, Equipment Supply & Installation, Smallwares Supply, and Furniture Supply
When owners of the Crooked Pint franchise purchased an old Shopko building in Mankato, MN, they knew it was the perfect location for an event center. The challenge came in figuring out how to efficiently place everything in the vast expanse of empty floor space.
Today the new location is a thriving hub of activity that includes the restaurant in addition to a hockey rink, golf simulators, mini duck bowling, arcade games, outdoor pickleball courts and an event center. When running at full capacity, the facility can serve up to 650 guests. The restaurant itself is designed to serve 180 people inside and an additional 80 on the patio, with 32 beers on tap and a full menu including the Juicy Lucy, a double-patty burger with cheese in the middle. A second-level bar overlooking the hockey rink is a great place to watch the action while kicking back. All it took was the vision of a talented foodservice design team, smart use of space and creative touches on the kitchens and bars for the new Crooked Pint location to live up to the goals of the operators—serving great food and entertaining crowds of people effectively and efficiently.
Old World Style Meets Modern Functionality
The Crooked Pint concept centers around a pub-style atmosphere welcoming to everyone—families enjoy a night out next to large groups of young adults out for a good time. “We wanted people to walk in and say, ‘this is a family place,’ says Paul Dzubnar, CEO of Hightop Hospitality. Boelter’s team worked closely with Dzubnar to design the dining area to be both welcoming and functional. The wood theme continues through the booths, which have vinyl seating and wooden backs. “Vinyl tends to show wear faster, so in going with wooden backs we were looking at longevity without sacrificing comfort,” says Brian Cepek, foodservice designer and account manager for Boelter.
The ratio of tables to booths was another area where Cepek’s foresight made an impact. “We understood the type of venue would be attracting large parties, so we wanted a design that could be changed to accommodate groups when needed, while not leaving out the table options for parties of four or less,” Cepek says. Designing with a ratio of more tables to booths than traditional venues allows for versatility, as servers can push together, or separate tables as needed.
Bars as a Focal Point
A pub isn’t a pub without plenty of great beer, which makes the Crooked Pint’s three bars a central design element. Each one—the first floor restaurant, the upstairs bar and lounge, and the event center—not only look great, but also facilitate efficient service unique for each area.
The restaurant bar was designed with two cocktail stations, one on each end, to allow bartenders to get drinks out quickly. In the middle is a shared warewashing station, beer taps and back bar coolers, to cut down the number of steps needed and increase efficiency of service.
The bar at the event center was designed as a double-sided bar, where bartenders can work out of the middle and serve people on either side. One side serves for pre-event functions and cocktail hours, and as guests are moved into the dining area for functions the bartender can work serving from the other side of the bar.
All three bars are served by one centralized beer system in the back of the main kitchen. “We got into the building early on in the construction process in order to run the lines from the beer system out to each bar,” Cepek says. “The lines go up and over to the second-level bar, and under the flooring on the first floor so that they all come up from underneath the tap lines.” Top-quality beer line installation, including the glycol, nitro and CO2 systems, ensure customers get great tasting beer with every pour. An added benefit of the centralized keg system is that on busy nights there’s no need to tote around and lift heavy kegs. Everything is right there to take one off, recharge the fob and put a new keg on.
Efficient Kitchen Design
To maximize the service, Boelter’s team designed three kitchens—the main kitchen serving the Crooked Pint restaurant, a smaller kitchen to serve the upstairs bar and lounge, and a catering kitchen. Each kitchen is fully equipped with everything needed to be a standalone operation, from cookline to storage and warewashing. While that means there are redundancies in equipment in the facility, the benefit comes in long-term labor efficiencies. Operators can ramp up or down according to demand, running the upstairs kitchen at full capacity on busy nights to accommodate guests without servers having to run up and downstairs, or closing off that kitchen when the main restaurant can handle the traffic.
The main kitchen does double duty, serving up a full menu to diners at the Crooked Pint while also producing Green Mill pizza, another concept of Hightop Hospitality. “There’s a separate hood and workspace for the pizza area, to facilitate all the to-go orders without compromising the speed of service for Crooked Pint customers,” Cepek says. Backing up to the cooklines of the main kitchen is a large prep area which services both that kitchen and the catering kitchen. This helps improve efficiencies, as the chef can be prepping for an event while also cooking lunch or dinner. Separate cooklines keep everyone out of each other’s way during busy times.
An extra deep, 30 inch griddle, chosen specifically by Cepek, is able to produce the establishment’s signature burgers faster than a charbroiler without sacrificing quality.
Boelter was involved in the Crooked Pint project on a full-service basis, from initial design to the grand opening. In addition to being on site to ensure installation went smoothly and all equipment functioned properly, the company also sourced the smallwares. From pots and pans in the kitchen to tableware for the front-of-house, the Crooked Pint was ready to serve customers with a full package on opening day.
Functionality was a driving factor in all aspects of the design at Mankato’s Crooked Pint location, and the results led to a beautiful place for people to gather and enjoy great food and beverages.
"Brian really put in the time to understand every aspect of the project and every part of the space, from the first level kitchen to the upper level bar and the outdoor patio. I was impressed at how he was able to lay out the design. All I showed him was a big space and a paper with a few blocks drawn out of where the restaurant would be and where the hockey rink would go, and he took it and created a layout and design. He's a true expert in the industry."
-Paul Dzubnar, CEO, Hightop Hospitality