SAVAGE, Minn. (FOX 9) - A favorite mom-and-pop restaurant in Savage reopened this week after shutting its doors 14 months ago from a spontaneous fire.
The Windmill Cafe restaurant is a local favorite, known for its unimposing appearance on the outside, but memorable food and experience on the inside. However, after a devastating fire in January 2022, the south-metro town lost its favorite hole in the wall. The State Fire Marshal says cooking grease on rags spontaneously combusted to spark the fire.
"It was on the news that it had burned, and we went oh no," restaurant regular Wanda Mooney told FOX 9. "It took forever to get it to reopen for such a little place."
Windmill Cafe closed its doors for 14 months, as owners Kari Whetsel and Adam Langfeld hired an attorney to work with an insurance company they said did not want to play ball. The couple says the insurance company denied coverage for damages to the building because it was leased and covered by a renter's insurance liability policy.
"It was a nightmare battle," Whetsel said. "It took six and a half months before they finally agreed."
After a long battle, the rebuilding finally began. "We have all new plumbing, all new mechanical, all new electrical, all new flooring, all new equipment," Whetsel explained.
While so much inside the restaurant is new, things still feel the same because the crowd is full of familiar faces.
"We were shocked, and every day since then has been the same way. I keep describing it as a family reunion, only we like the people that are coming in," Whetsel said. "We were really scared that nobody would show up, we were really scared that everybody would show up, and everything in between; like, we would forget how to do it."
In previous years, Whetsel says the restaurant would average about 215 people on a Sunday. Now, they’re serving 280 people after reopening.
The Windmill Cafe is located off Highway 13 in Savage and is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.