Iowa Tourism has bestowed the People’s Choice Award to The Okoboji Store of Okoboji, IA. The Okoboji Store originally opened as a General Store circa 1884. While serving the Iowa great lakes region with supplies and necessities for nearly 90 years, it was also a great place for locals and visitors alike to meet and catch up on the latest gossip. Owners Julie Andres and Susan Neuharth re-opened the Okoboji Store in 2015, in the image of the original, as a lakeside restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue. “When we learned about the rich history of the Okoboji Store, we knew we had to return the property back to its original use: a great place to meet, enjoy the view, and swap stories”.
In addition to history, anticipating customer’s needs to create a high quality experience inspired the Okoboji Store concept. Details matter! Every hamburger bun is branded with The Store’s logo; wine glasses are crystal; 16 tap beers and garnished craft cocktails make up the “elixir” or drink menu; cheese balls are hand battered to order in a local pilsner craft brew; there is valet boat parking; live bands grace the outdoor stage all summer long; each child is presented with a goodie bucket of legos and a snack upon arrival-the “details list” is long and it shows. Owner-moms know the value of keeping the kids happy. Goldfish crackers pay a key role at The Store, along with kraft mac and cheese, spaghettios, a full playground with swingset and basketball court.
Experiencing local cuisine while travelling is one of the quickest ways to assimilate the culture. The Okoboji Store menu was designed with Iowa Comfort food at its core in a creative, even quirky presentation. The Okoboji Store kitchen strives to be as “from scratch” as possible. Hand battering, hand pounding, roasting, baking, slicing and dicing are all part of the quality formula reflecting true “Iowa comfort food”. Here local culture also means regional craft beers on tap, pork, beef, campfire s’mores, garden vegetables and herbs, even local corn on the cob! Guests love it-The Store serves 3000# of cheese curds annually, 500 from-scratch Bloody Marys each Sunday, and hundreds of their now-Famous Okoboji Store Burgers each summer day.
A huge photograph depicting the Okoboji Store circa late 1900s adorns the main dining room showing horse-drawn carriages pulling up to the store. “My favorite part of this picture is not how different Okoboji looks, but rather how much it hasn’t changed.” Flour, some thread, and a length of twine may have been on customers’ lists in the picture, compared with what customers today are after: fish tacos, a cold beer and a live set of good old rock and roll. However, the view of the Okoboji Lakes is still the best in town and the fish stories just keep getting better and better.