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Best overall restaurant: Excellence follows experience at Coyote Moon Grille

Alyssa Zaczek, azaczek@stcloudtimes.com

Husband-and-wife team Mike and Mar Dols have owned and operated Coyote Moon Grille for 14 years, and it’s their experience in the restaurant industry that keeps the St. Cloud eatery running like a well-oiled machine.

“Experience,” Mike Dols said. “It’s all about experience. My dad had Jerry’s Supper Club in Richmond in the family for 46 years. I grew up in it. That experience definitely helps.”

The hard work and firsthand knowledge has paid off: Coyote Moon Grille is the winner of the Best Overall Restaurant in Central Minnesota award in Times Media’s 2017 Best Of Central Minnesota reader’s survey contest.

The restaurant also won two other awards: Best Buffet and Best Sunday Brunch.

Dols said he shares winning the Best Overall Restaurant award with his managers, who he feels are “the best in the world.”

“To me, (it’s) more of a reward for them,” he said. “The hard work that they put in to help Mar and I paid off.”

Coyote Moon Grille offers buffet dining, plated meals, Sunday brunch and catering at its scenic location on Territory Golf Course. Dols said there is something for everyone on the menu.

“It’s not just fresh seafood and steaks and ribs — we have a lot of baskets and sandwiches and flatbread pizzas; you can get anything!”

And don’t let the restaurant’s “rustic, lodge-y” feel fool you: Dols assures potential customers that they can have a luxury experience at Coyote Moon.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but if you want a nice meal, you can get that, too.”

Hands down, Dols’ personal favorite menu item is the walleye.

“It’s our German beer batter that we use. It’s lightly battered, very thin, golden brown. We also do it broiled, but ... “ Dols grins. “My favorite is that deep-fried walleye.”

And the best part of the job? The people. Dols said the customers he’s met have made the past 14 years a memorable, worthwhile experience.

“I see our customers when they come in, and I just have to go over and talk with them. That’s my favorite part of the job,” Dols said with a smile. “My wife makes fun of me; she says she’s the only one who works because I’m always sitting down and talking with the customers!”

Speaking of his wife, Dols said his wife, Mar, is a major contributor to Coyote Moon’s continued success over the years.

“My number one fan, the number one person responsible for the success of the restaurant is my wife,” Dols said. “Without her, I couldn’t do it. She’s unbelievable.”

Overall, Dols cites both the atmosphere and the menu as contributing factors to the restaurant’s success — as well as his wife’s green-thumbed contribution to the gardens that line the drive up — but said he thinks the service offered by the staff at Coyote Moon ultimately puts the dining experience over the top.

“I really feel that it’s our help that makes it pleasurable (to dine at Coyote Moon),” he said.

Some of Dols’ employees have been working to create the Coyote Moon experience for years.

“I have a lot of waitresses who have been with me a long time, almost the full 14 years,” Dols said. “When you have experienced waitresses coming in to teach the novices, it helps. It helps to have that knowledgeable person showing the new people the ropes.”

Dols also said that the secret to keeping his staff happy is rewarding their hard work by having a clear-cut path to promotion.

“We have a system (at Coyote Moon), we build from within,” he said. “If they perform their duties well as a hostess or a busboy, they move up the ladder.”

And it’s the staff that Dols will be thinking of when he takes home the coveted Best Overall Restaurant award at the Best Of Central Minnesota event on the evening of Sept. 14.

“The first thing I’ll do (after the win) is get all my employees together and thank them,” he said. “I have to thank them. That’ll be the first thing I do — before I celebrate!”

Follow Alyssa Zaczek on Twitter @sctimesalyssa, email her at azaczek@stcloudtimes.com, or call her at (320) 255-8761.

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