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Schafer’s Restaurant is making a new home at Eagle Bend

by TAYLOR INMAN
Bigfork Eagle | May 4, 2022 12:00 AM

The award-winning Schafer’s Restaurant is set to move into the new Eagle Bend Golf Course Clubhouse this summer. Schafer’s co-owners David May and Robert Wink say they are excited to share familiar favorites with an elevated dining experience.

May acts as Executive Chef and the Managing Partner and says his Wink is his “partner with an eye for dining experiences outside of the valley.” Wink said he travels often and looks for aspects of dining experiences he wishes to bring back to Schafer’s.

Working in the real estate business, Wink said met May during his time as owner and Head Chef at the Bigfork Inn. The two became fast friends. They were both retired when the opportunity arose to open a restaurant inside the Mountain Lake Lodge in Woods Bay. Wink said his efforts to bring the two out of retirement to open up Schafer’s have been successful and now they are looking forward to bringing the business to familiar and new clientele at Eagle Bend Golf Course.

“This opportunity, we’ve realized it’s a much more grand opportunity with size and venue and everything else. We’ve brought some additional veterans and pros from the industry to be involved with our team, from the wine end, to the culinary end to the service end— we think we are very much up to the task of doing something here that is quite special,” Wink said.

May said moving into the new Eagle Bend Clubhouse comes with the opportunity to have a “dream kitchen,” which he was involved with creating. The golf course clubhouse is under construction after the previous building burned down in 2020.

May said he’s excited to use his cumulative years of experience to tackle catering to the golf course.

Schafer’s Restaurant will offer grab-and-go breakfast and full menus for lunch and dinner. There are two dining rooms that will have two different concepts: one for more casual dining with its own menu and another that will be for fine dining.

May said their casual dining will include “elevated versions” of what they would serve at Riley’s Pub, which was their downstairs neighboring restaurant at Mountain Lake Lodge.

“We’ll still have that pizza element, we’ll still have salads and burgers, but those won’t be the cornerstone because we’ll be adding additional fare that may be more contemporary,” May said.

May said they are also focusing on making their casual dining menu less carb-heavy, limiting their selection of pizzas and burgers but offering higher quality meals which include steak and chicken dishes. He said those familiar favorites will still be there but made using fresher ingredients.

Wink said with Eagle Bend’s annual 20,000 visitors they will have a “captive audience” at their front door. They are expecting golfers to cycle through the restaurant all day long, versus their normal 6-8 p.m. dinner time. This means there will be more “shareable items and finger foods,” of high-quality in their casual dining room.

“People can come in from golf and don’t necessarily want dinner or want to stay for dinner, but want to grab something and a beer, he (May) is going to have a myriad of wonderful food,” Wink said.

The fine dining menu will be very similar to what they’ve been offering at their previous location with some new menu items. One item he and Wink are excited about is their Duroc pork chop, a heritage breed of hog that has “a great flavor profile.” Other selections from their fine dining menu include King Salmon, a twist on Pasta Jambalaya and favorite appetizers from their previous location, such as their baby clams.

In addition to their grab-and-go breakfast, May said they also plan to offer weekend brunch from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Wink credits May’s cooking as one of the main reasons for Schafer’s success. May said he was 15-years-old when he started cooking and that it was never meant to be a career. He said he worked in several different restaurants and actually tried to get out of the industry before moving to Bigfork in 1984.

“I realized I did something that people were fascinated with and it was something not everybody could do. They always wanted to talk about what it was like, and I realized it was a career and that I wasn’t just a cook— I had a professional skill,” May said.

His experience ranges from fast food, to seafood, to buffets and the eclectic menu he had during his time as Head Chef of the Bigfork Inn. He said it was 15 years ago when he truly realized his passion for hospitality.

“So, at almost 65-years-old, I’m ready for another five or ten years of it because it is what I like to do,” May said.

Schafer’s Restaurant is set to open inside the new Eagle Bend Golf Course Clubhouse after construction is completed this summer.