New restaurant opens in former Otter Treat restaurant in Ottertail

Photo by Chad Koenen
Dean and Stephanie Mikelson opened The Shack in Ottertail in July. The new establishment serves a variety of smoked meats, as well as burgers, sides and ice cream.

By Chad Koenen


ust one step into The Shack in Ottertail and patrons are whisked away to a BBQ shack that more closely resembles the southern part of the country, than a small former ice cream and burger joint in a tiny town in the heart of Otter Tail County. 

There are ribs and brisket smoking just a few small steps away from the front door, homemade mac and cheese are ready for all of the toppings, and hand cut fries are ready to be cooked by a husband and wife team that have created quite the following in just over a month.

The Shack in Ottertail quietly opened in mid July, but since that time it has become a hub of activity from Thursday through Sunday as people from across the region flock to Ottertail for a taste of a carnivorous heaven.

“I have been pretty impressed but as people say when they walk in ‘it is about time you are open,’” said Dean Mikelson with a laugh. 

Dean and Stephanie Mikelson bought the former Otter Treat building on March 1 after spending most of the past decade in Arizona. They owned a bar that specialized in smoked meats in the southern part of the country and weren’t quite ready to retire when they stumbled across a listing for the Ottertail ice cream staple online. Originally from the Wadena area, Dean told his wife they should check out the Ottertail business, which would allow them to focus on the restaurant side of the business and not necessarily the bar. 

“I showed her and said hey lets check this out,” said Dean. 

After an extensive remodeling project that included repairs to the roof and some remodeling inside the restaurant, The Shack quietly opened for business on July 14. 

The Shack specializes in smoked meats, but will also feature hand cut fries, homemade Shack Beans, homemade macaroni and cheese, their own signature BBQ sauce, ribs, smoked brisket, pulled pork, chicken, as well as hamburgers. 

Since the meat is smoked over a long period of time, cooking it takes a careful hand and a number of hours of work each week. Dean said the popularity of the meat has led to the family running out of items to serve on Sunday, before replenishing their food offerings for the following week.

“We have been running out on Sunday, which is what we want,” he said. 

In addition to all of the meats and sides, The Shack will also be serving soft serve ice cream with flavor burst.

One new desert item includes a bubble waffle cone, which has become a popular item for patrons of The Shack. Stephanie came up with the idea to serve the bubble waffle cone and even has a special waffle cone iron to make the unique creation. 

The plan is to stay open into October, before closing for the winter months. Dean said how long they remain open in the fall will depend on demand and how business they remain after the summer residents begin to head south for the winter.

“If it is nice and people keep coming in we will stay open,” said Dean. 

The Shack is located at 314 Highway 78 N. in Ottertail and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.