It’s not difficult to whiz past Rudy’s Redeye Grill as you head north on Highway 61 through White Bear Lake. But don’t. Situated in the White Bear Country Inn and run by owner Bill Foussard, Rudy’s Redeye Grill is a refined old-school supper club, mixed with the hugely popular Rudy’s Rooftop outdoor space that fills to capacity nightly between May and September.
Bill Foussard is as gregarious as they come, from his warm handshake to his engaging and welcoming manner. Walking in to Rudy’s, you’re enveloped in the same warmth, in a space rich with dark wood, understated lighting and a phalanx of smiling faces that routinely greet regular daily visitors and newcomers in the same manner.
Foussard’s heart is as big as the portions at Rudy’s Redeye Grill, and after the death of his dear friend and business partner Joanne Schaber this past November, he wondered how he could be upbeat and soldier on. But, ever the people-person, Foussard undoubtedly found solace and strength in those who walked through the doors. And they happily obliged.
“It’s all about the people,” Foussard says about the business he adores. “You listen to your customers and make constant changes and upgrades based on their needs. When you do that, they always come back.”
Foussard began his hospitality career in 1976 when he left school “for a semester” to work at a resort in Arizona, and ended up staying for eight years. Upon returning to Minnesota, he managed the legendary Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis, and a Best Western Americana Inn in St. Cloud before settling in White Bear Lake.
Foussard knew that a change was needed when he purchased the White Bear Country Inn (previously known as Spinnakers Restaurant) in 2000. He gutted and remodeled the restaurant space to reflect the rich 130-year history of White Bear Lake, creating a space that would welcome young and old. Rudy’s opened in 2003. His vision included community space for all manner of events, from wedding ceremonies to corporate banquets to community education courses.
“It’s more than just a restaurant,” he says. He gestures toward an older gentleman in a nearby booth. “He’s here every day. There are groups of women who come in daily, order lunch and then play cards in the courtyard by the pool for several hours. Our servers greet them by name. Everyone is family. It’s all about community.”
With moderate yet upscale cuisine, Rudy’s menu covers all aspects of dining. Start with a quick appetizer and glass of wine; choose from a lunch menu of sandwiches and salads or their dinner menu, with an emphasis on quality meats carefully prepared and deeply seasoned. Nightly specials include Rudytini Tuesdays, featuring the restaurant’s signature drink made with raspberry vodka, cranberry, pineapple and lime juice, and served with frozen raspberries and a chaser of champagne ($14, $5 off on Tuesdays). The drink is sparkly with the bubbles of added champagne, fruity and superbly delicious. This is no shrinking violet of a drink; the Rudytini comes to the table with a gorgeous martini glass and a generous shaker that’s all yours to consume.
Brian Schaeffer, Rudy’s kitchen manager, has been with the restaurant since shortly after it opened. The pride of the menu—evident in the way he describes it—is the fresh Canadian walleye, a runaway customer favorite ($25, regular menu; Walleye Wednesday special, $20 dinner, 4 p.m. to close). With a tender crumb coating and a quick pan sear, the fish simply melts in the mouth, rich with a smoky butter studded with bacon, heady with seasonings and herbs.
“I’m really proud of our oysters, too,” Schaeffer says, as a plate of the shimmering shells are set on the table in front of us. “They come from the Gulf Coast and are always so fresh and flavorful.” The bivalves are briny, with a seawater tang, tender and so unsullied that one could imagine sitting on the beach, even if you’re deep in a Minnesota winter (oysters Rockefeller, $14; oysters on the half, $3 each).
Schaeffer changes the menu twice a year to reflect seasonal tastes. Other customer favorites, according to both Schaeffer and Foussard, are the coconut shrimp (entrée, $23; appetizer, $13), the fish tacos ($19) and the signature bull bites ($15), a fragrant plateful of tender beef chunks tossed in a rich mélange of seasonings before being flash-seared in a smoking-hot pan. Keeping pace with changing food trends, Rudy’s offers a gluten-free menu upon request, and has multiple menu options for vegetarians and those seeking lighter fare.
“It’s all about what the customer wants,” Schaeffer says emphatically, as Foussard nods in agreement. “People look for flavor, and for incredible food. And we enjoy giving them that.”
This dedication to hospitality, the comfort of guests and the quality of service and food is evident everywhere you turn. From a special-occasion dinner to a quiet, elegant lunch, no small detail is left out, and when you’re there, it’s likely Foussard will stop by your table for a handshake and conversation.
Rudy’s Redeye Grill
4940 Highway 61 N.
White Bear Lake, MN