Finding Minnesota: Restaurant Capital Of The World

DORSET, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s a town up north where the food is filling, politicians do nothing and you can’t believe what you read in the local paper. That’s just the way they like it.

Dorset, Minnesota (population 22) is in a resort area of Hubbard County, and it calls itself the Restaurant Capital of the World, serving its meals with a side order of humor.

“The Mall of the World is over that way,” said publisher Vic Olson, tongue in cheek. “And the Dorset Dome is actually over there.”

You can read all about it in the Dorset Daily Bugle — “published once a year, whether there’s news or not.” Past editions have featured stories about a light rail coming to town, or the Dorset skyline adding more high-rises.

“I’m sure you saw in The Bugle that we kind of exaggerate a bit on some of our stories,” said Kathy Schmidt, owner of La Pasta restaurant.

The townspeople do believe they’re justified, though, in calling themselves the Restaurant Capital of the World. In a town of just 22 people, they have four restaurants, which may be the most, per capita, anywhere.

They’re now getting ready for “Taste of Dorset,” a real event in early August.

“All the restaurants make small portions of food and we sell them out on the boardwalk,” said Schmidt.

Taste of Dorset is also when the Restaurant Capital gets a brand new mayor.

The current mayor is Ronnie Barnett, a 17-year-old trumpet player at Park Rapids High School.

When asked how much money was involved in his campaign, Ronnie replied, “A whole dollar.”

That’s because they pick their mayor at random from those who’ve dropped a dollar in the local ballot boxes.

“It’s very simple, we just collect all the ballots, put them in a box, draw one, and that’s the mayor,” said Olson.

But how does a teenager handle all the politics?

“Oh, he’s done really, really well,” Schmidt said. “He’s doing just what we like our politicians to do. He hasn’t shown up except to eat.”

You don’t have to live in Dorset — or even be an adult — to be mayor.

A 5-year-old boy from Chicago was chosen one year. Another year, a rooster was in the running — until a hungry black lab put an end to that. It was very tragic.

Taste of Dorset happens next Sunday, Aug. 7.

More from Mike Binkley
  • Dale McKeen

    This story is a total waste of time, ink, paper and air time. Way to go CCO you were the voice of the northwest a long while ago.

    • Toni

      Sounds like someone needs to lighten up and enjoy the beauty and humor shown here! Not all the news has to be so depressing.

  • O-done-a

    Can someone PLEASE find a way to make this a national story. It’s hillarious!

  • King

    I got to check this town out some day *

  • Queen

    Its not a total waste of time to print this story. Dorset is a very friendly, with awesome places to eat!! We enjoy going there. Why do all of wcco’s stories have to be about crime, why can’t they be something funny and uplifting?? Thank you for printing this story…nice to get the small towns recognized!!!

  • Toni

    I love Dorset and agree tha this story is NOT a waste of time. I would encourage everyone to come up and experience the wonderful hospitality they have to offer. The food is wonderful and the people are great!!!

  • Peachy

    Dorset is a great place to visit and they have food that everyone would enjoy. We have been going there for over 20 years. This story was GREAT. Anyone who thinks it was a waste of time, should take a drive and experience Dorset!!!

  • Dave Campbell

    We went out to eat in Dorset when we were in the Park Rapids area. What a great experience it was. Great ood, Great service and A Great small town atmosphere. I highly recomend it when you are in the area!

  • Beady

    We love Dorset and visit there every time we drive Up North. Absolutely love LaPasta and Sister Wolf Bookstore, although there are other good restaurants and shops in Dorset.

  • Me

    Total waste of time? I suspect the tourism business is going to be bustling after this story because the town sounds like a lot fun. I hope to get the hubby to take a weekend trip there soon thanks to this article.

  • zee the reporter

    great story thats my kind of news!

  • Horsie

    Dorset is everything and more!!!! Come visit, enjoy the food and hospitality!!! It’s THE BEST. I grew up just outside of Dorset. Worth the trip and time, and they have someting for everyone, even a grump!!!!!

  • Mary Hewitt Ihla

    I grew up in Dorset during the ’50s — my grandmother’s house is now the old-time photo studio and the bank started by my great-grandfather is a gift shop. Instead of fading away as did so many other small towns, Dorset reinvented itself to cater to the tourists and seasonal residents that populate this lake area during the summer. I’m so proud to be a native of this flourishing hamlet. See you in Dorset this Sunday!

  • kim b.

    great “Finding Minnesota” story. i used to be a reporter (honestly!) for Vic Olson who publishes the Dorset Daily Bugle. This town is the best place to go when you are hungry for some good eats and hospitality. :)

  • Lue

    As I sit here wearing my “Taste of Dorset” T-shirt, Just want to say–Great job WCCO! So nice to see a fun feel good story from small town greater MN! And Dorset is the best!! LaPasta for a good old fashioned Norweigen Um-lett! and Compenarro’s for the best Mexican (better make reservations!) Spend many weekends in Nevis area, and always visit Dorset every time!! Thanks for the story!

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