MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Tom Hanson started Zorbaz 45 years ago when he bought a failed candy shop on the north shore of Detroit Lake.
“I was a school teacher, and nothing to do in the summer time, and because I learned how to drink beer and eat pizza in college, I thought I was qualified,” Hanson said.
Lots of places have pizza and beer, but Hanson took a different approach to the lakeside restaurant.
“Zorbaz started with ‘Zorba the Greek,’ which was a popular, Academy-Award winning movie in the 60s starting Anthony Quinn,” he said. “He was a fun-loving, free-spirited guy and that’s kinda what I wanted to have in a bar.”
So, there are no servers and no rush. You grab your food and drinks at the bar whenever you’re ready. And whether you show up in a tuxedo or just step off the boat, you can come as you are.
“Our lakes, of course, are our big draw in Minnesota. Everyone talks about ‘the power of the lakes,’ and so that’s why we are on every lake. And we present ourselves as being a Minnesota beach bar,” Hanson said.
But a laid-back approach isn’t the only thing that sets them apart. There’s also a fascination with a certain letter, according to Tate Jansen, who owns the Detroit Lakes location.
“We banished the ‘S’ from our alphabet. So, everything’s in ‘Z’s and some of our staff, like Jessica, will go by Jezzica,” Jansen said.
Z’s are all over the bar and the menu, which can be a challenge for the Zorbaz novice. To be honest, it actually forces you to have a little fun, which is exactly why you come to Zorbaz in the first place.
“It sounds like it’s really easy-going and fun at the surface,” Hanson said. “It’s like the duck, you know. We paddle pretty hard below the surface to make people happy.”
The Zorbaz in Detroit Lakes is the first and the biggest in Minnesota. But they have now expanded to 11 locations across the state.