By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s something in the water in Walker, Minnesota.

It already claimed votes for the Best American Legion (American Legion Post 134) and the Best Golf Hole (Tianna Country Club) in Minnesota.

In a town of less than 1,000 residents, it seems they’re all at one spot for the best fajitas, too.

“You could have a full belly from a great big meal and as soon as a fajita comes by with that sizzling it makes you hungry all over again,” customer Kevin Johnson said.

Walker draws people from all over the world for the cabin life on Leech Lake, but once they get a taste of the fajitas at Cafe Zona Rosa, it’s a new reason to visit.

“We had a dream we were going to open a restaurant and there were no Mexican restaurants in the area,” owner Debbie Wilkening said.

Debbie is of German descent. How did a German Minnesotan start up a Mexican restaurant? It started with a love of traveling. She and her husband, Gary, would often go to Mexico and fell in love with the food and culture.

“Everything is so fresh,” she said. “It’s a happy food.”

They bought the corner downtown building in 1996 and opened a restaurant naming it “Cafe Zona Rosa,” after a neighborhood in Mexico City. Getting the spice of Mexican food to catch on in a small Minnesota town wasn’t easy.

“The first couple of years were challenging,” Debbie said.

Things changed when a chef visiting Walker offered to revamp the menu. The rest is history.

The recipe for their famous fajitas hasn’t changed. There are the basics: meat; yellow, red and green peppers; and onions followed by a top secret “special seasoning.”

Everything is prepared fresh. All of their salsas are made in-house, and customers have the option to buy it to enjoy it at home.

The fajitas are served on a cast iron skillet that’s been over a flame for 15 minutes. If you want to know how hot the fajitas are you can just listen for the sizzle. How you stack ‘em is up to you.

“I’m so proud of her,” Gary said of his wife.

It’s the sound and taste of success for a woman who just decided to follow a passion, and has given life on the lake a little kick.

“I’m so thankful for the success we’ve had,” Debbie said. “You just go with it and do the best job you can.”

Cafe Zona Rosa will have specials on their fajitas for Cinco De Mayo.

  1. Gay Woodgate says:

    I always watch The Best of MN & sometimes nominate & vote. I missed the fajita poll but would like to know what other places were in the running for best fajitas. This is important for people who have less time or limited ability to travel so they can find out more of the good ones.Please let me know what others were in the running.

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