OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — Where Minnesota Highway 36 meets the St. Croix River, and Minnesota meets Wisconsin, an old log cabin restaurant has stood the test of time.
“It’s an old roadhouse, it’ll always be an old roadhouse,” said Phil Barbatsis, owner of Phil’s Tara Hideaway for more than 20 years.
The Tara Hideaway had been around in one form or another since 1929. It needed help in the late ‘90s. And after an up-and-down career in restaurants, so did Phil.
“In the summer of ‘97 I was broke for one thing. And I was just trying to decide what to do,” he said.
To be around for more than 20 years with a full dining room most nights: that’s a future Phil said he certainly couldn’t have imagined.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t have a lot of choice. I had about 10 cents to my name and three boys to support,” he said.
Today, Phil’s Tara Hideaway is a landmark. A staple of the Stillwater-area food scene. The menu is best described as a Greek steakhouse. They braise the lamb shank for 3 hours.
“A little lemon, oregano, garlic, lots of garlic in this restaurant,” said chef Brad Nordeen.
The little octopus bites are amazing, and the gyro plate’s homemade tzatsiki sauce tastes like Phil’s native country. Phil still comes in and makes the soups most days, from memory.
“I don’t have any recipes,” he laughed.
It’s always been a family business. Phil andhis wife are here every day, as is his son Nik, who started by making toast.
“It’s great. Just wonderful. He’s been working with me since he was 7 years old,” said Phil.
Nik remembers those days. “Seven years old, I’m sure I was more of a problem than I was a team player,” he said.
Today, the son and father work together, with Nik as the general manager.
“We’ve really tried to keep that small market, energetic, feel. The place has been here since 1929 I don’t think it would be right for us to change away from the history and that remembrance, just the general overall vibe of the place,” he explained.
With staff that’s been working at Phil’s for decades, and a menu that’s become beloved, it’s family that makes Phil’s Tara Hideaway so special.
“First dates, engagements, weddings, they come back in 10 years and say ‘We had our first date in that same corner table,” said Phil. “I hope I’m around for the 25th!”
Phil’s Tara Hideaway
15021 North 60th Street,
Open Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday/Sunday 4 p.m.-close