R Place Sports Bar and Grill slated to open in Monona soon

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Monona will soon have another dining option, with the opening of R Place Sports Bar and Grill planned before the end of January. Located at 107 E. Center St., the former home of Jodi’s Americana Grill, R Place will be owned and operated by Lary Walter, who also owns One R’s St. Olaf Tap.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Monona will soon have another dining option, with the opening of R Place Sports Bar and Grill planned before the end of January.

Located at 107 E. Center St., the former home of Jodi’s Americana Grill, R Place will be owned and operated by Lary Walter, who also owns One R’s St. Olaf Tap. The name R Place is a play on Walter’s first name, which is spelled with just one “R.”

“I thought people needed a place to come and eat, sit and relax and have drinks and a meal in a family atmosphere,” said Walter, a 1990 MFL graduate. “I’d really like to see Monona thrive.”

A self-taught chef who admitted he likes to “experiment a lot” with food, Walter took over in St. Olaf five and a half years ago, in his first venture into the bar and restaurant business. Walter said he plans to implement a few things from that establishment, which is famous for its massive tenderloin.

“It’s mostly bar food there,” he said. “It will be more of a sit-down meal here.”

He hopes to offer items like catfish, grilled pork chops, steaks and eventually a pork tenderloin, just not on such a grand scale. Patrons can also sample the same burgers offered in St. Olaf, as well as Walter’s “famous” homemade onion rings.

“Mine are just as good, if not better, than White Springs,” Walter said of the well-known supper club once located outside McGregor. “That’s what I’ve been told by people who used to eat there.”

Other options will include a variety of appetizers, a salad bar and buffet, which will be located above. The bar area, complete with a full bar, will be below. 

“It’s going to be easy to separate the two,” Walter said of the bar and the grill. “I don’t want a bar atmosphere, but want people to have the comfort of sitting down with a cocktail.”

Although it won’t happen the first year, Walter said he’d like to offer an outdoor seating area, as well.

Walter said R Place will be closed Mondays, but the kitchen will open at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, offering noon  and nightly specials. He also plans to have a Sunday breakfast buffet. The kitchen will be open until 9 each night, but Walter said that could eventually extend to midnight on Fridays, giving people who attend local sporting events a dining opportunity after the game. He welcomes groups, but asks that, if there are more than six people, someone calls ahead.

Walter was hesitant to set an official opening date, noting that, when he feels he’s ready, R Place will simply open. He advises patrons to keep a look out after the middle of January.

Part of what made the location desirable, said Walter, was that it was left completely turn-key by previous owners Wayne and Jodi Welch, who Walter said have been helpful. 

“I may implement some of Wayne’s and Jodi’s ideas,” he said, “but I want it to be my place too.”

With photos of old sports teams to cover the walls, Walter described R Place as a laid-back atmosphere, where people can meet. In St. Olaf, Walter said he held a breakfast once each month for the community’s older residents, and mentioned he’d like to do something similar in Monona.

For the first several months of operation, Walter said he plans to be at R Place a lot. By May, though, he’d like to split his time 50/50 between Monona and St. Olaf. While he knows the new venture will take a lot of hard work, Walter said, in five and a half years in the business, he’s learned to take time for himself.

“It’s very time-consuming, but you won’t be successful if you drive yourself into the ground,” he said. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I knew I couldn’t do it.”

Walter said he’s excited about R Place’s potential impact on the community, and looks forward to complementing, and not competing with, MJ’s Bar and Grill next door.

“Monona can support two places,” Walter said, noting the city’s population. “Plus, I want to draw people in from McGregor, Prairie du Chien and other communities. It’s a good atmosphere here, so support shouldn’t be a problem.”

“I’ve finally found a niche I’m good at,” Walter added. “It’s another chapter, another adventure in my life. Hopefully it will go well.”

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