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Mexican and a little more: La Playa in Beach has new owners, additions to menu

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand From left, La Playa Restaurant and Bar Manager Cassie Jones, cook Sheila Braun and waitress Jan Schwab chat during a break on Feb. 7. 1 / 2
Below, Raymond Wirtzfel and Mae McDanold enjoy a treat at La Playa.2 / 2

BEACH — Many would say that there’s nothing special about a Mexican restaurant in a border town — except when that restaurant serves much more than Mexican food, and that border is the one along Interstate 94 between North Dakota and Montana.

La Playa Restaurant and Bar in Beach came under new ownership as of Oct. 1, and the menu has had quite a makeover.

“Some of it we got away from because of what I know how to cook and what I don’t know how to cook,” said Vernon Kukowski, who purchased the Beach cafe along with his wife, Fenja. “That’s why we got into doing a lot more of the steaks and hamburgers — breakfast has always been a big deal.”

The breakfast was expanded when the Kukowskis took over.

Most of the dishes are made from scratch, with the exception of tortillas.

“That’s one of the few things that aren’t,” manager Cassie Jones said.

The soups, breads, pies, cookies and caramel rolls are all made from scratch though. Even the pizza, which was also added when the Kukowskis took over, is homemade.

The staff love that everything is homemade and cook Sheila Braun enjoys making breakfast.

“I like cooking breakfast,” Braun said. “That’s my thing.”

Because breakfast is served all day, omelettes and hash browns tend to be the crowd favorite.

Dinner food — steak and prime rib — has been added to the menu, Vernon said. They’re working to get tap beer at the bar.

“We’re going to have the most popular — Bud and Coors — and then we’re going to have the local brewery from Wibaux’s beer in here,” Vernon said, referring to the craft beers created by the Beaver Creek Brewery in the neighboring Montana town.

Years of experience

Braun has been in the restaurant business her whole life — she started as a dishwasher when she was 13.

“My dad volunteered me to work in a restaurant at the age of 13 doing dishes, because our neighbor owned the restaurant,” Braun said. “I started out at a dollar an hour. … I bought my own bike with my first paycheck.”

She has been cooking in restaurants for 20 years and in nursing homes before that.

“My mom taught me everything,” Braun said.

Jan Schwab has waitressed all over the country, including through a pregnancy in California, and worked with the Kukowskis at their former restaurant, the Palace Cafe, in Wibaux, Mont.

“After that, we moved to Florida and I worked on the Gulf of Mexico. Then I moved to Montana,” Schwab said.

Changes A big change in the restaurant is the utilization of the bar. It had always been there, but the previous owners used it for special events, Jones said.

“They added the TVs and opened it up a little bit more, and added the pool tables and the dartboard,” Jones said.

Other physical changes include the addition of a walk-in freezer, and a walk-in cooler is in the works, Vernon said.

“It’s a nice, comfortable atmosphere here,” Vernon said. “A good place to take a break and eat, we’ve got good food, and we have a wide variety of food.”

La Playa Restaurant and Bar

City: Beach

Phone: 701-872-8226

Hours: Monday through Friday

6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Bar open as late as 1 a.m. Thursday through Sunday

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206