ASHLAND – The owner of a metro area restaurant known for its award-winning chicken wings is opening a new eatery at Mahoney State Park on Thursday.
Scratch Hospitality Management Inc., owned by Brian and Jayme Cadwallader, will operate Caddy’s Parkside Grille at the state park. The company owns Salty Dog Bar and Grill in Council Bluffs and formerly ran Caddy’s Riverside Grille at Dodge Riverside Golf Course in Council Bluffs.
The menu will be the same as Salty Dog, where the signature dish is their chicken wings, named the best wings in Iowa by Delish.com and Esquire magazine. The menu also includes burgers, sandwiches and salads.
“We’re known for our food,” said Brian Cadwallader. “Good, scratch-made pub fare.”
The wings are fried, sauced and then grilled to add a special touch.
“It makes for a crispier skin and a little different flavor profile than the typical Buffalo wing,” Cadwallader said.
Cadwallader will also pull in favorites from their former restaurant at the Council Bluffs golf course, including a 27 ounce “meal-in-a-mug” Bloody Mary that is garnished with just about everything on the menu skewered on a stick, he explained.
Along with their home-cooked, comfort food, Cadwallader expects to periodically add specials to the menu that will appeal to the “more advanced culinary palette,” he said.
Prices will be affordable. The most expensive menu item will be the full order of wings for $14. Burgers with a side of fries will range from $9 to $13.
The menu will also have a kid’s section with meals for $7 that include a beverage and a toy.
“We actively got after kids as guests,” Cadwallader said. “It will be a very kid friendly environment.”
Jeremy Hunter said he is excited to be the new manager of Caddy’s Parkside Grille because he knows the reputation Cadwallader’s restaurants have.
“I’ve been a big fan of the Salty Dog since it opened,” he said.
Cadwallader made a name in the buffet game at Caddy’s Riverside Grille, which was known for its weekend brunch buffet, and the owner plans to bring the option back to Mahoney at first on a limited basis. Initially they will only have the buffet on holidays, starting with Easter. But beginning in May, the restaurant will serve buffet every weekend from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The restaurant will be open seven days a week. At first they will serve lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. until adding breakfast service in April, Cadwallader said. Extended hours will also be in place during the peak season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hours will be announced later, but likely will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., said Jim Swenson, parks director for Game and Parks.
They are in the process of getting their liquor license for the restaurant. Once that is in place, Cadwallader said they will have a selection of craft beers as well as brand names. They also plan to utilize local wineries.
To introduce the new restaurant and thank the public for their patience during the transition, Game and Parks is waiving the vehicle park entry fee for restaurant visitors during March and April. Patrons are required to park in designated areas only and must have a valid permit to visit other areas of the park.
While park visitors are a continual source of customers for any restaurant in the Lodge, Cadwallader is planning to draw diners from outside of the park.
“We’re hoping to build a viable restaurant choice or option for local residents as well as everyone in between Omaha and Lincoln,” he said.
Cadwallader has always wanted to expand into Nebraska, and Mahoney seemed the next logical step, he said.
“We’re looking to bring our brand and our recipes out west,” he said,” he said. “And I can’t think of a more beautiful place.”
Along with the restaurant, Caddy’s Parkside Grille will also take over the catering operations at Mahoney.
“Large groups are definitely one of the big reasons we want to come out here,” Cadwallader said.
The options for the catering menu are not limited to what is available at the restaurant. His staff is capable of coming up with just about anything.
“The sky’s the limit,” Cadwallader said.
Zach Kelley, park superintendent 2 at Mahoney who coordinates group events at the park, said he is excited to work with the new vendor. The park caters to groups as small as five people to the thousands who come for events like the Boy Scout Jamboree in October.
“We want to reestablish a name for onsite catering,” Kelley said.
The name “Caddy’s” came in part from Cadwallader’s name, which he said people often mispronounce. But he also chose the moniker when he opened the restaurant at the Council Bluffs golf course. Now, he has chosen to use the name as his brand rather than Salty Dog for legal reasons. There are other businesses with similar names in other locations, he said.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission opened the restaurant in Mahoney State Park’s Peter Kiewit Lodge in 1991 and operated it until 2010, when privatization was chosen to save the state agency money.
Treat America was the first vendor awarded a contract. They opened The Lodge Steakhouse, a fine dining restaurant, in December 2010. But after less than a year, the company asked to be let out of their contract, citing financial reasons. Jeff and Emily Parker, owners of Parker’s Smokehouse, were awarded the bid to operate the restaurant in 2012, renaming the establishment Mahoney Grille. The Parkers opted not to renew their contract at the end of 2014. After the Parkers bowed out, Game and Parks signed another contract with Company Kitchen, formerly known as Treat America. Company Kitchen ended operations at the restaurant as of Sept. 30.
Cadwallader said he was approached by Jim Swenson, parks director for Game and Parks, during the competitive bid process in 2015. But then he felt it was not the right time to move out west. However, this time when the contract came up, Cadwallader was ready, having ended his agreement with the City of Council Bluffs to operate Caddy’s Riverside Grille in order to open another restaurant in Council Bluffs.
Ongoing improvements at Mahoney helped make Cadwallader’s decision to open the new restaurant there an easy one. A $35 million Venture Parks Complex project at Mahoney and three other state parks in eastern Nebraska is underway that will bring a sled and toboggan run and alpine slide, an indoor/outdoor rock wall, high-ropes courses as well as a zip line.
“Game and Parks has put a lot of energy and resources into improving the park and food and beverages is one of the places they’ve been doing that,” he said. “We want the food experience to match the other experiences at the park.”
Swenson said a quality restaurant and catering service is necessary for a park like Mahoney, which is the most popular state park in Nebraska.
“Our guests, whether residing in the park or driving out for a meal, have come to expect a rewarding, family dining experience when they visit the park,” Swenson said. “Game and Parks is very excited to partner with the Cadwalladers to fulfill guest expectations and reestablish the park food service as a popular and desired dining destination.”
Park Superintendent Jake Rodiek said he is looking forward to having Cadwallader’s new restaurant at Mahoney.
“It’s exciting the energy that he’s going to be bringing back to the restaurant here and being able to have the quality and consistency everyone’s come to expect,” he said.
Cadwallader has been in the restaurant business since 1996. He opened Salty Dog Bar and Grill in 2009. Just over a year ago, the restaurant was damaged by a fire. He reopened a few months later, and it inspired him to keep on expanding his restaurant empire.
“I love opening restaurants,” he said.