Red Wing’s Staghead restaurant reopened as gastropub

Before many people were even talking about craft beer, the Staghead restaurant in downtown Red Wing had been specializing in it.

After a hiatus, Staghead (219 Bush St., Red Wing; 651-212-6534; reopened in January under new owners, a husband-wife team. John Flicek is chef and heads the kitchen, and Danielle Flicek runs the front of the house. The restaurant still spotlights craft beer, but the concept has been transformed into a gastropub.

We chatted with Danielle Flicek, 26, about how the duo got into the business and how they took over the Staghead space.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I’ve always worked in the industry, and John has always wanted to be a chef.

What’s your first food memory? John would say his mom’s soups. She always made them from scratch, and that’s what he does here at the restaurant, too. My first food memory was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I’m still obsessed with.

What was your first job in food? Both of us were dishwashers. I worked at the Harmony House in Harmony, Minn., where I had the 4 a.m. diner shift. I did that before school and worked at a local pizza place after school. John’s first job in food was as a dishwasher at a bowling alley in Wabasha, Minn.

How did you wind up in the restaurant business for good? When I was 19, I was a manager at Jaspers Alsatian Bistro and Wine Bar in Rochester, Minn. I liked the fine-dining aspect of it. And that’s where John and I met. At the time, he worked at Nosh Restaurant & Bar in Lake City, Minn., in the mornings; then cooked lunch at Jaspers; and then headed to ZZest Culinary Market (now Zest Cafe & Bar) in Rochester, where he was executive chef at night.

How did Staghead come about? We were looking for change when we entered — and won — the Red Wing Downtown Main Street restaurant contest in 2014. We received startup money and administrative support. We were attracted to the Staghead, which was closed at that time. We had eaten there six years ago and thought it was a cool space serving craft beer and good food. They were ahead of their time in the 1990s with their craft beer, and we wanted to do something similar. In mid-January, we opened as a gastropub serving a lot of from-scratch cooking using local products. We’re taking traditional food and modernizing it.

What’s your favorite dish on the Staghead menu right now? The brandade, a salt cod and potato dish. It’s comfort food.

What’s something few people know about you? I oil paint, and all of the paintings here in the restaurant are mine. Painting would be my other dream career. John’s thing is golf.

If you could eat or drink only five things for the rest of your life what would they be? Cake. Wine. Steak. Salmon. And any kind of potatoes.

What’s next? We’re expecting a baby boy in December. We have another boy who’s going to be 4. So I see myself relaxing over the winter. As far as long-term plans for the restaurant, we plan to stay here … maybe eventually working only five days a week.

—Nancy Ngo, St. Paul Pioneer Press Reporter