HERON LAKE — The grill is hot and drinks are pouring once again at a former Heron Lake bar and grill after it sat vacant for about five years.
Worthington couple Carlos and Yolanda Barahona opened Nena’s Bar and Grill three weeks ago at 1011 First St., Heron Lake. Hours are 3 to 10 p.m. Thursdays; 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
“It’s been going really well,” Yolanda said about the bar and grill, which is named after the couple’s 14-year-old daughter. “We’ve gotten really positive feedback.”
The food and drink menus — which are a work in progress — feature both Mexican and Honduran cuisine and cocktails.
“Carlos’ grandfather had a bar in Honduras when he was little and he would help him out,” Yolanda said of her husband’s experience and desire to open up their own bar and grill.
“There’s a lot of Americans that come in and order the Honduran food,” Yolanda said. “They say they haven’t had it (before), but it’s really good.”
American dishes like burgers and wings are also on the menu. The kitchen is open until close, but limited-menu items will be offered after 9 p.m.
To-go orders are available and seating reservations may be made.
In the first few weeks of business, Yolanda has been having fun experimenting with different mixed drinks and beer platters to determine what customers like. Milkshakes, fruit water and other non-alcoholic specialty beverages are also available to order.
“I try to give the bartender something new a week,” Yolanda said.
Two pool tables, a foosball table and dart board can be enjoyed by customers. Eight televisions located throughout the building were installed specifically with the upcoming football season in mind. A section of the bar will also transform into a club-style dance floor on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We wanted to create something different for younger people to enjoy together,” Yolanda said. “Different races are welcome. That’s what we want to do here.”
Customers are trickling in from not only Heron Lake, but Worthington, Windom and other surrounding communities, which is exactly what the Barahonas had in mind when wanting to create something unique enough to the area while eliminating a long drive to Sioux Falls, S.D.
While the restaurant opened three weeks ago, the couple has owned the building that formerly housed The Hideout and bowling alley for more than two years.
They originally purchased the space for Yolanda’s custom cake business, Nena’s Cakes. The new location allowed her to relocate the growing business out of her home kitchen.
The property provided more than enough space for the cake business, so the couple began talking about how to maximize their space potential. That’s when the idea of a bar and grill was born.
While the Barahonas have now found a way to maximize their use of the spacious building, Yolanda’s cake business isn’t going anywhere.
In fact, customers of the bar and grill may purchase fresh whole cakes, cake slices, cupcakes, cake pops and other treats displayed near the front. She’ll also continue making and decorating custom cakes.
Opening up didn’t occur overnight. In fact, it was a lot of work, Yolanda explained.
“From the ceiling, walls and floor — everything is pretty much new,” said Carlos, who completed the interior overhaul in the times off from his regular job.
Carlos said customers remark how the place used to look.
“Some people even take pictures because they’re amazed at how much it has changed,” Yolanda said, adding that the bar is the only aspect people are likely to recognize. The building — which was once a bowling alley — has been vacant since 2014, when The Hideout closed.
While the renovations to date have allowed the Barahonas to flip the “Open” sign, there’s more work to be done.
The couple hopes to renovate the former bowling alley section that's now closed off into a space that may be rented for parties and special occasions. A fenced-in yard may also facilitate for outdoor barbecues or other activities.
For specials and other announcements, visit Nena’s Bar and Grill on Facebook.