Murray’s On Main is set to open Monday, March 18 at 11 a.m. at the site of the former TeePee Restaurant.
Owner and Tomah mayor Mike Murray said the restaurant will honor the roots of the TeePee, which was made famous by its owner, Ed Thompson.
Thompson died in 2011, and the restaurant closed under different ownership two years later. The building deteriorated and was later torn down. It was replaced by the 3rd Gen. project, which will house Murray’s on Main.
“We couldn’t revive it, but we could certainly honor it; that’s what our intention was,” Murray said. “The TeePee’s been iconic for years. I don’t know all the owners throughout the years but ... this site has represented an awful lot of things in the city, and we wanted to kind of pay respect to that.”
Tina Thompson, daughter-in-law of Ed Thompson, is excited for the restaurant’s opening.
“It’s powerful for me to see that piece of property make a full evolution so to speak,” she said. “Our family is certainly supportive of any development in that lot ... for me that’s a full circle move of just the past, present and future of that area. It’s exciting.”
Murray didn’t think about opening a restaurant until the decline of the TeePee. He had hoped to revive the existing building but discovered it would cost too much to renovate.
In 2016 Murray was approached by Jay Gerke about tearing down the existing building and constructing a new one. Things took off from there.
“It has been a lot of planning and changing ... but we’ve gotten where we needed to go,” Murray said.
Murray’s On Main is the first section of the 3rd Gen. project that will be open to the public.
Murray said his restaurant wouldn’t have been feasible without the Gerke family purchasing the property and creating the 3rd Gen. development. He said it was the Gerkes’ vision that brought his business to life.
“I could live a thousand lifetimes, and I could never thank the Gerke family enough for what they are not only doing for me, but what they’re doing for the community,” he said.
Murray said he’s more nervous than excited for the restaurant to open because it needs to be done right.
“I’m very aware of the fact that you can’t please everyone, and no matter how hard we try it’s an impossibility ... so we’ll do our best to provide and do the best in what we do and hopefully people like it,” he said.
The facility contains the restaurant itself which seats between 85 and 90 customers, a pub which can seat 85 and a banquet facility upstairs that can accommodate up to 400 and be divided into three separate rooms.
Murray said the banquet facility was almost a prerequisite for the facility. He said a large, versatile banquet facility will draw people to downtown Tomah.
“The more selections we have as to restaurants, as to shops, the better it does for all of us,” he said. “It allows people to take another look ... The more exposure we have to the downtown, the more incentive there is for people to open businesses downtown because we have more traffic flow. That’s the key thing to business, if you don’t have traffic flow; it’s tough to survive.”
Murray described the restaurant’s menu as “tight” at 25 items. That was done intentionally, Murray said. He said limiting the menu allows the cook staff to concentrate on quality and that variety can be offered in more subtle ways.
“If you take a look at even the burgers and the methodology that we’re going to use, we’re not reinventing the wheel, but with the amount of toppings we offer with the cheeses and the sauces and the bun option, really you can put together over 32,000 types of burgers,” Murray said. “A friend of mine who’s a mathematician actually calculated that for me. There’s diversity where you want to see diversity on the menu.”
Two things that will be served daily are the old TeePee recipe of potato cheese soup and prime rib.
The lunch menu consists of mostly salads, sandwiches and burgers, Murray said. In the evening, burger and chicken sandwiches are still available, but it’s geared more toward steaks, prime rib and seafood.
In addition to the regular menu the restaurant offers catering, but there is no catering menu, Murray said.
“We will sit down with people to design the menu that fits not only their palate but their budget,” he said.
The dining room will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, then on Friday and Saturday it will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The bar will be open from 11 a.m. until bar time with the option to close early based on how many customers are left.