Joe’s Pizza Palace and Pub in Mabel; Great food, service and atmosphere makes new dining venue a big hit

By By Charlie Warner

A portion of the staff at Joe’s Pizza Palace and Pub in Mabel are pictured in the bar/dining area. Front (l-r): Savannah Phillips, Scarlet Colsch, Aleina Spitzer, Ava Tweten, Kaesen Manhart, Courtney Graves and Emilia Ramirez. Back: Owner Joe Houdek and his son Jordan Houdek. Not pictured, Janessa Hershberger, Madalynn Rasmussen, Izabella Gerleman, Ike Tweten, Payton Klimesh and Delanie Vreeland. (Driftless Multimedia photo by Charlie Warner)

“The reception has been very good. We have been quite busy since we opened our doors last month. I am very impressed with the support we have received from Mabel and the surrounding area,” said Joe Houdek. 

Houdek opened Joe’s Pizza Palace and Pub in Mabel recently and area residents have been coming by in droves to enjoy great pizza and numerous menu items. It’s been more than a year since the residents of Mabel have had any type of afternoon or evening dining option. If the initial response is any indication, Mabel-area residents have been “chomping at the bit” to have Houdek open his doors.

Houdek bought the former Highway 44 restaurant when it went out of business five years ago. Instead of taking it over and continuing to operate it as is, he decided to completely rehab the aging restaurant.

“I had been buying and flipping houses for a number of years and thought about the Highway 44 when it went up for sale,” he recalled. “Someone told me I couldn’t pull this type of project off. I guess that spurred me on,” he said with a grin. Houdek lives on a farm near Cresco, where he finishes beef cattle when he’s not rehabbing and managing a restaurant. 

Breathing new life into the old building was certainly a challenging endeavor. But Houdek took his time, and worked with some Amish artisans, who helped transform the old diner into a very attractive venue. 

The kitchen was completely redone, with all new appliances. The Amish carpenters
created a beautiful horseshoe bar with high-back swivel stools, all made of alder wood. The raised-panel doors, railings and wall paneling are also made of matching alder, as are the dining room tables and chairs. An antique brass/tin ceiling is located above the bar area, providing for some unique atmosphere and new laminate plank flooring spruced up the floors.

Besides the large bar/dining area in the west portion of the building, a second large room is located in the east end, which can be used for over-flow dining and/or private parties.

It took the Amish a couple of years to complete all the items Houdek wanted for his business. But this was during the pandemic and Houdek decided to do it right and not rush into it. He had everything about ready last year and did have several private parties hold events in his new business. But Houdek wanted to have everything in place, with a full staff ready to go when he opened the doors last month.

Houdek has 11 part time employees plus Emilia Ramirez, who serves as general manager. Besides the hand-made pizzas, Joe’s Pizza Palace and Pub also offers a dinner menu featuring chicken, fish, shrimp and ham steak, various types of burgers and sandwiches and 16 different appetizers. The bar has a full complement of beers, wines and spirits, as well as E-tabs and pull tabs (through the Mabel Fire Department). 

Joe’s Pizza Palace and Pub is located on the east end of Mabel on State Highway 44 and is open from 2-10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

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