By Gary Nager
When the Wolf’s Den Restaurant first opened on S.R. 56 back in 2008, I sat down with owner and Wesley Chapel resident Roger Wolf to discuss what his plans for the place were and whether or not we could help him with a story and some advertising.
Roger wasn’t the first restaurant owner to turn me down, nor was he the first to promise he would do something “in the future” if he ever increased his marketing budget from its current (at that time) $0.
“But, don’t take it personally, Gary,” he said. “I love the Neighborhood News. But, I’ve been in the restaurant business for 50 years, more than 30 years as a successful restaurant owner, and I’ve never done any real advertising of any of my previous restaurants. But, if I ever do decide I have something to promote, you’ll be the first person I call.”
Well, even though I ended up calling him — thanks to a tip from long-time Wolf’s Den customer and Pebble Creek Golf Club sales director Mary Ann Yaney — Roger was true to his word. Now that his always-successful Wolf’s Den is expanding both its hours and its already expansive (but never expensive) menu, Roger decided it was time for us to sit down and have a different type of chat. “I told you you’d be the first,” he laughed. “Actually, you’re the only one I called!”
You see, even though he’s never spent a dollar with me before — and I’ve never done a full-length feature story on Wolf’s Den — Roger and I have become friends. I’ve probably eaten at Wolf’s Den maybe 20 times in three+ years, always trying different menu items, and I’ve always given Roger my honest feedback any time I’ve had items I’ve particularly enjoyed, as well as a couple of items I didn’t like quite as much.
So, What’s New, Mr. Wolf?
Wow, have things ever changed at Wolf’s Den. Oh, Roger’s still the same grizzled Marine Corps veteran (he fought with the first U.S. combat troops deployed in the Vietnam War) who arrives early in the morning every day to prepare the homemade sauces, dressings and other food preparations, and his place is still hugely popular for breakfast (see page 34) and lunch (always getting plenty of votes from his customers in our annual Dining Survey & Contest; see pg. 35). But, it’s about to become even more popular.
Roger says he is particularly proud of his unique pizzas, which are served piping hot on a wafer-thin crispy crust smothered with delicious ingredients. It’s not New York-style ‘za, but everyone in our office loved the large sausage and pepperoni pie I brought back from my most recent visit to Wolf’s Den. Truly yummy!
And, with the coupon from Wolf’s Den’s ad on page 41 of this issue, you can save $2 on any pizza ad other outstanding values.
Roger says that the new menu, which was unveiled to the public, along with his newly expanded hours, on November 1, will include a lot of new sandwiches, including items like the savory New York-style Reuben sandwich, complete with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing (photo top right in the Magazine header on the previous page), that seniornews writer Sean Bowes raved about, an authentic-style pressed Cuban and many more.
Advertising customer service manager Nikki Bennett says that her patty melt was one of the best she’s ever had and I always loved Roger’s homemade fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and fresh green beans and his homemade chili rocks, too.
At that time, the restaurant will expand its open hours to Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Roger says if the dinner hours are successful, he plans to add beer and wine and expand the menu even further. “And, when that Florida Hospital opens next year, we will likely stay open 24/7.”
A Little Background Music…
Roger says he worked more than full-time hours for his family’s more upscale restaurants as a 13-year-old boy, “before there were laws about such things,” and first owned his own place in 1980, a year after the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, WI, closed and Roger hired all of the former Bunnies to wait tables, including an 18-year-old Bunny named Patty.
“I was quite a bit older than her,” Roger recalls fondly. “But I knew I couldn’t let her get away.” The two have been married 32 years, although Roger will almost-matter-of-factly tell you that Patty will likely lose her long battle with cancer within a year.
“I’m grateful that I’ve already had more time with her than I thought possible,” he says.
I have heard many stories the past few years about Roger’s soft heart and unflinching commitment to help this community. He has donated to so many local schools, churches and causes and is truly the type to never want any credit for his efforts.
“All of the schools and organizations tell me, ‘We’ll name you as corporate partner of the year’ or ‘ we’ll get you come free publicity in the local media,’ but I do what I do because it’s the right thing to do.” For example, he recently donated food for 600 people for the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce (see page 1) and dinner for all of the Wiregrass Ranch High players and coaches before their games on Friday nights.
Your Favorite Breakfast Spot!
Roger says Wolf Den still draws its biggest crowds on Saturday and Sunday for breakfast/ brunch, although his delicious, low-cost breakfast fare is available every day.
I love the eggs over easy with crispy bacon and the best and crispiest hash browns in the area. Great grits, too. But, when Roger was giving me samples of his menu items, a regular customer named Jessica said, “All that food and you missed the best thing on the menu— the French toast!”
For more information about Wolf’s Den Restaurant (27606 S.R. 56), call 907-9124 or visit WolfsDenRestaurant.com and please tell Roger we sent you!