Economic Development Tourism Historic Preservation
Calhoun County, Iowa

When you’re near Twin Lakes, be sure to cruise over to Traditions by car, truck, motorcycle, bike or boat for an ice cream treat, a beverage or a meal with modern flair and a side of nostalgia. (Yes, there’s a dock for your convenience!)

“People have been so supportive of Traditions,” said Mike Murphy, who owns Traditions, which is located at 6903 Twin Lakes Road.

Mike Murphy, owner of Traditions at Twin Lakes
Mike Murphy, owner of Traditions at Twin Lakes 

This support has been vital, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic created extra challenges for the new restaurant, which opened in 2020. “More people went camping during the pandemic, which helped grow our carryout business. We did a ton of to-go meals.”

Traditions combines a modern vibe with retro flair in the remodeled, former Twin Lakes Grocery. The previous shop served locals for generations, offering hot meals, cool treats and a convenient place to fill up with marine fuel. It was a popular destination for Murphy, whose family has spent their summers at Twin Lakes since the 1960s.

“As a kid, I remember driving a 6-horsepower fishing boat up to Twin Lakes Grocery on a Friday night to get a cheeseburger with my brother,” said Murphy, who purchased Twin Lakes Grocery in 2019. “There are so many great memories here.”

The Little Store at Twin Lakes, before it was transformed into Traditions
The Little Store at Twin Lakes was renovated in 2019-2020 into Traditions. 

Restaurant blends new, vintage décor  

Traditions includes two levels featuring glass overhead doors. Guests can take a seat inside the dining areas, on the outdoor patio facing North Twin Lake, or at an indoor/outdoor bar with custom concrete countertops.

“I have a friend in Des Moines who owns about 20 restaurants,” said Murphy, who owns Powerhouse Retail Services, which handles projects for big-box chain stores, restaurants, convenience stores, hotels and more. “When I was remodeling this place, I borrowed good ideas from all those other restaurants and incorporated them here.”

dining room and bar at Traditions
The main floor at Traditions includes a bar where friends enjoy gathering. 

Some guests prefer a leisurely meal at Traditions, while others stop by for a drink or ice cream. On a typical summer day, a steady stream of adults and kids pull up at the dock, select their favorite ice cream treats (including Tornadoes, with ice cream blended with cookies or candy) and head back to their boats for more fun on the water. “We sell more than 10,000 Tornadoes in a season,” said Murphy, who has about 55 full-time and part-time employees at Traditions.

Traditions’ walls showcase the distinctive character of lake life with modern photos of Twin Lakes, as well as vintage photos and memorabilia of Twin Lakes history, from fishing to the famed Alhambra dance hall. “We have plenty of nostalgia,” Murphy said. “People donate a lot of the vintage photos.”

Vintage photos of Twin Lakes abound at Traditions.
Vintage photos of Twin Lakes abound at Traditions. 

Blending the best of the modern and the past is important to Murphy, whose father, Jim, helped start the Twin Lakes Sailing Association (TLSA). “Since 2023 is the 50th year of the TLSA, we want to have 50 sailboats on Twin Lakes to mark this milestone.”

Alhambra dance hall featured Bobby Darin
Previous generations of people at Twin Lakes danced at the Alhambra to the music of Bobby Darin and other hit makers back in the day. This poster is on display at Traditions. 

Menu items showcase high-quality ingredients

The distinctive décor and favorite menu items keep people coming back for more. “Some of our best sellers include our thin-crust pizzas and fish tacos,” said Murphy, whose family and friends taste tested a variety of products from a variety of suppliers before choosing the best ones. “We use high-quality ingredients for exceptional flavor.”

Other attractions at Traditions include music on Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the season. “We’ve attracted a lot of new customers,” said Murphy, who added that Traditions has become a destination for meetings, class reunions and other gatherings. “While the old place was tiny, Traditions is roomy enough that we can seat 80 to 100 people inside, and about 50 people outside.”

dining at Traditions at Twin Lakes
Traditions is a place where friends meet at Twin Lakes. 

Want a way to remember your time at Twin Lakes and Traditions? You can purchase Twin Lakes t-shirts, caps, pullovers and other gear at the mini store inside Traditions, which also sells ice and cases of pop and beer.

Traditions is open every day from spring through early November. A bait and fishing supply vending machine is also located outside the restaurant for local anglers. Marine fuel is also available outside Traditions.

“There are so many fun things to do at Twin Lakes,” Murphy said. “I’m glad Traditions can be part of this.”

sign at Traditions at Twin Lakes
Traditions has quickly become a favorite gathering place at Twin Lakes. 
hats and merchandise for sale at Traditions at Twin Lakes
You can purchase hats, shirts and other merchandise at Traditions' mini store. 
upstairs dining room at Traditions at Twin Lakes
Traditions offers two levels of dining overlooking Twin Lakes. 

written by Darcy Maulsby

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