After closing for renovation prior to Winter Break last semester, local restaurant Grand Central is expected to reopen in the middle of March. Owners Leo and Beth Judeh are renovating with the goal of expanding their menu options and furthering the ability to serve more locally grown food made from scratch.
“Before, the focus was kind of on more for the mind of grab-and-go,” said chef Denali Tuffo, who is spearheading efforts in the kitchen with chef Jason Bush. “The food was still prepared fresh daily, from scratch. We did buy in a couple things, like our pizza crust and flatbread. The biggest difference now is that we want to be as close to 100 percent from scratch as possible.”
That means using the smallest freezer Tuffo has ever seen a full-scale restaurant use. Grand Central hopes to forgo the massive walk-in freezers most restaurants rely on by acquiring their food daily from local suppliers instead. While the freezer will be downsized, the kitchen is benefiting from a full-scale makeover. What was once a modest kitchen with a counter-top oven will morph into a hotline including a fryer, grill, flat-top and a state-of-the-art “Combi-Oven,” which locks in moisture, doubles as a smoker and poaches eggs right in their shells.
The crepes, deli sandwiches and waffles that drew students and professors to Grand Central pre-renovation will still be there, but customers can expect the new menus to include much more.
Tuffo couldn’t comment on all of the new menu items because the chefs are still experimenting, but she is sure that the new eggs benedict with “two mosa cakes, topped with beer braised pork belly, a couple of poached eggs, homemade tomatillo salsa verde, pickled onions and queso fresco” will be a go.
In addition, the restaurant will be hiring a bartender, creating a snack menu for the bar, extending happy hours, building an outdoor patio that should be ready for the summer and adding more waiting staff. It will have more of a full-service, sit-down restaurant feel rather than the smaller, coffee-house feel of Shish.
Macalester students were disappointed when the restaurant closed for renovation, but are even more excited for the reopening.
“Their crepes are my favorite, and the place is conveniently close,” says Nathan Vinehout-Kane ’18. “I can’t wait to go back with some friends and experience the atmosphere again.”
Much of the need to renovate an already successful restaurant came out of the owners’ and chefs’ desire to serve the needs of the neighborhood. When loyal customers suggested that the restaurant add on to various dishes, the owners listened and decided it was time for Grand Central to expand its options.
“People from the neighborhood are not shy about telling you what they want,” Tuffo said, “which is beautiful.” Grand Central’s deep connection with the Mac-Groveland community stems from co-owner Leo Judeh, a former Olympic boxer from Jerusalem. He was introduced to Grand Avenue while working at the Dunn Brothers two blocks from his restaurant’s door.
“I started working at Dunn Brothers, then wanted to open up my own coffee shop, then wanted to serve food, then do catering,” Judeh said. “I don’t know how to stop; that’s my problem.”
His “problem” has served his business and the community well. Grand Central and Shish, the restaurant that he owns next door, have become the Macalester community’s first choices for off-campus food.
Another “Love Story” with his food has flourished as well; Taylor Swift ordered from Shish when she played at Saint Paul’s Xcel Energy Center in October.
Grand Central will be hiring, and encourage students to come fill out an application if they are so inclined.