Editor's note: This is the second in a once-in-awhile series highlighting restaurants that have been in our area for at least 25 years.
Grandma's Kitchen in the Silver Lake Shopping Center (1514 N. Broadway) is one of the more unique restaurants in town. Actually, you might describe it as more of a diner.
Here you won't find white tablecloths or $35 fillets. What you do get are sparkling clean formica tabletops and a menu with old-fashioned favorites, many in the comfort food category, reasonably priced. There is also a wait-staff that are both attentive and caring, some having worked there as long as 30 years.
Grandma's, like other restaurants, shut down in early March but weeks later began offering take-out, which is still an option. There is both outside and inside dining with all restrictions honored -- face masks, distancing and disinfecting between customers. The restaurant itself has a large base of customers who have been totally supportive, before the pandemic, during it and now.
It's a special place, one that also inspires loyalty. Sudati Villalobos, the new owner along with husband Noel Gomez, puts it this way: "We are a neighborhood gathering spot and most of our customers are older. For them this is a comfortable, affordable place to meet friends for coffee. We have some who are here six times a week and even a few who take all their meals here, three times a day. It's like a big family, a community. If I don't see someone for several days, I worry." It has also been a popular spot for groups to meet for weekly or monthly meetings, events that are on hold for now.
No one can say exactly how long Grandma's Kitchen has been there, but it's been years. A yellow snippet of newspaper taped to a 1977 menu reported that Jim Fritz, the original owner, had purchased the Cue-T Café in the Silver Lake Shopping Center and was re-naming it Grandma's Kitchen, probably in a tribute to his own, or because it has a homey connotation. The best guess is the restaurant was started in the early 1970s.
When Jim retired, his son Jim took it over. Up until then, a pool hall had been attached to the restaurant but the new Jim took that out and expanded the eating area. He then sold it to Jeremy Schultze, who made some modifications to the kitchen, but basically the place is the same it has been for decades. After owning it for 12 years, Schultze sold it to Villalobos and Gomez a little over one year ago.
"Owning my own restaurant is a dream come true for me," Villalobos says. From Uganda, Villalobos came to Rochester in 2006 and began working for Mayo Clinic. "I would have breakfast here before going to work, and when I heard Jeremy was selling I had to have it. My father had a restaurant in Uganda, so the tradition continues. He would be so proud of me. In fact, I'm proud of myself."
She and her husband are a good, hard-working team. Gomez is often in the kitchen and was also familiar with the restaurant business.
What is interesting is that the menu has barely changed since 1977. Most of the selections are the same, but the prices are not. What was then a 70-cent piece of pie is now $2.95.
In addition to soups, sandwiches, salads, entrees and desserts, there are daily specials. A favorite is on Thursdays -- scalloped potatoes and ham for $7.50. Big sellers are the hot sandwiches (turkey, roast beef, pork), served with a generous portion of mashed potatoes and gravy. Another favorite is the Reuben for $8.75. This is also one of the few places you can get liver and onions.
The pies are also a big draw. You can choose from 11 varieties including cherry, blueberry, apple and banana cream. On Mondays they offer lemon meringue and Thursdays the featured pie is sour cream raisin. And here is a special you'll not want to miss: Afternoons from 2-4 you can have a cup of coffee and a slice of pie for $4.
Grandma's Kitchen is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., though a customer told me you can come in before 6 because the door is open and the coffee ready. Good to know. They have also recently added a Sunday brunch available from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.