Be happy at Grumpy’s

It’s nice when a small town has a great place nearby where residents can go for dinner and entertainment instead of having to leave town. Thanks to Grumpy’s Restaurant and Grumpy’s South Side Saloon in Grand Meadow, folks there do not have to. In fact, there are people from Rochester who often head in that direction. It’s a very appealing place with a lot of action.

About 10 years ago, Jill Manahan and Brad Graff, brother and sister from Grand Meadow, decided it was time for that area to have a fun place to spend an evening. The American Legion building was for sale so they bought it, did some renovations and opened it up as Grumpy’s.

After four years, they sold the business, and over the next few years, it changed hands several times, finally landing back with Graff and Manahan and her husband, Ross, last April.

"We decided to do a total makeover," Ross said. This involved new kitchen equipment and flooring, as well as turning a large ballroom into a sports bar/saloon. It is 4,500-square-feet and features four pool tables, two dart machines and eight televisions, plus a 10-foot, big-screen TV.

The saloon area is separate from the restaurant; it even has its own entrance.


It is very much a family affair since Ann Grade, their mother, decorated the place using her own collection of antiques and memorabilia.

These days the restaurant is getting noticed for what is coming out of the kitchen, thanks to Jesse Pendergrass, the chef. A self-taught cook, he has had years of experience in restaurants in Rochester, including Roscoe’s Root Beer and Ribs and the former Henry Wellington’s. Pendergrass was also in charge of the kitchen at the old John Barleycorn.

Working with the owners, Pendergrass updated and revised some of the menu. It is a solid one that includes appetizers, salads, a salad bar, baskets, burgers, wraps, sandwiches and dinner entrees. "What is really going well is the Friday night fish fry, " Pendergrass said. Tilapia, a mild and firm white fish, is dipped in batter he makes using Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss beer. "All our fish are cooked to order; we don’t fry it all up, keep it warm and then serve it," Pendergrass said.

Probably the biggest seller is the ribs. "I braise them, then slow cook them for four hours," Pendergrass said. "I also use my own barbecue sauce. The meat literally falls off the bone, and they are very flavorful. I'd say that has turned into our signature dish, along with the fish fry."

Helping Jesse in the kitchen is Dan Bergeson. Mike Brakke, a former manager at Applebee’s, is the manager since Ross works at IBM and Jill is an accountant.

Holly Ebel is a Rochester freelance writer.

Q&A with Jesse Pendergrass and Ross Manahan

Q: This has only been open about two months. How do you think things are going?


Pendergrass: Really great. This place is so busy and customers are coming from all over southeastern Minnesota. It’s fun and we think our food is awesome. We’ll be adding some new things December 1.

Q: When you go home, what do you cook for yourself?

Pendergrass: I love to grill, and I also do a lot of pasta. Wine is also something I like to cook with.

Q: Ross, did you used to know a cranky old man; is that why you named it Grumpy’s?

Manahan: No, we just thought it was a good name.

Q: With this huge saloon space, what other plans do you have for it?

Manahan: We are bringing in live entertainment on the weekends, DJs, and Tuesday nights we have free poker league. Also, we are going to have bar bingo on Wednesday nights.

Grumpy’s, Highway 16 in Grand Meadow, is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.


The Saloon opens at 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. (507) 754-4647

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