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From the Strib's archives: A trip back in time to Brookdale

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 13, 2015 - 7:49 AM

The Star Tribune is leaving its 95-year-old home at the end of the month, a nostalgia-triggering occasion that has sent me, on numerous occasions, into the basement clip morgue, a repository of files that reach back into the 1950s. I've been digging through material related to food and restaurants, but I've also peeked into other various facets of local history. 

The Dales, for example. My family lived in Brooklyn Center from 1959 to 1972, which of course meant that nearby Brookdale (pictured, above, in a 1962 file photo) was our shopping center of choice. I pulled the morgue's Brookdale-related materials, and along with dozens of tiny announcements on art displays, tax preparation clinics and kids' activites -- the bread and butter of a daily newspaper -- I stumbled upon a trove of articles illuminating the development of the now-demolished shopping center

A recent update to the newspaper's electronic photo archive also revealed a number of previously unseen (well, to me, anyway) images of "Mad Men"-esque Brookdale, and they've released a torrent of happy memories. Here's some of what I found.


Sneak peek: Brookdale was built in stages. The shopping center's about-to-open East Mall was featured in a July 27, 1966 spread in the Minneapolis Star. “Air-conditioned, and accented in oak. A 35-foot-high illuminated fountain, at rear center, gives illusion of perpetual rain.”

A Minneapolis Star story dated July 31, 1966 delved into further detail. "Second-stage construction has added 421,051 square feet of space to the shopping center at Hwy. 100 and Osseo Rd. [now Brooklyn Blvd.] in Brooklyn Center. Brookdale now covers 862,460 square feet, compared with 929,815 square feet at Southdale Center in Edina, Dayton Development's first shopping center.

"Included in the second stage are: A new Dayton Co. department store, covering 195,368 square feet. Some 20 news stores, shops and servinces in the newly built East Mall, bringing the center's total number of stores and services to 55. An enlargement of the J.C. Penney Co. store to 140,320 square feet, plus a 10,269-square-foot Penney's automotive service center. 

"Construction is scheduled to begin soon on a new Donaldson's department store. When it is completed next fall it will become Brookdale's fourth major department store, joining Dayton's, Penney's and a Sears, Roebuck & Co. store that opened in 1962."



Above: A close-up of the so-called "rain fountain" (1966) which fascinated me to no end when I was a kid.


Above: The East Mall's aquariums (1966), another Brookdale attraction that I remember with great affection.


Big D: The view into Dayton's from the East Mall (1966). Bear with me for a moment. In keeping with tradition, the store's budget department was called the Downstairs Store, so named because the department was located in the basement of Dayton's original store in downtown Minneapolis. However, at Brookdale, the Downstairs Store was located on the main level (the store had a smaller second level, for housewares and restaurants). My memory leads me to believe that, if you entered Dayton's Brookdale store from the mall (pictured, above), the Downstairs Store was to the right. A double-sided overhead sign hanging over the aisle delineated the Downstairs Store from the rest of the sales floor. One side said "Downstairs Store" and the other side read "Mall Level" (or something like that) and as a 12-year-old I found that endlessly amusing. I also have no idea why I remember that.




Above: Interiors of the new Dayton's store. Unfortunately, I couldn't unearth any images of the store's Brookdale Inn restaurant, or the Bandstand snack bar.


Movers and shakers: "At the opening of Dayton's new Brookdale store (Minneapolis Star, Aug. 2, 1966) are from left: Kenneth Dayton, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Dayton's; Douglas Dayton, president of Target; and Donald Dayton, chairman of the board of the Dayton Co." The three brothers' grandfather, George Draper Dayton, founded the store in downtown Minneapolis in 1902. Donald Dayton died in 1989, Kenneth Dayton died in 2003 and Douglas Dayton died in 2013. Their nephew is Gov. Mark Dayton.


Above: Bachman's Brookdale store, in the center's East Mall, two days before its 1966 opening.





The last big store: When Donaldson's opened in September 1967, the Minneapolis Star returned to Brookdale and published these four images (above). "When Donaldson's opens its new store in Brookdale Shopping Center, Monday, the center will be the first major enclosed mall shopping center to have four major department stores under one roof (Sept. 27, 1967). Donaldson's will join Dayton's, Penney's and Sears in the Brookdale complex. The new store will have a two-level 160,498 square foot space located on the north side of Brookdale Center. With the advent of Donaldson's the center will employ more than 3,000 with parking accommodations for 5,200 cars."


Carter-era dining: The East Mall's distinctive "rain fountain" disappeared in 1977 and was replaced by Olives East restaurant, "an airy wooden gazebo that has done well and has won national design awards," reported the Minneapolis Star on March 13, 1977. A Brookdale spokeswoman said the restaurant "has broken up the 'cattle run' look of the mall, with the result that the smaller stores between Donaldson's and Dayton's are doing better."

Midcentury modern: “Red Owl is going octagonal with two stores (Dec. 14, 1966). Model watchers are president James Watson and James E. Gottlieb, construction director. Red Owl Stores, Inc. plans to build two modern supermarkets at a combined cost of $1.5 million, Watson announced today. One of the octagonal buildings is already under construction at Brookdale. The other building will replace an existing Red Owl store at Southdale.” The Brookdale store, located to the southwest of the shopping center, opened in October 1967, and it replaced a store inside the mall. My father worked for Red Owl, and until we moved to Burnsville in 1972, a Friday night visit to this well-appointed store was my parents' weekly grocery shopping ritual. Both locations were later converted to Red Owl Country Stores (a rival to Cub Foods) and were eventually demolished. Trivia note: Watson’s daughter Lucia Watson would go on to open Lucia’s Restaurant in 1985; she sold her Uptown landmark last December.



Early eatertainery: An occasional clip reveals a bit of Brookdale-related restaurant news. ‪On Jan. 27, 1969, the Minneapolis Star published plans for the first, yes, Jolly Green Giant Restaurant. "It is intended for the business lunch and family dinner trade, according to company officials. This restaurant is scheduled to open at the Brookdale shopping Center in Brooklyn Center in July. A second Giant is planned for a later opening in Bloomington." The restaurant was a huge favorite of my pre-teen self, in part because the lobby featured a statue of the JGG. Or was it a gigantic JGG chair? I'm fuzzy on that detail. Anyway, the restaurant didn't last long. According to a January 1973 clip, it was replaced by Steak & Stein.

Another Nelson family favorite, Marc's Big Boy, opened its first Minnesota outlet near Brookdale (Dec. 5, 1968). Company president Ben D. Marcus said it was the first of 20 planned franchises in the state over the next five years. Big Boy Restaurants of America operated 480 units around the country at the time, and the chain was a subsidiary of Marriott Corp.

Yet another yellowed clip reminded me of the current discussion regarding Sunday liquor sales: In 1968, Dayton’s and Donaldson’s opened their stores at Brookdale and Southdale on Sunday for the first time. “The decision did not change the positions of J.C. Penney, Sears and Power’s, which had announced earlier that they would not do business on Sunday," reported the Minneapolis Star on March 20, 1968. "Today’s announcement followed a ruling Tuesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that a Sunday closing law by the 1967 legislature was unconstitutional. A spokesman for J.C. Penney repeated a national policy prohibiting its stores from operations on the Sabbath." Three days later, Woolworth’s announced it would open its Brookdale and Southdale stores on Sunday.

Get cooking. Or maybe not. Of course, the files contain recipes. Since its inception in 1969 and for years thereafter, a longstanding Taste feature was Restaurant Requests. Readers would call upon the newspaper to act as an intermediary and publish home-cooking versions of popular restaurant recipes. 

On Sept. 21, 1977, Mrs. Patrick Bayless of Anoka inquired after the recipe for "Poulet Elegante Crepes, as served at Dayton’s Brookdale Restaurant." The reply came from Linda Lokkesmoe of Dayton’s and, well, it’s a doozy:

“For sauce, add canned mushroom stems and pieces to Stouffers’ frozen, creamed chicken; heat. Place 2 1/2 oz. of heated sauce in each crepe, fold edges toward center and overlap. Place in microwave oven for a few seconds, until bubbly. Remove and top with 1 tablespoon of sauce; garnish with parsley.”

Judy Harding of St. Francis requested the recipes for the punch and the cranberry salad served at Dayton’s Buffet Room in Brookdale. Becky Longabaugh of Dayton’s replied, and her more formal response (again, yikes) was published on April 4, 1973.


Makes 64 (4-oz) servings.

1 gallon lemonade

2 (46-oz.) cans pineapple juice

3 (12-oz.) cans Diet 7-Up

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Red food coloring

Directions: Blend ingredients.


2 (1-lb.) pkg. fresh cranberries

2 c. sugar

1 (10-oz.) pkg. miniature marshmallows

3 qt. whipped cream (1 1/2 qt. whipping cream)

Directions: Chop cranberries; add sugar, mix and let stand 1/2 hour. Add marshmallows and cream, then put in a mold. Refrigerate before serving.

Saying 'goodbye' to the Modern Cafe

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 6, 2015 - 2:37 PM

Truly, it’s the end of an era.

Jim and Patty Grell announced that they have sold their Modern Cafe. The buyer's identity remains a mystery, and Jim Grell wasn’t revealing the new ownership’s plans for the restaurant.

“They’re going to make their own announcement,” he said.

The Grells opened their modern-day diner on Aug. 8, 1994, in the former Rabatin’s, a 1940s landmark diner in northeast Minneapolis. In the intervening years, the value-conscious restaurant has played a defining role in the Twin Cities’ move towards casual neighborhood dining, drawing legions of fans for its contemporary renditions of blue-plate fare, including a legendary pot roast that sells to the tune of 500 pounds per week. The restaurant's popularity also proved to be a catalyst in the neighborhood's revival.

The restaurant will remain in the Grells’ hands until March 14. “It’ll be the normal deal until next Saturday night,” said Jim Grell (pictured, above, in a Nov. 1994 Star Tribune file photo).

The couple has quietly had the Modern on the market for a number of months. “The restaurant is 20, and I just turned 50, and I’m old, and I’m tired,” said Jim Grell. “We’re not failing. I just don’t want to be doing this when I’m 60.”

Twenty years is a practically a century in the world of restaurants. “We were just laughing about how, when we opened, we didn’t have a phone, because we couldn’t afford it,” said Jim Grell. “We had a pay phone, and I used to take quarters out of the register when I had to make a call. I got a quarter, called [former Star Tribune restaurant critic] Jeremy Iggers and said, ‘Hey, I just opened a restaurant, and we want you to write about it.’”

The Modern’s impossibly tiny kitchen has been the stomping grounds for a number of influential Twin Cities chefs, including Mike Phillips (now the owner of Red Table Meat Co.), Scott Pampuch (former chef/owner of Corner Table, now at the University of Minnesota) and Phillip Becht (now at Victor’s on Water).Chef Ella Wesenberg currently runs the kitchen, and the restaurant's menu is as compelling as the day the doors opened.  

When asked what he plans to do post-sale, Grell, ever the quote machine, had a typical Grell-ish response.

“I’ve been in contact with Jon Stewart and Lucia Watson, and we’re forming a band,” he said, referring to the soon-to-depart host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and the founder of Lucia’s Restaurant, who sold her 30-year Uptown establishment last December. What will he do in the band? “Whatever Lucia tells me to do,” he said. “She's my hero.”

Where are all the women?

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: March 4, 2015 - 5:11 PM

The photograph of 15 male chefs featured on the cover of this month's Mpls.St. Paul magazine (above) has local female chefs and restaurateurs angry. Food-and-dining senior editor Stephanie March offered the reasoning in a subsequent blog post

The public response from 22 women, crafted in reaction to this month's cover of MSP magazine, is as follows:  

“Where are all the women?” We Are All Right Here!

As a group of female chefs and restaurateurs, we’re moved to respond collectively.

We’re outraged at the viewpoint taken by the cover and subsequent editorial comments on the March issue of Mpls St. Paul Magazine depicting the best chefs of the Twin Cities as all male. It’s a false and embarrassing representation of our diverse food community.

Did anybody notice that your mothers, wives and sisters weren’t in the room?

As a young female grocery store clerk remarked when handing one of us the issue—“Where are all the women?”

The media, as our society’s most influential institution, has a duty to advocate against gender and racial inequalities. As Alice Waters pointed out in 2013, “I think it’s a matter of how we go about the reviewing of our restaurants. Is it really about 3-star places and expensive eccentric cuisine? The restaurants that are most celebrated are never the ones that are the simple places.”

We take this opportunity to have a lasting impact by engaging in ongoing conversation on this topic in our community.

We pledge to hold the media accountable.

We’re committed to fostering the development of our diverse and talented young food industry workers for the next generation. It takes a village.

These, and many other women and men contributed to this conversation and the ideas expressed in this letter:

Lisa Carlson

Brenda Langton

Kim Bartmann

Nettie Colon

Hannah Benti

Nan Bailly

Heather Kim

Carrie L. Summer

Maren Mattson

Taya Kaufenberg

Heather Kim

Sue Zelickson

Beth Fisher

Tracy Singleton

Liz Benser 

Dana Kevlahan

Stephanie Worums 

Sarah Masters

Sylvia Izabella

Linda Quinn

Tamara Brown

Soile Anderson

Tammy Wong

Baker Steve Horton leaving Rustica

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 3, 2015 - 4:14 PM

Change is coming to Rustica.

After nearly 11 years of non-stop baking (more on that in a moment), owner Steve Horton is selling his interest in the Minneapolis bakery to his business partner, Dogwood Coffee Co. owner Greg Hoyt.

“I’m a little fried,” said Horton. “I feel like I need to step away and spend time with my kids, but I can’t leave Rustica without being completely gone.”

Anyone wondering about the all-consuming nature of running a top-flight bakery need only ask Horton about his longstanding 12-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule and hands-on, quality-obsessed work practices.

He said that it has only been in the past two years that he’s been able to take a regularly scheduled day off each week. During the past decade, Horton has found the time to leave Minnesota just once, an overnight trip to Madison, Wis.

His hard work has certainly paid off, earning Rustica an enviable customer base and a shower of accolades. In late February, Horton was one of 20 bakers across the country who were named semifinalists by the James Beard Foundation for its first-ever Outstanding Baker award (finalists will be announced March 24th). Horton is a two-time previous semifinalist in the foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef award. 

Hoyt and Horton have been pals for nearly 20 years, and Hoyt is no stranger to Rustica. In 2009, when Rustica relocated from its original south Minneapolis home to its current location, “Greg was instrumental in the move,” said Horton. Dogwood grew out of the coffee bar — it was called Bull Run — that Hoyt installed in the bakery’s then-new location. Dogwood now operates coffee bars in three Minneapolis locations, all stocked with Rustica baked goods, naturally. 

What changes will Rustica customers encounter as a result of the sale? “Not much, because there’s not much that needs to be done,” said Hoyt. “I just want to be a steward of the brand. I’m just excited that Steve is going to get some rest, because he’s my friend.”

Burnout is a known phenomenon among entrepreneurs, said John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

“It can be an all-consuming life,” he said. “People who are successful at getting things done often have a hard time letting go. Finding a work-life balance is a conversation that everyone needs to have.”

The sale marks the end of Stock & Badge, the holding company that once included Rustica, Dogwood and the former Parka and Grain Stack restaurants. Hoyt added that Rustica will continue to supply retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops, but he’s not ready to think about expansion plans.

“There’s room in the market for Rustica’s products, that’s for sure,” he said. “People have such a love affair with this brand, and that’s something that none of us want to take for granted. We’re not going to grow just for growth’s sake. I don’t really know what I’m going to do, but I’ve seen dozens of examples of what not to do.”

Both see Horton’s departure as an opportunity for Rustica’s 14 bakers. “It’s going to give people here room to grow,” said Horton. “I feel really comfortable walking way, because we have such top-notch people working here.”

One sure bet is that Hoyt won’t be baking. “That’s not where my effectiveness lies,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know how to roast coffee, either. But I do know how to get people in the right places, and how to develop standards. I’m excited to see what happens when we put our staff to the test.”

Horton plans to act as a consultant to Rustica for a year. “I can’t be out of work for too long,” he said. “I have some ideas, but there’s no imminent project in the works, and I’m not leaving Minneapolis.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and if all goes as planned the sale will be finalized later this month.

Burger Friday: Brothers Deli serves up a side of Mpls. history

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: February 28, 2015 - 7:16 AM

The burger: Jeff Burstein has always had a burger on his menu at his 22-year-old Brothers Deli, but lately he has been (no pun intended) beefing up the burger selection. “We’re selling more burgers than ever,” he said. “I guess everything comes around.”

Last month, he and his crew started a burger-of-the-month special, and their first outing has been such a success that they’ve kept it on the menu. (Be on the lookout for the next iteration, what Burstein is labeling his “steakhouse” burger. Translation: A patty seasoned with a house-made steak sauce.)

All Brothers burgers start the same way: 51/2 oz. of loosely formed ground chuck that dashed with that lifelong friend of the backyard grill, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. The patties are cooked on flattop, retaining a fairly soft, pink interior and a barely charred exterior surface and plenty of juice. It’s one of those patties that kind of melts in your mouth.

The bun is a soft, eggy thing from Main Street Bakery, buttered and slightly toasted.

Where this month’s special – dubbed the Shack Burger – diverges from its plain-Jane compatriots is in its toppings.  

The combination is basically a heart attack waiting to happen, and utterly irresistible to a junk-food fanatic like yours truly. Nothing is skimped upon, either: sautéed mushrooms, thick-cut (and teasingly smoky) bacon and a crispy flurry of battered and fried onions, a blanket of Cheddar cheese, they all get the pile-on treatment. What’s not to love, right? (True confessions: While I was eating it, with a knife and fork because it was beyond sloppy, I made myself stop at the halfway point, as I could hear the voice of every doctor on every TV show saying, everything, in moderation).

The sauce hits all the proper sweet-salty-tangy notes. Like everything at the Brothers, it’s steeped in history, dating to a mid-1960s visit that Burstein’s father Leonard made to southern California, and a sauce he encountered at the famous Hamburger Hamlet chain. Burstein calls it “Shack Sauce,” and it’s a tasty blend of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, garlic powder and coarsely chopped pickles.

Oh, I almost forgot. When it comes to the noon hour, Burstein & Co. understand that time is of the essence. My burger arrived in four minutes flat, and piping hot. Perfect.

Price: $8.99. That includes a trip to the first-rate salad bar, heaped with potato salad, coleslaw, pickled herring, bread pudding and more. Truly, a deal.

Fries: Included. They’re thick, skin-on, house-cut things, and my only complaint is that they landed just this side of greasy.

Dessert: As in, save room for. Nothing comes even close to fancy, but for skyway denizens bored senseless by the drab sweets sold in second-story fast-food establishments, the homey, butter-drenched cookies and bars at the Brothers are a revelation. Of particular note are the brownies, a marvel of dense, cakey, chocolaty goodness topped with a generous swipe of creamy cocoa frosting (Burstein said that the recipe hails from a long-ago Sears catalog). Oh, and the popovers are not to be missed.

Love thy neighbor: In the you’ve-gotta-love-this department, what’s great about the Brothers is its caution-to-the-wind (and highly un-Minnesotan) sense of personal space. During the busy lunch rush, diners – and these are people who, shock of shocks, may not know one another -- are crowded together, elbow to elbow. And they live to tell the tale. It’s the original community table, and in this cramped, animated setting, it works.

A taste of Minneapolis: It may not be readily apparent – the restaurant’s current location opened in 2000 – but grabbing a quick-service breakfast or lunch at the Brothers Deli is also indulging in a big, flaky kolache of Minneapolis history.

I’m old enough (and, frankly, peculiar enough) to remember not one but two jingles from old Brothers Deli commercials, or a reasonable facsimile of them, anyway: “Kibitz means talk, nosh means eat, nosh at the Brothers, a true deli treat." And, “The Brothers’ coffee and pie. The Brothers’ pastrami on rye. When you’re downtown or you’re in the Dales a Brothers dinner never fails to brighten up your day. The Brothers brighten your day.”

The Star Tribune is moving from its 95-year-old building next month, and the thought of leaving this sprawling, inefficient and beloved dump is making me very nostalgic. One of my favorite rooms in this crazy old structure is the clip morgue. You practically need a Sherpa guide to find it, tucked into a barely-trafficked chunk of the gloomy basement (where the presses were once housed), a dusty and little-used haven piled high with shelf after shelf of little green and gold envelopes, each one containing carefully snipped, labeled, dated and archived newspaper clippings, filed under thousands and thousands of subject headings. The earliest seem to date from the 1950s, and they all pretty much end in the mid-1980s, when the process went digital.  

Grabbing a burger at the Brothers sent me straight to the morgue. It took a while – the filing system is something of a mystery to me – but I persevered, and discovered clips. Many fragile clips, all neatly folded into 3x5 paper envelopes. I’m guessing they haven’t been opened since the clips were filed, decades ago.

Here’s what I found:

The Burstein family – starting with Mike and Dora -- got into the restaurant business in 1939. Dora Sudit and Mike Burstein met in 1914, onboard a ship from Russia bound for the United States. A friendship grew into love, and they married in Minneapolis.

“‘Mike shoveled coal first,’ recalled Dora Burstein, explaining how her young husband earned his living while he learned English,” wrote Minneapolis Star staff writer Ann Burckhardt in a July 5, 1978 story.

Mike’s Cafe specialized in Jewish home cooking and catered to the theater crowd. Mike had also been a chef at the Minneapolis Athletic Club when he opened his first place at 21 N. 6th St. (now Mayo Clinic Square, formerly known as Block E) in 1938. The restaurant moved a block away -- 11 N. 7th St. -- in 1939, and it catered to the garment workers in the surrounding buildings, as well as the area’s theatrical crowd.

“It was across the street from the old Alvin Theater, a strip joint, and I can remember people like Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand coming in for meals,” said Leonard Burstein in a Minneapolis Star story from the 1970s. “It was a very simple place with a counter, a few booths and some tables.

Mike served in World War II in France, and after the war, the two continued a partnership that lasted until Mike died in 1953. “‘He cooked, I baked,’ Dora Burstein told Burkhardt. He cooked meats and vegetables and sauces; she baked breads and fancy European pastries. The rich knishes and the hefty soups of their Russian Jewish past were daily fare.

“Dora Burstein maintains that it was she who decided they should open their own restaurant,” wrote Burkhardt. “She was counting on the experience they had gained working together at the Standard Club, a private club atop the then Nicollet Hotel. Though Burstein was reluctant to give up a regular paycheck, his wife was persuasive.”

Burckhardt wrote that downtown’s only deli was a hit with visitors and celebrities, but locals were hesitant to try Jewish specialties. “Corned beef sandwiches? Sure. But borscht? Cabbage soup?” she wrote.

Dora’s response: “I educated them with borscht. I talked them into it. Now they love it.”

Dora’s favorite meal? “A good hamburger with a little mustard,” wrote Burkhardt. How fitting for Burger Friday.

Like most (if not all) restaurant-owning families, Mike and Dora’s sons Sam and Leonard – the brothers of the Brothers – got their start early.

“Sam and I started out working there when were about 7 or 8,” recalled Leonard in a 1979 Minneapolis Star profile. “First we did dishes and kitchen prep like washing vegetables. Later on we waited on tables. I was a wonderful waiter. And we learned to cook from our dad and bake from our mother.”

In 1959, six years after Sam and Leonard took over the business, they moved the restaurant a block away, into the arcade in then-new Dayton-Radisson parking ramp. Dayton’s management wasn’t keen on the Mike’s Cafe name, so the Bursteins renamed the business the Brothers. The new 80-seat place was smaller than the old Mike’s, but it did more business on its first day than Mike’s averaged in a week.

"The menu included potted oxtails and cold, pickeled mackerel, items 'that are lost these days,' said Sam, recalling the old days in a 1979 Minneapolis Star story. "'People don't even know what they are anymore.'"

Will Jones, the Tribune’s man about town, made the restaurant the subject of his Nov. 9, 1959 column, and so much of what he has to say still rings true today.

“The chances of finding something imaginative in the way of breakfast downtown have improved with the opening of the Brothers new delicatessen and restaurant in the Dayton Radisson arcade,” he wrote.

“I stopped in there the other morning for my favorite delicatessen breakfast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and toasted bagels. Visitors from the east have asked for and got – although it isn’t on the breakfast menu – smoked whitefish and soft-boiled eggs, and schmalz herring.

“Just having a place that will toast a bagel for breakfast in downtown Minneapolis is a real step forward. Working girls in the area have discovered the toasted bagel at coffee-break time, too.

“The Brothers – Leonard and Sam Burstein – are overwhelmed at what has happened to them in the few weeks they have been open.

“‘We used to serve a barrel and half of corned beef a week,’ said Leonard. “Now we’re serving a barrel a day. People come in and say, ‘I’m glad somebody finally has opened a place like this downtown.’ I tell them, ‘But we’ve downtown for 20 years – just a block away.’ It’s amazing what a difference one block makes.”

Jones was all over the desserts: Whipped-cream cakes, chocolate cream pies – “real cream pies, not custard,” he wrote – banana cream pies (“with real whipped cream”), seven-layer cakes.

“‘I’m flabbergasted the way some of these women put away desserts, and I’m flabbergasted that they’ll pay 40 cents for them,’ Leonard said.”

Business boomed. A second restaurant (and bakery), the Brothers Too, opened on the first floor of the Northwestern National Bank building in 1965. A spectacular fire on Thanksgiving Day 1982 closed that restaurant for good.

By 1968, long before Jimmy John’s and Au Bon Pan ruled the downtown skyways, the two Brothers outlets were serving about 4,000 diners a day. A Southdale outlet opened that year. Rosedale soon followed, and a third downtown outlet, in the Midwest Plaza building, appeared in 1971.

Fast-forward to 1979. Sam Leonard and brother Fred were presiding over 11 full-service restaurants, a quick-service counter, four carryout bakery-delis and a commissary kitchen. Annual revenues were roughly $10 million, according to an April 24, 1979 story in the Minneapolis Star. That’s about $33 million in 2015 dollars.

By the late 1970s, the family had opened restaurants in Maplewood Mall and Burnsville Center (a restaurant I recall with great affection; this Burnsville native and his mother and I dined there with some frequency), and was expanding into the West Acres shopping center in Fargo, N.D.

The family sold the business in the early 1980s, and it sputtered to a close under new ownership.

In 1993, with the restaurant business DNA swirling in his bloodstream, Leonard’s son Mike Burstein revived the family business’ name, but tweaked the business into a different format: a counter-service spot on the downtown skyway. It has occupied the same lively Nicollet-and-6th location for the past 15 years.

Address book: 50 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-341-8007. Open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.com.


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