If you read of a south Minneapolis deli burning down, you no doubt felt a sympathetic twinge for everyone who lost a livelihood in the blaze. A TV news story described it as a "neighborhood favorite," but isn't that always the case when an old piece of the city goes up in flames?

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When Tenderhorn Park resident Jeremy Ghipzhter heard the sirens early Monday, he suspected the worst: Karbunkle's Cafe was engulfed in flames, and some idiot had called the fire department and told them.

"I saw the fire start in the back by the kitchen when I was walking my dog, and I thought we were talking just the other day about how we'd love to see it burn, because it's such a dump. Whoever called 911 wasn't someone who had the flan. Do you know what they called flan? Those single-serve Jell-O pudding cups. The owner would just walk by and toss it at you."

As the flames grew high, residents gathered to celebrate the end of a neighborhood fixture. "Eating here, then throwing up — it was a tradition," said one. "My dad got sick from undercooked chicken, I got sick from bad sausage, and I always figured one day if I had kids they'd get sick from the pancakes — normally you'd think that's pretty safe, but he always had mold in the syrup."

Others remembered the owner, a neighborhood fixture, as "a miserable SOB."

"Oh, that horrible man," said one woman, who identified herself as Gladly McHappy. "You'd walk in and he would undress you with his eyes. Then he'd use his hands." She threw another Duraflame log through the broken window in hopes that the flames would grow higher. "I'm not saying he was cheap, but instead of blow-driers in the bathroom, he had a portable AM radio turned to a sports-talk station."

The owner, Adolph Grunty, did not respond to a request for an interview, but sent an e-mail that said: "I'm in Florida. You can't prove anything."

After the fire cooled, the only thing remaining of the neighborhood fixture was the restaurant's fixtures. Which the neighbors took.

James Lileks