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Marilyn Hagerty: Gramma Butterwick's a place where Grand Forks gathers

There are no pretenses at Gramma Butterwick's family restaurant on South Washington Street. The menu is basic. The service is good.

The restaurant originally opened as Sambo's in 1970. It was purchased by Terry and Ruth Jensen, longtime Grand Forks restaurateurs, in 1992.

With Laurie Ness as manager in recent years, the restaurant continues. It seems to be a place where people meet to visit as well as eat. Some read the morning Herald. Some talk about old cars.

Many of the morning customers know each other. They gather in groups. They drink coffee. Although they don't solve all the affairs of the world, they talk about what is going on around Grand Forks.

As the morning visitors linger and leave, Gramma Butterwick's offers luncheon specials including meatloaf dinner for $9.99. And it is one of the few menus in the area offering liver and onions. Like other luncheon specials, liver comes with a cup of soup, salad and choice of potato.

There are senior specials throughout the day as well as a children's corner on the menu.

These include senior specials featuring half a hot sandwich or chicken salad with a cup of soup for $6.69. And there are dinner specials for seniors.

Gramma Butterwick's offers seating in booths along big windows looking out on South Washington Street. While this isn't quite like looking out over the ocean, it gives a good view of the traffic and the western sky. Then there's a clock on the wall near the front made with markers of kitchen utensils.

Marianne Aamold, who was a Christmas visitor from Washington State, says she always remembers the clock near the entryway.

As I ate about half of a huge pancake along with scrambled eggs and two strips of bacon, I studied the restaurant. A man at the counter was reading the Herald. I talked with Jim Myers. He said he comes to Butterwick's every morning to meet and socialize. I visited with Tony Smith, who says he comes down to Gramma's a couple of times a week. He said, "You can only hibernate so long."

Gramma Butterwick's seems to be a popular place to gather, to meet up with friends — and to talk.

The north booth is large and round. And the conversation there usually centers on cars — especially old cars.

Kristine Holm has been a waitress at Gramma Butterwick's for six years. She moves around quickly and quietly handles the service.

She gets fair tips from customers. Occasionally, the tips are memorable. At Christmastime, she said she served three men at one table. And along with a $20 and a $10 tip, there was one for $100.

When she asked if there had been a mistake, they said, "Merry Christmas."

Gramma Butterwick's Family Restaurant

1421 S. Washington St.

Telephone: (701) 772-4764

Owners: Terry and Ruth Jensen

Manager: Laurie Ness

Seating: 120

Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with 4 p.m. closing Saturday and 3 p.m. closing Sunday.

Report card: Basic foods at average prices. Good, quick service. Friendly ambience. Plentiful parking facilities all around. Choice of seating at counter, in booths or in larger dining area.