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THE EATBEAT: Grandma B's serves old-fashioned food on way to lake

BAGLEY, Minn. -- Unless you know about Grandma B's, you are likely to zip right past it on the way to or from the lake country near Bemidji. But if you have stopped there, you probably would enjoy another lunch at this unusual spot on Main Avenue...

BAGLEY, Minn. -- Unless you know about Grandma B's, you are likely to zip right past it on the way to or from the lake country near Bemidji. But if you have stopped there, you probably would enjoy another lunch at this unusual spot on Main Avenue. It's a large, quaint and quiet place where you get food like your grandmother used to make.

The first of this season's rhubarb was showing up in strawberry-rhubarb pie when I stopped there late in May.

I visited and wrote about Grandma B's four years ago, when it opened. It was an unusual venture spearheaded by Debra Matthews in an effort to keep senior meals in Bagley. She figured she could supply the meals and also create an eating place and some action on the otherwise quiet business street. She used two buildings that were empty. She named the place after her mother, Bea Ricke, who often comes in and helps.

In the morning, Grandma B's has a nice breakfast menu with eggs, breakfast meats, biscuits and sausage gravy and breakfast hash. The menu lists french toast, blueberry pancakes and Colombian coffee ($1).

When I met a group of friends for lunch there recently, they ordered sandwiches that ranged from $4.29 to $6.99. One of the stars in the lineup is Grandma's Reuben Sandwich. It's served between two slices of toasted rye ($6.99). And there's Grandma's Philly brisket.

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Grandma's Hungarian Mushroom Soup heads off the list of soups and salads. And it is something I want to try on another visit. As it was, I ordered the special, which included a big, thick and tender slice of ham with a very good potato salad and beans. Specials are posted on a board near the door.

Grandma's coconut cake was the featured dessert. Someone ordered a slice, and we all had a taste. It was moist and rich and enhanced by a topping of strawberries.

Grandma B's is a place where the baking is as important as the main fare. There is a showcase near the entry, where customers can get a look of the pastries available and buy items to take out.

The restaurant is large and painted in soft blue and white. Old dining room tables, many of them round, are covered with white lace cloths under plastic. There are homey pictures and bric-a-brac on the walls. The big store windows give a view of the street outside.

On the plus side, Grandma B's is very clean. Lila Strandlien, who does bookkeeping there, showed me the kitchen and storage areas. It is rare for restaurant operators to invite me into their kitchens. This one is neat and tidy. The restrooms are exceptionally clean. That sends a message that management cares. On the minus side, the service can be a little slow. This is understandable when a small staff struggles under the pressure of the rush hour.

Grandma B's has continued to do business in Bagley, although it no longer supplies the senior meals. There are a half-dozen full- or part-time people on the kitchen staff turning out caramel rolls and bread pudding with a vanilla sauce. There are a few area groups that come in for meetings during the week. And Grandma's is a showplace for area craft people to display and sell their work at no cost.

Grandma B's, one of several eating places in the Bagley area near Itasca State Park, adds another wholesome and interesting dimension to the food scene.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com or call (701) 772-1055.

Related Topics: FOOD
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