The restaurant opened as “Highway Host” – A small chain located only in Northern Minnesota. In 2010 I met the manager that opened this place. He shared stories of his experience and the crazy antics of running a 24-hour diner in the early 70’s.
The year my wife and I both began lifelong careers in the restaurant industry. Jaima worked for Wendy’s in Maplewood, and I for my friend’s dad at Primos on the East Side of St. Paul. We both moved on and met at Ground Round in 1980. Since then we have worked off and on together at The Richfield American Legion, The Village Inn Sports Bar, and Augustino’s in Fitger’s Mall.
Once again we joined forces. This restaurant was closed. The owner set us up with a gracious lease. We re-opened, with two partners, as The Duluth Grill Embers. Our partners owned five Embers locations. As a growing chain they were offering to waive franchise fees and set up costs to any operator with more than five locations. Being quite naive at the time I cashed in our life’s savings of $12,000 in a 401k. With a handshake and determination we opened two weeks after signing a lease. Unfortunately the partnership dissolved in less than six months. The good news is we avoided suing each other and as far as I know we are all still alive.
I know now the only partner to have is my wife, children, or long term employees who are vested in the business.
When starting with the Embers Company in 2001, their moto was “One Company – 52 Chefs.” We never felt the concept progressed so we arranged with them to develop our own menu we could be most proud of. We introduced new products to include vegetarian, gluten free, and local supplies. Made from scratch with our recipes. The biggest drawback was we no longer fit the Embers chain concept.
Three significant things occurred. We were blessed with two new grand kids, we joined with Sustainable Twin Ports, and broke ties with Embers and returned the restaurant back to simply – Duluth Grill. Our future became very clear: What we were doing became less important as to why we are doing this. Quality ingredients, serving nutritional whole foods, buying from other family businesses, and diminishing waste drove our decision making process.
Our menu is full of thoughtful choices from basic comfort foods to more contemporary dishes that you’re hopefully exhilarated to find in a neighborhood diner. We strive for quality and believe it begins at our back door. We scrutinize every ingredient in our kitchen and work to bring you the best quality ingredients and good prices too. We continuously work with our suppliers to meet our specifications of quality freshness, simple ingredients, organic and local when possible.