Grand Cafe handed off to chef-driven team

Alan Hlebaen, Britt St. Clair and Andrew Acker at Grand Cafe .
Alan Hlebaen, Britt St. Clair and Andrew Acker at Grand Cafe .

The Grand Café at 38th & Grand has long been operated by couples, and Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone represent the third partners in recent history to take it on.

Anderson and Malone first worked together about 10 years ago, beginning at Porter & Frye, when Anderson worked as sous chef and Malone was a line cook. Between the two of them, they said there is no particular division of labor, and there is no general manager on staff — everyone chips in wherever needed.

“You do what you’ve got to do to get through the day,” Anderson said.

Upon taking over the Grand Café, they unearthed old restaurant dishes and dug out photos that date back to streetcar days. Three bakeries once operated on the block, they said.

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The café’s 1939 Hobart mixer is still solid and functional, and replacement parts are still manufactured.

“It’s part of the décor now,” said Anderson.

“That mixer is amazing and horrifying at the same time,” said Chef de Cuisine Alan Hlebaen, who said speeds alternate between “incredibly slow” and “scary fast.”

“It shakes the whole room when you turn it on,” he said.

The giant 1946 Baker Boy oven also functions but largely remains off during the summer, due to the immense heat it generates.

“The Grand is a really great place with lots of history,” said Bill Summerville, who is consulting on the wine list. “It has a very earnest quality to it. It’s the complete opposite of a corporate restaurant.”

Photo by Michelle Bruch

He pointed to the hand-painted wallpaper from Paris as an example. When the owners learned the wallpaper couldn’t be shipped to them, Malone’s brother, a pilot, picked it up from Paris and flew it home.

Menu selections are one-of-a-kind as well, such as the Mangalitsa ham from Wedge Oak Farm in Tennessee, hand-sliced with special knives.

Grand Cafe 4 - Mangalista ham from Wedge Oak Farm in Tennessee - Photo by Michelle Bruch

“There is kind of an art do it,” Anderson said.

The ham is cured and hangs in a barn for two years, which Hlebaen said gives it a unique depth of flavor.

“You can really taste that in the ham if you really pay attention,” he said. “…We’re trying to get things nobody else has, based on the relationships we have.”

Other menu highlights include pike quenelle in crayfish sauce and lamb with ramp hollandaise, favas and morels.

Grand Café is open for dinner Tuesday thru Sunday.

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