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Curiocity: St. Paul Grill Celebrates 20 Years

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Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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White linens and a black-tie waitstaff are a staple of restaurants all over the globe, but when it comes to comforting food, an inviting atmosphere and more than 200 awards for excellence, there are not many long-time establishments that can match the history and success of the St. Paul Grill.

The Grill opened on Oct. 4, 1990, after Bill Morrissey, Morrissey Hospitality Companies president (and the Grill’s management firm) thought the people of St. Paul needed a place to make business happen, enjoy the views of downtown and celebrate the finer things in life.

At the time, St. Paul’s restaurant scene was hitting a bit of a lull — gone were the days of the Blue Horse and Galavan’s, and other iconic places of downtown. It was also during this time that the new ownership of the historic St. Paul Hotel was working to make a statement and a reintroduction of sorts to the city.

“So it was kind of like the lining of the stars,” Morrissey said.

And what better way to make a statement then through a restaurant, offering bold flavors, comforting food and a perfect location to gaze upon some of the city’s finest views.

Before the Grill, the St. Paul Hotel had two restaurants, but both were located in the lower level. Of course this was before the beautiful Rice Park had really blossomed, Morrissey said.

With all these things in mind — and an assessment of the people of St. Paul — it seemed like the perfect opportunity to create a classic, Midwest grill, one that could be viewed as an independent restaurant of the already notable hotel and a tribute to the city itself.

Now, 20 years later, the St. Paul Grill is continuing its success by thanking the many patrons that helped them become a destination for any celebration.

Morrissey said making it this long, and with so many great accomplishments, has become a welcoming surprise.

“The average life of a restaurant is about two years, so anything beyond that is a blessing,” he said. “The Grill is not about chasing fads, it’s about addressing trends.”

While the menu may have been tweaked here and there to address the changing palates of the locals, the favorites have always remained — a core principle and a big reason why Morrissey believes they are celebrating 20 years today.

Take for instance, the chicken pot pie — not necessarily a glamorous dish — but one that’s become a favorite. In 20 years, the Grill has sold more than 53,700 pot pies. Not to mention, more than 100,000 filet mignons, 76,800 roasted tenderloin and more than 55,400 pork chops. Not too shabby.

But perhaps the most impressive number is the simple two-digit figure that the Grill credits a large portion of its success on — boasting 13 years as the average tenure of a St. Paul Grill server.

“At the end of the day, it’s the people who really touch the customer the most that makes the brand,” Morrissey said. “It’s about service — polished service takes time to perfect.”

A simple effort to remember a customer’s drink choice or the ability to make recommendations with years of experience under your belt is truly what can make the difference between a one-time visit and securing a “regular.”

For the month of October, both the regulars and the one-time visitors will have the chance to help celebrate the Grill’s 20-year milestone. Throughout the month, six of the most popular menu items from the 1990 dinner menu will be offered at 1990 prices, including a $6.95 house smoke salmon, $12.95 chicken pot pie and the $4.95 apple crisp.

Guests who have been dining over the 20-year history of the restaurant are also invited to share their favorite memories of the Grill on its website. Those stories will be shared in newsletters and online.

And to further celebrate some of the Grill’s core principles — great wine and delicious food — the restaurant will send a lucky winner, plus a guest, to wine country. Morrissey said they figured what better way to celebrate then by treating someone to one of the best vacations in the nation. The trip will include airfare, accommodations and a behind-the-scenes winery tour for two from May 19 to May 22, 2011 in Napa Valley. To enter, head to the website.

It’s all just part of expressing the gratitude the Grill has had for its many patrons over the years, Morrissey said.

“We’re just all so thankful that we’ve been able to serve the community for all these years,” he said. “It’s really been an honor.”

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