(credit: Coco Mault)

By Coco Mault

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Despite Minneapolis’s penchant for razing, there are numerous remnants from the city’s past that still stand. Some historic pieces are more hidden than others, but there is comfort — and fun to be had — in seeking the treasures that remain. And some aren’t hidden at all. Take a look at the neon sign for Peter’s Grill jutting out from the U.S. Trust Building on 8th street. This restaurant is decidedly not hidden. In fact, it’s hard to miss.

When Peter Atcas and his brother John graduated from owning a fruit stand to running their own restaurant in the early 1900s, Peter’s Grill has been a Minneapolis staple. Atcas was intent on selling large portions of quality homemade food, and that is just one of many details that Atcas set in place that still remains today. And even though everything may not be made in-house anymore, they have food with a very homemade take.

Today, the restaurant is owned by Atcas’ nephew, and the kitchen still serves wholesome food. Peter’s menu is a full one, offering everything from hearty breakfasts to homemade soup to burgers with homemade buns. There are even steaks, chops, and seafood options. For light eaters, there are fruit and cottage cheese options, too.

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Desserts seem to vary from day to day, but their signature green apple pie — Peter Atcas’ own recipe — looks to be available daily. Peter’s Grill also offers up a chocolate pie that comes about as close to grandma’s as you could ever hope for from a restaurant. A thick and smooth chocolate filling with whipped cream tops a surprisingly flaky (thankfully not doughy!) crust.

Their daily homemade soup offering is Fresh Vegetable (small bowl $4.45), along with a soup of the day option (small bowl $4.25). For those of you who happen to be there when the soup du jour is chicken noodle, order it. A generous serving of hot golden broth will arrive at the table brimming with healthy chunks of veggies, chicken, and large homemade egg noodles. The stock is quite flavorful, even buttery.

For sandwich seekers, Peter’s Grill offers theirs on white, wheat, or pumpernickel. Be ready to dress your own sandwich, though. It will arrive in quite plain a fashion. The roast beef sandwich ($7.95) on white was okay. The bread was snow white and sliced thick; the waitress pointed out that the bread came from a very good local bakery. It was a good meal in that wholesome after-school kind of way. The several layers of U.S. Choice roast beef were tasty, but definitely no-frills. Mayo and mustard packets are available on request. Wavy potato chips are served on the side, or $2.95 to substitute potato salad or fries.

Besides the bright green neon light on the restaurant’s large deco-style sign, light spills onto the sidewalk from large street-level windows making the large diner look like prime material for an Edward Hopper painting. The place clearly has its regulars, especially during breakfast and lunchtime, but during non-peak hours the original high-backed wooden booths, hat racks, and lunch counter stools are typically empty, presenting a lonely, Hopper-esque scene. But it’s worth a stop — anyone who enjoys the feeling of going back in time to a wholesome, stylish place will enjoy this surviving piece of Minnesota history.

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Hours: Mon to Fri 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sat 8 a.m.-2:45 p.m.; Sun closed
Breakfast served 7 a.m.-10:45 a.m.; Dinner served 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m.