By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A beloved Minneapolis cook and restaurant owner is hanging up his apron after more than 40 years.

“It starts with Doug for me,” Al’s Breakfast regular Mark Trehus said.

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He’s referring to Doug Grina, who has been working at Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown since 1977. He got a job in his 20s with hopes of studying horticulture. Instead, he found his calling.

“To me it’s creative work and I learn about food,” Grina said. “I don’t follow recipes too much.”

It’s worked out OK. Al’s Breakfast was honored with a James Beard Award in 2004.

“People come here thinking he’s just a cook and they don’t realize he owns the place but he still manages to stay humble,” James Howard, of Richfield, said.

Hungry customers always come back for a short stack of Wally Blues (that’s short for Walnut Blueberry pancakes).

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“To me, the quality of a cook is only as good as his simplest dishes,” Grina said. “Like I think we make terrific poached eggs.”

What puts the side of eggs over the top? It’s Grina’s side of sarcasm and personality. His booming voice fills up the restaurant of 14 counter seats.

“Doug is like a side of Grumpy Old Men meets Dinkytown,” comedian Fancy Ray said.

After 41 years of doing what he loves, Grina is retiring. At 70 years old, he’s not slowing down, but starting a new chapter. Grina said he’ll miss the people, but he knows the good food and charm of the restaurant stays at Al’s.

“I’m one of the only people I’ve ever met who loves his work so much he can’t wait to get there in the morning,” Grina said.

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Grina will work Wednesday through Friday 6 a.m. to close, leading up to his last shift on Friday, Dec. 20.

Kate Raddatz