Some of Minnesota’s best restaurants are hidden in plain sight, out past the suburbs and miles off the interstate.
We recently asked readers for their favorite eateries in communities with 10,000 people or fewer — sometimes far fewer. The Where We Eat team will visit some of the top choices over the coming months and feature them here.
Today, we highlight The Brass Rail, one of the most-popular picks. Here’s the lowdown on Grandy's fried chicken haven.
How to get there
The Brass Rail is a roadside bar found along Highway 65 about an hour north of the Twin Cities, here's a map.
It can be found in the unincorporated community of Grandy, population 38.
What to eat
As the sign above says, it's known for its "World Famous" broasted chicken, which you can buy in either 1/4 or 1/2 bird portions.
Founded in 1969 by Donna and Ennis Biggins, co-owner Rod Knowles came on board in 2002 and took over the day-to-day running in 2010.
He said people keep coming back because they haven't changed their winning formula.
"We've tried to keep the same consistency with the food, we don't mess with the menu too much," he said.
That goes for all the food, but particularly the broasted chicken: "The recipe is the same as it's always been."
Our waitress suggested the spicy chicken sandwich was a favorite with diners, but I only had eyes for the 1/2 bird fried chicken, which arrive in four large pieces with two thick slices of buttered Texas Toast.
Diners also get a small pot of coleslaw to start things off, not to mention the choice of five sides – tots, fries, waffle fries, hash browns and onion rings – to go with the chicken. I opted for onion rings.
As a fried chicken eater who prefers the skin to the chicken (yes, I'm an abomination), this is one of the few occasions where the reverse was true. There was succulent, juicy meat beneath the southern coating.
Ultimately the portion defeated me, my belt was nearing breaking-point and I had one giant thigh still to finish – it came home with me. Small town diners = gigantic portions. I'm not complaining.
For a town of 38 (according to the 2010 census) it was sure busy on a Tuesday lunchtime, though I suspect much of that is down to it being only a few minutes up the road from Cambridge.
Knowles keeps a picture behind the bar that shows how the Brass Rail looked around when it first opened in spring 1969 (below). Back then it was predominantly a bar, with only a tiny 8 by 8 kitchen in the corner.
The unassuming bar also has an uncanny knack for keeping people coming back. Knowles said their regular customers include ex-Minnesotans who now reside in Los Angeles and even Germany.
It's an easy trip from Minneapolis too, given it's a straight shot up Highway 65 on the way up to many summer cabins.
Prices and hours
Considering the amount of food you get, $11.50 for 1/2 a chicken with coleslaw and a side is a bit of a steal.
If you're not in the mood for chicken, there's a decent selection of burgers and sandwiches that come in below $10.