April 25, 1988
Betty Crandall chats with Mark Manthey and his daughter Martinique, 5, at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, 32 N. 21st Ave. W, in April 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)
Coffee’s on again at Lundahl’s
By Ellen Smith, News-Tribune staff writer
Just three months after a fire closed the doors temporarily, business at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop is bouncing back.
On a recent sunny morning, a dozen West End businessmen shared coffee and sweet rolls in the back of the tiny restaurant – as they do every morning – to determine which lucky diner would pay the bill. Up at the counter, elderly brothers in matching hats sipped coffee in unison. And at the table near the corner, a group discussed bocci ball and other games of their youth over a friendly cup.
Behind the counter, Betty Crandall – she’s the owner – prepared the soups and pies of the day. Roger McColley, the dishwasher, scrubbed up plates and saucers, stacking them next to the waitress’s ticket wheel. Mary Lou Moebakken and Tammy Crandall, Betty’s daughter, poured cup after cup of Lundahl’s famous egg coffee.
“Sure,” Betty says. “It’s what brings the customers in.”
Egg coffee is a throwback to the days when people boiled their brew in large galvanized pots over an open flame. At Lundahl’s, the crew boils an egg – shells and all – in with the grounds and water until the shells rise to the top and the coffee’s done. After a quick run through a conventional coffee strainer, it’s clear as consomme and ready for drinking.
“Do you find the taste of it different?” regular Dean Davidson asks a newcomer as they sip their java. “Some days it’s wonderful, and others it isn’t as good.
“But, by and by, it’s the best coffee around,” he said. “Everyone will say that. That’s why they come.”
Dean should know. The Electrolux salesman has stopped by for breakfast nearly every morning for the past 15 years. Usually, he orders “Dean’s Special,” an off-the-menu combination of a sunny-side egg, two bacon strips and a pancake, but this morning he dined on the daily special – a short stack of strawberry ‘cakes with syrup and whipped cream.
Lundahl’s Coffee Shop regulars George and Walter Carlson of Duluth finish up their java. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)
But it’s more than the coffee that brings the customers in. Lundahl’s, 32 N. 21st Ave. W, is a friendly place. Customers and workers know each other by name. The soups, muffins and desserts are made fresh every morning and the orders are sent out quickly. With its blue curtains and white vinyl tablecloths, the place feels downright homey.
“The atmosphere is different…,” says Tammy, who fled back to Lundahl’s after a stint as a prep cook at a nearby chain-owned pancake house.
“… over there it’s rush, rush, rush,” Betty said.
“Over here it’s more friendly, with neighbors coming in…,” Tammy continued.
“And salesmen doing business,” Betty added.
“And teasing,” said Mary Lou, stopping by to pick up a coffee pot.
Tammy Crandall writes up the lunch menu at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop. The restaurant’s fare changes every morning, when Betty Crandall decides what she’d like to cook up for the day. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)
Lundahl’s has served egg coffee since 1904, as boldly proclaimed in the shop’s front window. Betty – no relation to the Lundahl family – has run the restaurant since 1983. She got into the business after a former cook quit in 1981 and ended up buying the place.
“I never intended to have a restaurant,” she said during her morning break. “I didn’t think I was good enough.” She’s never taken a cooking class, but raising 10 children gave Betty plenty of experience in serving the masses.
Under her guidance, the restaurant ran smoothly until Jan. 30, when vandals broke in and set a fire in the basement. Betty has nor idea who started the blaze, or whether the police ever found the culprit.
The fire closed the restaurant down for two months for cleaning and repairs. Lundahl’s regulars – Dean, the elderly brothers, the West End business operators, the bocci ball fans – all breakfasted somewhere else.
It wasn’t much fun, Dean said. He tried a few other local restaurants, but the food didn’t suit him and the company wasn’t the same. Soon after Lundahl’s reopened on March 28, he returned.
Apparently most of Betty’s other customers felt the same way.
“Some of them went to the doughnut shop on Third Street; some went to the Highway Host,” Dean said. “But they’ve all come back.”
For another cup of coffee.
Tammy Crandall pours a pot of steaming coffee from a galvanized kettle at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop in April 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)
The building that housed Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, on the corner of First Street and 21st Avenue West, now is home to the Innerspace Scuba Center. I can’t find any additional information on when and why Lundahl’s closed… I’ll leave it to you to fill in the rest of the story by posting a comment.