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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Serving up a healthy dose of downtown culture

    “”I got one of the cook’s numbers one time,”” Colton Stickney casually joked. “”She threatened my life. It was a fake threatening. She was waving at someone behind me and I waved to her, and she pulled out a knife and started doing hand motions at her throat.””

    A creative writing sophomore, Stickney frequents Grill, the gritty hipster oasis in the downtown area that lives and breathes Tucson diner culture.

    “”We were making fun of each other via hand motions the entire night,”” Stickney said, laughing. “”Before I left, some guy gave me a note and it said, ‘If you’re not seeing one of those girls you’re with, maybe you’d like to try a woman.'””

    This is typical of Grill, a laid-back 24/7 diner that opened in the 1920’s under the name Minerva Café and has been offering up good eats and out-of-the-ordinary company ever since.

    “”There’s a lot of younger people who work there,”” Stickney said. “”I’m not sure that I’d be friends with any of them – they kind of scare me.””

    From the red vinyl seats to the photo booth in the adjacent bar, the Red Room, this hole-in-the-wall has a lot to offer. The building’s style screams vintage and the staff of young hip Tucsonans adds to an unusual personality. Grill is the oddest diner you’ve ever loved with tater tots to die for.

    While the usual sandwich, French fry and milkshake fare is available, much of what Grill has to offer is high diner. Tessa Kramer, a cultural anthropology junior, is intrigued by Grill’s vintage feel, and was impressed by the food she tried.

    “”I haven’t tried much here,”” Kramer said, “”I’m a vegetarian, but I eat fish sometimes. The tuna melt is good. I got the portobello tonight and I hope it’s good!””

    Kramer sat with a friend in a small booth near the Red Room.

    “”Most of the time we just get coffee here,”” she added.

    But Grill has much more to offer than coffee. They boast a killer burger and not many diners can claim to serve “”freakin’ great tortellini,”” but Grill does.

    A great place for late night eats, Grill is busiest at one or two in the morning. If you brave Grill that late, expect to wait for a table and don’t expect fast service. No matter the time of day, you will be greeted with water and menus, and if you want a pop, you better not expect your server to ask what you’d like to drink.

    Quick, easy and huge, the big bowl of tater tots is the way to go in the wee hours of the morning.

    “”I’m a vegetarian so my options are limited, but the food is good,”” Jacob Denholtz said. “”The meat and cheeses are all Boar’s Head, and for the most part the cooks know what they’re doing.””

    Tall and dressed black, Denholtz smiled as he recalled coming to Grill as a teenager. The pierced server who always sports a classic moustache and utility belt is just one of the interesting personalities Grill employs.

    “”People come to enjoy good food, good people and good alcohol,”” he said.

    There are, however, a few things you have to go without at Grill. As stated in the rules on the menu, you may not have cheese on your tots and no, they do not have ranch. Try the creamy pesto. Nothing on the menu seems appealing? No worries, just order the big bowl of Cap’n Crunch, and you can’t go wrong.

    The tater tots and milkshakes are another go-to on the menu, with the most famed milkshake being the Ashtray. This concoction is a mix of chocolate and coffee grounds – an acquired taste to say the least.

    Beyond the food is the booze. The Red Room at Grill boasts a full bar with many imported beers. The room often hosts local music like Redlands and Carl Hanni’s Scratchy Record show on Tuesdays, and there is a free movie in the Red Room every Thursday night.

    The photo booth is another part of Grill that can’t be overlooked.

    “”Whenever I go to the Grill, I take a lot of photo booth pictures with my friends,”” said political science junior Caitlin Burns, adding that while she enjoys the photo booth, Grill isn’t one of her favorite haunts. “”I think it’s pretty pretentious. As a vegan I can’t really eat anything at the Grill. To me it’s overrated.”” Burns makes a good point. It is easy to feel like an outsider when you’re just looking for a rocking grilled cheese and it seems everyone knows everyone else. Grill certainly caters to a specific crowd and is dominated by hipsters and indie rockers alike.

    Don’t let that dissuade you, though. The tiny, often very warm, restrooms are an attraction in themselves.

    “”I’m not sure about the cleanliness most of the time,”” Stickney said, “”but I deal with it because (the food’s) good.””

    The walls are painted black and a box of chalk hangs inside the door. Once a graffiti-covered mess, the restrooms now offer you the chance to bring out your inner chalk artist without doing any permanent damage.

    “”The bathrooms aren’t too bad,”” Denholtz said. “”We have the place cleaned professionally once a week. And the rest of the time we depend on the staff to do their part. Since we put up the chalk board paint, we’ve cut down on a lot of the tagging.””

    Going to Grill means an up-close and personal experience within the classic diner décor that’s a mix of Tucson bohemian chic and hipster charm. Take time to read the rules, chat with your server and savor the tot.

    What other diner would offer seven grilled sand dollar scallops with seven raspberry soy steamed clams served over crisp ginger, bok choy, carrots, oyster mushrooms and udon noodles as a weekend special?

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