Step into the Convention Grill and you travel back in time. The vinyl seated stools at the stainless steel counter and the hand drawn menu signs posted on the wall look almost the same today as they did when the Morningside neighborhood restaurant first opened its doors more than 60 years ago.
This landmark in Edina history is the latest to be featured on the 22nd annual Edina Historical Society Christmas ornament.
The hand-painted ornament features the distinctive exterior of the building, constructed in the Art Moderne style. Very similar to Art Deco, the architectural style is noted for its curved lines, glass block windows and stainless steel trim.
Many restaurant reviewers describe the Convention Grill as a "typical 1950s diner," but current owner John Rimarcik said the building opened in 1934 at 3912 Sunnyside Avenue. The business was celebrating its 40th anniversary when Rimarcik bought it in 1974.
Local residents also recall that the Convention was in business just before or after the Westgate Theater opened in 1937 across the street. The theater building, which now houses Edina Cleaners, was also built in the Art Moderne style.
There's some evidence that the opening date was a few years later. The April 1941 Countryside magazine, covering the Minneapolis suburbs, contained a two-page ad announcing the Convention Grill opening, listing the names of all the companies in the construction trades that worked on the building.
Regardless of the uncertainty on the opening date, there is no doubt that the Convention Grill has been a rousing success. But that wasn't always the case.
In a time before McDonalds andBurger King, the original owner built the Convention Grill anticipating that it would be the first in a chain. Within a month, the story goes, the owner ws in debt and ready to sell.
Pete Santrizos, an immigrant from Greece, bought the business and ran it for decades. He and his family were almost always behind the counter ready to fill an order for one of their famous burgers or such exotic fare as a three-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich with lettuce and mayo, recalled Richard Jamison who worked across the street at the theater when growing up in the 1940s.
Located a block off the streetcar line and across the street from the theater, the Convention had a steady stream of customers. But perhaps the key to the Convention grill's success was its ties to Morningside, then a separate village from Edina. Currentresidents can walk there for a dinner out, and former residents often choose to meet there for reunion lunches.
The Convention first shared the building with the Westgate Dairy store, better known as Dennison's Dairy, which later moved to the building just west of the restaurant. Today, the Convention has expanded its seating into the former dairy store.
The Edina Historical Society is looking for additional information, artifacts (such as menus or advertising) and photographs of the Convention Grill. If you have items to share or have contact information for the Santrizos family, please call the museum at 612-928-4577.
The ornament is available for sale at our gift shop for $12. The other 21 ornaments, which range from the Edina Theater to the Edina Hornet, are also available for purchase or special order.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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