Special Report: Order Up! A Server's Story

Updated: 05/20/2014 10:20 PM
Created: 05/14/2014 10:00 PM
By: Maarja Anderson

When it comes to going out for grub, we may be celebrating a birthday, a promotion, or simply out enjoying our favorite cafe, but for those that put the food on the table, it's something they do every day.

Every day is different. Especially when you consider all the visitors who come to Duluth. They all need to eat. In Duluth's Canal Park, that means big business for Grandma's Restaurant.

"The only time we really know we are going to be busy is summer and when the tall ships come in and the marathon, of course," explained Lesa Melby, a server.

Melby is what you would call a professional. She's been serving at Grandma's for 33 years.

Every server has a section of tables. Lesa works all her tables as one, constantly moving from table to table, running to the kitchen, hurrying to the bar. She says she gets all the exercise she needs at work.

And she does it all with a smile.

Lesa says the best part of serving is meeting all the different people. They come for the view and the food.

"Our walleye a la rosa is out of this world, it's fantastic,"she gushed.

They also come for the Grandma's name.

"[I came because of the] reputation. I'd been here 20 years ago and you know you want to come back,"explained Harry Dolder while visiting from Iowa.

"[I came] because it's Grandma's! I've heard about it down in Naples" said Joe Rogers.

Across the highway in the heat of downtown, is a place where the meal starts with some dough and a show.

"I call this one the double rainbow," explained Pizza Luce cook, Jonathan Didier.

Luce isn't your average pizza joint.

"We got a lot of good gluten-free options, vegan options, vegetarian options, so I think there are things here that a lot of places don't have," explained server Kevin Craig.

Craig says most everybody likes pizza, so they draw in all kinds of people.

"In the summertime, we have tourists, business people in the daytime, and late night college students will come in. We have a good cross section of people," he said.

It's their unique pies, Kevin said, that draws in tourists and locals, alike.

"It's Wednesday and every Wednesday is Luce... I just love the atmosphere. It's so chill. You can come dressed up, you can come not dressed up, they just take you as you are," said Suzie Baer of Duluth.

But in case you don't want to go out for pizza, there's always the guy that will bring it right to your door.

"It's pretty rare now days when a delivery will come in and I don't know the address when they say it," explained Chad Hinnenkamp, a delivery guy for Luce.

Chad says delivery is a big part of Luce's business. He's the "pizza guy", and he loves it.

"You get to the door and like 30 kids swarm the door and they're like 2 feet tall and screaming, 'the pizza guy!'" he said.

On his delivery routes, Chad will often pass a favorite local hot spot, where the plates of hashbrowns and french toast force a line out the door.

At Uncle Loui's Cafe the griddle is always full, the tables are rarely empty, and the owner and serving extraordinaire, Debby Strop, never stands still.

And a tray? Debby doesn't need it. Carrying four plates is a balancing act. After 20 years, she has serving down to an art.

"She knew our order right off the bat. We didn't even have to say anything," said regular Joseph Barnstorf.

None of the pieces in Debby's well-oiled machine are missed by the customer, they see it all. 

"It's like a little beehive,  it's a fantastic place. I love the camaraderie of all the people who work here and just the people coming in," said Joseph Morgen of Sheboygan Falls, Wisc.

She has regulars and soon-to-be regulars. So, what makes Loui's so good?

"The food, the prices, the portions, and the kids," explained Debby.

Whether, it's breakfast lunch or dinner, the servers are constantly moving. When you ask them why they love it? Their answer is always the same.

"The customers are just so darn nice, it's really amazing just how nice people can be," said Lesa.

"The people, definitely!" Kevin said.

"All my customers, they take care of me," agreed Debby.

Food may bring them together, but they say it's the people that make a server's job worth it every single day.

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