Between the debilitating cold of the polar vortex a few years ago and new, complicated and costly regulations for food trucks from the health department, Liz and Jesse Huot of Grind ended their food truck career and opened a brick-and-mortar location on Preston before moving to NuLu at 829 E. Market St. last fall.
Grind opened their Preston location in early 2014, and while co-owner Liz Huot says she and her husband loved the location and neighborhood, â€œWe couldnâ€™t grow in that spot like we wanted to.â€ Meanwhile, Jesse says that the Preston store did have its advantages: â€œPeople in that neighborhood were always surprised by how good our food was because there wasnâ€™t a lot in the area. We feel confident in the quality of our food, and we were encouraged to come out here. Itâ€™s a lot more competitive though.â€
â€œWe knew we could do a lot and not bust our budget. We felt like we could make it look like our own space,â€ says Liz on another reason why they chose this specific change in scenery.
Burgers remain the main attraction, and one would be remiss not to discuss those in detail. Liz was a vegan when she was first getting to know Jesse. She wanted to try eating meat again, but the uneven texture of most low-quality meat products was proving to be a challenge. Jesse began hand-trimming anything that wasnâ€™t muscle and frying it in a skillet to check for its viability. â€œIf it turned into a crunchy ball, I threw it out,â€ he explains. This process evolved to the point where he could create uniform texture in his burgers consistently and is now the standard procedure at Grind.
The ways the burgers are dressed are almost as innovative. The B&B has brie cheese and habaÃ±ero jam while the Southern burger has a sharp cheddar pimiento cheese, bacon and spicy dill pickles. Itâ€™s just familiar enough to not scare anyone off but also different enough to bring customers back for several trips, eager to sample yet another new take on a classic recipe. Thereâ€™s also a delicious Asian pork sandwich that consists of miso and kombucha braised pork, kimchi and sesame kewpie mayo. The sides are well-portioned and tasty as well, including house fries, Brussels sprouts and a kale salad.Â Jesse is a fan of experimenting with spice and heat in his dishes with sides sauces of smoked habaÃ±ero honey and a ghost chili mayo.
In addition to the incredible food, there is a full bar and hefty beer selection. â€œWe really want to keep it simple though,â€ Jesse says. â€œItâ€™s a cheeseburger restaurant after all.â€
The restaurant features an additional 1,000 square feet besides the main dining area. â€œWeâ€™ll add some booths, some televisions, a pool table or two,â€ Jesse says. â€œThe back side is gonna be where you come hang out. Itâ€™s the place Iâ€™d wanna go hang out and watch basketball.â€
In NuLu, â€œthere really arenâ€™t a lot of places you can go and hang out,â€ Jesse asserts. â€œThere are not a lot of neighborhood places. We have USB ports and WiFi; I expect people to come in and have a long lunch, have a couple beers, and relax.â€
Grind is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.Â