Why did the chicken cross the road? Why, to get to the Brass Rail for some “Grandy chicken,” of course. Or to become the Grandy chicken? Either way, people have been flocking to the Brass Rail and crossing the road to get a taste of the newly awarded “Best Broasted Chicken in Minnesota” by WCCO’s Best of Minnesota poll mentioned in last week’s edition.
WCCO’s news reporter, Natalie Nyhus, gave co-owners Rodney Knowles and Donna Biggins the good news about the win only days before she traveled north to interview the legendary owners on Feb. 21. They didn’t even know they were being considered for the prize until just before then.
“We only knew that we were in the running by my gas guy’s girlfriend,” said Knowles. “I don’t even know how we got to that point.”
The number of people coming to the newly expanded space on Highway 65 in Grandy was unprecedented after WCCO aired its “Best of MN” segment on Feb. 22 and 25, handing the Brass Rail its crown – and a wave of new customers, many coming from all over the Twin Cities.
Crazy busy times
“What a weekend,” the exhausted yet proud Knowles said. “We went through almost 100 cases of chicken in less than four days.” To put that in perspective, Knowles said the restaurant would have gone through about 60 cases of chicken in a typical week.
Another surprise came when the supplier of their famous chicken, Gold N Plump, stepped in to help handle the surge of chicken lovers seeking out the restaurant after the show first aired on Wednesday, leaving the chicken supply almost gone by Sunday.
“John Puchalski, the customer business manager himself, of Gold N Plump, deserves a lot of admiration for bringing me chicken, personally, on Sunday,” Knowles said, in awe of the overflowing support. “He didn’t really have to, but he showed up when we were in need.”
The excitement of the viewer’s choice win was heightened by the knowledge that their customers are what flew them over the coop and through to the winner’s circle, and the Brass Rail couldn’t be more grateful.
“Well, you know,” Knowles said, fluffing his feathers with pride, “I’ve known the Brass Rail always has had good chicken. I’ve never been concerned about whether or not I was voted on some poll – whether we have the best chicken – cause our customers always tell us we have good chicken.”
Relying on this customer feedback for years has been the driving force to keep the Brass Rail the way it has been – always putting the customer first.
A Quick History
The Brass Rail has been flouring, brining and broasting their chicken for about as long as they can remember. “Since 1972,” recalled Donna Biggins, original owner of the Brass Rail, along with her husband Ennis Biggins.
The couple opened the restaurant back on May 13, 1969, in Grandy. The space had previously served two other bars in 1926 and then again in 1939. But after the new owners stumbled upon the magical concept of broasted chicken, and perfecting their secret recipe and keeping it fresh – well, the rest is history.
Bingo, pull tabs and more space
And just in time for the increase in customers, the newly remodeled and renovated Brass Rail now offers more seating. The restaurant can hold approximately 56 people in the front, the original section of the restaurant. The new addition, completed a few months ago, can seat an additional 90 or more customers.
The original kitchen, formerly located in the front corner of the restaurant, had two broasters. When the restaurant expanded and moved the kitchen in February of 2006, they added five broasters to the newer kitchen. Now the kitchen is equipped with nine broasters to accommodate the increase in customer seating and “to-go” orders.
Another new amenity is the addition of outside seating. “We now have two patios,” Knowles said, “one in the front and a screened-in porch in the back of the restaurant.”
Pull tabs are available Wednesday–Saturday, and they are now offering Bingo on Thursday nights at 6 p.m.
“I try to make as many happy times for people as possible,” Knowles said. “They (customers) make life a lot lighter than it normally is on a regular basis, and that’s basically what life’s all about – taking a little bit of weight off of people’s lives.”
But maybe not their bellies, as the pressure-broasted goodness of their chicken continues to disprove the old adage that “our eyes are bigger than our stomach.”
To check out more about the Brass Rail hours, menu, catering and chicken-to-go visit www.brassrailchicken.com. Or fly in for a bite to eat, a frosty mug and a satisfied belly.
36868 Hwy. 65 NE, Grandy