I’m going to cheat here and hijack the lede from a 2017 Isanti-Chisago County Star article headlined, “New customers flock to award-winning restaurant.”
“Why did the chicken cross the road?” pondered the County Star’s Megan Bergman. “Why, to get to the Brass Rail for some ‘Grandy chicken,’ of course. Or to become the Grandy chicken?”
Incredible stuff, and a lot to think about. Here’s even more to chew on: Grandy bar/restaurant The Brass Rail, purveyor of that beloved “Grandy chicken,” was just listed for sale. For $1.3 million, you get everything—land, buildings, business, food truck, equipment, furniture, “most” of the chicken-centric decor, and, crucially, the “secret recipes” for broasting birds inside 13 Broaster 1800 pressure fryers. Built in 1920, the 4,332-square-foot restaurant sits on 1.6 acres located 50 minutes north of the metro; the purchase price includes eight parcels of land, one of which boasts a large pole barn.
Here’s a peak inside The Brass Rail, from WCCO’s 2017 Viewers’ Choice award segment:
Why is The Brass Rail changing hands? Unclear. The broker from Century 21 didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
(Update: Broker Carrie Moline Gibbs got back to us, saying: “This is the first time The Brass Rail has been publicly listed for sale and is a perfect opportunity for a new restaurateur to take advantage of the rich history and excellent reputation and keep The Brass Rail cooking for another 50 years,” while adding that treasured BR artifacts like photos of the founders and the 25-cent Pac-Mac machine are included with the “turn-key” operation.)
We know founder/co-owner Donna Biggins, who opened the place in 1969 with her late husband Ennis, died unexpectedly in 2020. Her biz partner in recent years, co-owner Rod Knowles, debuted a Brass Rail food truck during the pandemic.
“It’s never frozen. We do our own marinating,” Knowles told Brooklyn Park’s CCX Media from outside the truck in 2020. “Taste is the biggest thing, I guess. It’s got good flavor.”
I’ve only had Brass Rail chicken once, en route to a bachelor party in nearby Mora. Here’s what I recall: solid, legit small-town vibes; ultra-juicy chicken coated in a tempura-adjacent batter; ice-cold Mich Golden Light. In other words, heaven. Since the broker won’t talk and I can’t pad this blog with quotes, I’ll share a hilarious anecdote from that weekend. As our schlubby crew—resplendent in flannel and shorts—approached Victory Lanes & Sports Bar for some bowling, we encountered a group of cig-smokin’ townies leaning against the building. “Here come the Backstreet Boys,” one growled with a chuckle. Implication noted!
Alright, let’s take a photo tour of The Brass Rail courtesy of Century 21 Moline Realty: