Forty years ago, R.J. Grunts was a little joint with a famous salad bar. Owner Richard Melman was just happy to finally have his own restaurant.
"It was what we thought people our age wanted," he said at Grunt's 40th anniversary celebration at the now-legendary Lincoln Park eatery on Friday, where burger prices back to what they were in 1971.
Since then, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has opened 150 restaurants in eight states. And last month, Melman was honored by the James Beard Foundation as Restauranteur of the Year.
"I was thrilled. and sort of glad I didn't win it those other years," said Melman. "It's almost appropriate that it came about on our 40th anniversary. "
Ironically, they almost shut down Grunt's a few year ago because of lagging sales. But one of the waitresses led the charge to keep it open. Melman admits it was the right thing to do.