Tavern on Grand says goodbye with a final fish fry season

A neon sign of a fish-1
The Tavern on Grand in St. Paul will be closing in June.
Matt Alvarez | MPR News

Tavern on Grand is closing its doors — but not without a final fish fry. Known for its walleye-centric menu, the St. Paul restaurant has served more than two million fillets in the past 35 years.

“Lent is our Super Bowl. We get all of our staff prepped up get their game face on. Any day can be absolute chaos in the best possible way,” Eric LeMay, co-manager of Tavern on Grand, said. LeMay runs the restaurant with his sister, Tara Padilla and stepfather, Dan Ryan.

Two people pose for a photo
Tara Padilla (left) and her brother Eric LeMay manage the Tavern on Grand in St. Paul.
Tom Crann | MPR News

Each year the restaurant sells about 15 tons of walleye. In typical years, Fridays during Lent are their busiest days. But this isn’t a typical year. Since announcing their closing in January, business has been swift.

“It’s been absolute blow the doors off,” LeMay said. “To have the community come back to us and show their love. You know, it’s told me what we built has been real.”

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The Tavern on Grand became such a well-known Minnesota icon that former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev dined there when he visited Minnesota in 1990. Yet, LeMay and Padilla said that without their mom, Mary, who passed away in January 2023, it’s been tough for them.

Three plates of walleye
The Tavern on Grand prepares their walleye in three different ways: deep-fried, grilled and blackened.
Tom Crann | MPR News

“She breathed a lot of life into this place. It was started by our stepdad in 1990. And he passed in 2002. And mom kept it going for even longer than he had it,” Padilla said. “She was five-foot-two and a force to be reckoned with.”

“In the restaurant industry, the only easy day was yesterday, because it’s over,” LeMay said.

Now, LeMay and Padilla are ready to say goodbye to the restaurant that distinguished itself by the serving the most walleye of anyone in the state. They’re closing in June.

neon fish in front of restaurant
The Tavern on Grand is celebrating with one last fish fry.
Tom Crann | MPR News.