Grand Catch, the brand new restaurant near the Macalester College campus, has been bringing in crowds since mid-April. The place has giant, boiling vats of seafood constantly roiling, eye-popping decor, a winking neon pink crab sign, and even festive cocktails with names like, “Excuse me, you dropped your barbecue sauce.”
The idea for Grand Catch was hatched at a “shrimp funeral.” Brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi, those who long ran the beloved Saffron restaurant met with a few select insiders to destroy huge amounts of shrimp steeped in a Cajun-seasoned boil inside a tiny Brooklyn Park restaurant.
Cajun Deli is the kind of mythical spot that food-fans fall all over themselves to find. Tiny spot, unassuming Suburban strip mall and the holy grail of undiscovered deliciousness. “There wasn’t an ironic t-shirt in sight,” said Sameh, recalling his first visit.
Soon the chef had assembled a crew of other talented creatives: musicians, chefs, artists who would all descend upon the restaurant and take copious amounts of photos of the piles of pilfered shells and share these thoughts and plans in a thread they called, “Shrimp Funeral.”
“The number one rule was that you couldn’t post anything about this place on social media,” Sameh said. Like fight club, the first rule of Shrimp Funeral was never to speak of it. Because of a certain amount of internet anonymity, they would bring famous faces passing through town; people who would appreciate great food and being in a room where no one cared who you were.
After months of visits, and an untold number of massacred crustaceans, Sameh went into the kitchen. “I didn’t even know his name. Everyone just called him T.” T was Thien Ly. “I said, if you ever want to open a second restaurant, I’d be happy to help.”
As it turns out, Ly was seriously looking at an Uptown location with a steep lease. That was when the pretense dropped and the brother’s Wadi shared their connections and business acumen.
Sameh and Saed first opened Saffron in Minneapolis’ warehouse district back in 2007, a fine-dining restaurant with a mix of Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Spanish, Turkish and other cuisines. It dazzled critics, survived the recession, vaulted Sameh onto the nation chef stage and ultimately closed at the end of 2016. The brothers also operate the food truck and quick-service restaurant World Street Kitchen that has a legion of dedicated followers. Next door is Milkjam, perhaps the coolest ice cream shop in town.
Fortuitously, the owners of Shish, a Grand Avenue mainstay, had tapped the brothers, would they happen to know of anyone that would like to move into a newly renovated restaurant space next door? What had been a cafe called Grand Central, was a beautiful blank canvas. Owner Leo Judeh met with the Wadis and Ly and everyone agreed that Grand Catch would be their shared venture.
The thrust of the restaurant is simple, diners order a preferred mix of seafood, it’s boiled in custom-made pots with secret herb and spice blend aka “New Bae,” then tossed in a choice of sauces: garlic butter, cayenne, Awesome sauce (a combination of both), spicy Isaan — a mix of Thai chilis, or people can get everything sans-sauce. The seafood is brought out with bibs and gloves and that’s where the fun begins. People can crack, suck, yank, coax and devour King crab, head-on shrimp, crawfish, manila clams, Dungeness and more.
The menu is augmented by several sandwiches, including a fried chicken number that Sameh is obsessed with. There are wings, shrimp toast, snow crab dip, salads, sides and a soft serve dessert.
Grand Catch is open daily for lunch through dinner and it doesn’t do reservations.