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Robert McKay whistled as he strolled into the reincarnated Grampa’s Bakery on Thursday morning in Dania Beach, gazing around the distinctly modern, subway-tiled diner. Automatic motion-sensor front doors whooshed shut behind him.
The Dania Beach man and his wife, Gail, customers of Grampa’s Bakery for 30 years, took their old seat against a black accent wall covered in coffee-cup doodles. Or what they thought was their old seat. “It feels like yesterday we were sitting right in this spot, I think,” McKay says, crunching into his everything bagel. “I’ve been walking by Grampa’s every day for the last 18 months bugging the new owners about an opening date.”
Now the 64-year-old icon now called Grampa’s Cafe Bagels Deli Bakery is back, reincarnated as a New York-style deli by a pair of Big Apple bagel-shop veterans, Mark Fried (Bagel Boys Cafe in Airmont, N.Y.) and Marc Goldberg (Goldberg’s Famous Bagels in the Hamptons).
A full diner bustled with bagel-seeking patrons inside the airy, bright Grampa’s Thursday morning as Goldberg, sporting a black tee and black shorts, rolled dough into rings and held court near the order window, beneath a black sign that read, “Grampa’s — Established 1957.” Fried, meanwhile, plated sandwiches in the back.
Outside, the yellowed Grampa’s sign visible from North Federal Highway still hangs above the building, a relic of the diner’s heyday. The rest of the diner has undergone a total face-lift: Fried and Goldberg over spring and summer repainted the cafe white with black-striped awnings, then added gray hardwood flooring, new bagel ovens and food steamers for fresh pastrami and roast beef.
Two bagel gurus may have stepped up to fill the hole Grampa’s left behind, but make no mistake, Goldberg says: The star attraction remains Grampa’s.
“This is Grampa’s country,” says Goldberg. “If Jaxson’s next door ever moved it would always be known as the place where Jaxson’s used to be. We feel the same way here. Grampa’s is the destination.”
Grampa’s, of course, still cooks up diner nosh grandpas love eating (bagels schmeared with nova and cream cheese, patty melts, matzo ball soup), but also modern comfort foods their grandkids love (breakfast sandwiches). Wall-mounted metal baskets brimming with oversize bagels beckon behind the counter, perfuming the café with aromas of yeast and cinnamon-raisin. Next to that, gleaming appetizing cases tout whitefish, salmon, tuna and egg salad.
Bagels, flagels (or flat bagels) and bialys are hand-rolled and baked daily, and the rest of the menu leans on diner classics and deli-style sandwiches, with pastrami, corned beef and brisket from Carnegie Deli brand, plus housemade roast beef.
“Ain’t nobody got a bagel that looks like ours,” Fried says, then takes a pause. “They’re actually a little too big. Have you tried the rye yet? It’s beyond.”
As he spoke, a husband-and-wife couple entered the diner. “This is so much nicer than IHOP!” the woman said.
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Beyond deli meats, the bakery will serve black-and-white cookies, rugelach and Chinese cookies with recipes from the late Benny Pakula of Pakula’s Bakery, a Bronx mecca for Eastern-European treats. Sandwiches, including housemade corned-beef brisket, will use breads from Fort Lauderdale’s Gran Forno Bakery.
“Oh, now this is beautiful. They did a phenomenal job,” says Teri Childers, of Fort Lauderdale, who visited with her friend of 40 years, Susan Pelletier. Childers remembers visiting Grampa’s as a 5-year-old in the late ‘50s, marveling at the diner’s complimentary trays of Danish.
“It’s very exciting that someone from New York saw value in the property and brought it up to standard,” Pelletier adds, as their server plopped two complimentary coffee cakes on the table. “It’s clean. It’s going into bring in some young people.”
Taking a thoughtful bite of his eggs and bacon, Donovan Jago, 42, says he remembers when Grampa’s wasn’t so clean. The Fort Lauderdale property developer had stopped visiting with his family since the 2015 death of founder Ron Grampa, when he noticed the restaurant turn “dirty and grungy.”
“The former owners couldn’t see it wasn’t the same quality anymore,” Jago says. “Now everything looks bright and fresh.”
Grampa’s Cafe Bagels Deli Bakery, at 17 SW First Ave., in Dania Beach, is now open. Call 954-923-2163.