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It would have to take more than a global pandemic to close the Convention Grill for good.

More than four years after the Depression-era Edina diner shut down along with the rest of the restaurants in the state to allay the spread of COVID-19, it is finally back. Although with plastic on the windows and the open sign still dark, it's hard to tell.

Much of it looks the same — classic diner counter, brown wood booths, black-and-white checkered floors — despite significant reconstruction of the kitchen, new lighting, new tables and a fresh coat of paint. A sign declaring "Delicious Foods" now greets customers above the exterior door, a detail hidden under the valance that was uncovered during the refresh.

But the restaurant reopens in a different world.

John Rimarcik, the longtime owner and legendary restaurateur, died at the end of last year, just short of his goal of reopening, leaving his sons, Tony and Tom Rimarcik, as the heads of the business.

The diner (3912 Sunnyside Road, Edina, will officially open to full capacity on Wednesday, May 8. But it's already slinging burgers and malts at limited capacity while it waits for a new grill and some other equipment. It is currently operating daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will expand to 9 p.m. next week. (It will be closed May 5 and Mother's Day.)

Reopening, so far, has been "incredible," Tony Rimarcik said. "We've seen so many regular customers already."

Two of those regulars were having burgers, fries and malts Friday afternoon, one of them for the second day in a row.

"When places like this close, it's forever. It's normal for people to have that sense of loss," said Mike Fischer, of Edina. "For this to come back and reopen, it's like euphoria."

Brothers Tom, left, and Tony Rimarcik stand alongside Shawn Schmitz, who will return as manager of the Convention Grill in Edina.
Brothers Tom, left, and Tony Rimarcik stand alongside Shawn Schmitz, who will return as manager of the Convention Grill in Edina.

Shari L. Gross, Star Tribune

The Convention Grill, which was founded by a pair of metalworking brothers in 1934, was a one-room old-fashioned burger and malt shop. After Rimarcik took over in 1974, he gradually acquired the neighboring businesses, expanding it into a full-fledged diner known for its chicken soup, coleslaw, Plazaburger and tulip-glass malts.

Since the closure, the family has fielded intense interest from regulars about a reopening date.

"It's hard to estimate that sense of nostalgia and ownership and belonging. It's really humbling," Tony Rimarcik said last December.

John Rimarcik had hoped to reopen Convention Grill and Dinkytown's Annie's Parlour by the end of 2023. (Annie's Parlour reopened in February.)

"Dad will never see these places," Tony Rimarcik said shortly before his father died. "But I'd like to be able to tell him that they're open."