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Out to Lunch: The Onion Grille with Mildred Ruhr

Mildred Ruhr of Hastings poses for a photo with the purist vegetable flatbread at The Onion Grille in downtown Hastings. Ruhr, 93, moved to Hastings in 2007. (Star Gazette photo by Chad Richardson)

Editor’s note: Last month, we put out word about a new series we’ve planned. That new series kicks off now. It’s called “Out to lunch” and aims to do two things. First, we’ll be writing about all the various restaurants in the Hastings area that we can go for lunch. Second, it aims to introduce you to a fellow Hastings resident. We think we accomplished both objectives this week as the series kicks off.

When I wrote a column a few weeks back about wanting to take you all out to lunch, I didn’t know what to expect. Who, I wondered, would want to go out to lunch with me? 

Turns out, at least a few of you do. When I came in to work the morning after the column was published, I had a number of pleasant voicemails waiting for me. One of those was from Mildred Ruhr, a 93-year-old Hastings resident who wanted to see what lunch options existed in Hastings “other than Perkins.”

Last Thursday, I got a chance to show the smiling Mildred what we had. We went to The Onion Grille in downtown Hastings for lunch and had a wonderful time together – even if she wasn’t really sure what she ordered.

As her dish, the purist vegetable flatbread, was delivered to the table, she remarked, “Oh. So that’s what I ordered?”

Before long, she was carefully dissecting her flatbread into bite-sized pieces. “Mmmm,” she said. “Pretty good.”

The flatbread was covered with a generous portion of mushrooms, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It was topped with marinara sauce.

Her life Ruhr grew up about six miles south of St. Paul on a farm on Robert Street. It’s hard to imagine there being a farm on Robert Street, but back 90-some years ago, things were different, she said.

Mildred eventually married a nice man from the Miesville area, Edward Ruhr. He worked for the IRS and the two let his career take them to a number of cities. He worked in Albert Lea, Redwood Falls, St. Cloud, St. Paul and Las Vegas.

He retired in the 1970s and they bought a farm near Rice Lake, Wis. Within months, things fell apart. The cattle fell ill with pink eye. The pipes in the house froze. In one instance, Ruhr ran around with the toaster in an attempt to warm up the pipes while an interested buyer was outside.

Things were so outlandish, she wrote a story on the experience. Eventually they got the farm sold and later ended up in Rochester. They moved to Hastings in 2007 to be closer to Edward’s family.

Edward’s mother, Agnes, earned a unique nickname from her son, Mildred told me. Agnes loved to spread all the news she could get her hands on. She earned the nickname of “The Hastings Gazette” from Edward.

“Who was that on the phone,” Mildred would ask Edward. “It was the Hastings Gazette,” he’d reply.

Mildred and Edward were married for 65 years. He died in 2009.

“When I look back,” she said, “we had an interesting life.”

Hastings Mildred watches the news of Hastings closely, and is excited about the changes taking place on the city’s riverfront.

“It’s going to change the whole city of Hastings,” she said of the redevelopment plans. “It’s going to make it a place to come to again and again.”

Since she has lived here, Mildred has stayed busy. She wrote a book called “The Stowaway Hummingbird” and self-published it. She makes bookmarks out of old gift cards and she makes pressed flower greeting cards. She paints and writes poetry, too.

My dish After making my children countless boxes of the macaroni and cheese from the blue box (please don’t judge me), I opted to try some real mac and cheese and went with the Onion Grille’s take on the classic. It is topped with shrimp, bacon and bread crumbs and, well, tasted better than any other mac and cheese I’ve had before.

Several other things jumped out at me as interesting options, including the French onion soup burger. It includes caramelized onions and swiss cheese and is served with French onion soup broth for dipping.

Want to be part of this series? Star Gazette editor Chad Richardson is inviting residents to call him up so he can take them out to lunch and write about both the restaurant and the person he had lunch with. Call him at 651-319-4500 or write him at crichardson@ hastingsstargazette.com if you are interested.

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