The (Java) train has left the station

Christine and Steve Finnegan, owners of the Como Park Grill

A metamorphosis of sorts took place on June 1 when the Java Train coffee shop on Pascal Street near Midway Parkway became the Como Park Grill.

Gone are the banana lattes, although there still are coffee drink offerings. Gone are the caboose and the rest of the play area, though children remain welcome and there’s still plenty of ice cream.

“The restaurant business is very difficult and you have to reinvent yourself from time to time,” said co-owner Steve Finnegan, who with his wife, Christine, opened the establishment nearly a decade ago.

“We needed to depart from the coffee shop persona,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition for the coffee dollar and you need high-volume sales to be profitable enough. We chose the name Como Park Grill to convey that we’re a full-scale restaurant.”

Although the majority of menu items remain the same, there are several new dishes, including tacos, Reuben and Rachel sandwiches, and a spinach-and-apple salad. The owners hope to add burgers and fries by the end of the summer.

Other changes mostly are cosmetic: new paint, newly polyurethaned booths, a bar replacing the old counter. There will be several TVs, but Finnegan says the Grill won’t be a sports bar. The exterior of the building also will be repainted and the existing mural modified.

The outdoor patio area remains, as does the faux water tower harkening back to the Java Train days.

There’s no doubt, though, that the elimination of the play area is what has people in the neighborhood talking.

“I’ve had some negative comments from parents with small children who didn’t want to see it go, but I believe we lost business from people who were turned off by the noise the area generated,” Finnegan said.

“Change isn’t always popular. A few people in the area definitely were opposed to us opening in the first place and others objected when we added beer and wine. You can’t please all the customers all the time, but overall I think we’ll be presenting a more comfortable dining experience.”

Ed Dykhuizen is one of those lamenting what he sees as the demise of a “one-of-a-kind, perfect neighborhood spot,” where he would walk with his 2-year-old daughter for ice cream. “This is disappointing to see,” he commented. “I’m afraid it’s going to be another Champps and we don’t need another one of those.”

Parent and longtime customer Lori Treiber is happy that a restaurant such as the Como Park Grill is so close to home, especially during the school year when she may not have time to make dinner.

“It’s still going to be family-friendly, just not a play destination,” she said. “Having a place like this in the neighborhood gives it a small-time feel. Steve and Christine have given us a wonderful place to gather.”

Roger Bergerson is a local historian and a regular contributor to the Park Bugle.

13 Responses

  1. Todd

    My kids are great but I do not need to hear all the bad parents who let their kids run wild in public. We tried the ‘lord of the fly’s’ coffee shop a couple times but the kids were just to obnoxious. Our kids said so! Why are their parents so bad?
    Welcome CP Grill! LOVE TO SEE YOU!

  2. Troy

    We just visited the Grill for the first time this past week and loved it. It was a perfect respite after work. We sat in the back SW corner at a booth and really enjoyed excellent service. The food was good and the beer/wine selection well received. We will be spreading the word!

  3. Troy

    I could not disagree with Joanne more. I think the new place is fantastic. We really appreciate the area in the back Southwest corner as a quiet respite after work. The walk through the neighborhood to get there was beautiful. Hang in there Christine and Steve, we will be spreading the word as we only discovered the Grill in the past couple weeks.

  4. Jon

    As a resident of the neighborhood, I for one am excited about the changes, and will be heading there with the family tonight. We have 3 and 8 year old girls who lament the loss of the train, but Mommy and Daddy are celebrating the arrival of an expanded menu, including adult beverages. The place is still kid friendly……it just doesn’t accommodate them running around like it’s Lord of the Flies in a dirty faux train. The neighborhood needs more places like this.

  5. Janet

    I agree in part with most of the comments. It was very disorienting when I walked in recently not knowing about the changes that had taken place. I didn’t know if it was a wine bar (new bar with shelves of wine), a bar (beer signs in the windows, umbrellas in the patio with beer logos, t.v.), or a neighborhood coffee shop (ice cream, pastries). I didn’t see a sign anywhere that mentioned anything about coffee, so I kind of stammered and asked if they still serve coffee. I finally ordered a pastry and coffee. No silver wear or napkins were delivered with the sticky pastry so I had to request those. I must admit I did not miss the noise from kids running around everywhere, but just didn’t get a clear message of who they are trying to “be”. I used to like the neighborhood feel of people coming in with their kids. It seemed to me though that frequently parents didn’t keep their children under control. Will miss the old Java Train.

  6. Elle

    I used to take the kids I nanny to JT for the cute machines, play areas, and ice cream. I’ve been there a few times with other adults, and the new look is not my thing. Haughty wait staff that ignores you for 10 minutes before grabbing silverware, a new teeny t.v. in the corner (why bother?), and the same booths that are in general ugly and uncomfortable. It isn’t really the kind of grill atmosphere I was hoping for, especially stacked against Longfellow Grill, Grandview Grill, the Twisted Fork, etc. I appreciate the need to change in order to be more profitable but I think the uniqueness of Java Train was what made it special. I have never found anything in the twin cities that resembles it and now it’s gone and that’s a shame. I won’t be going back, but good luck to the new Como Park Grill.

  7. Becky Munson

    I’m very excited about the changes! I love this restaurant, but hated the hollow echoing noise that came from the indoor play area and how that area encouraged parents to let their children run rampant through that side of the restaurant. This is an awesome location, the staff is fantastic and the so is the food. When I come in for lunch the staff remembers me and my order! I am definitely a loyal customer and these changes have only made that stronger.

  8. Leah

    I am supremely disappointed in the changes. While my children are pre-teens now, they loved playing with the trains when they were smaller, and it was nice to enjoy a cup of coffee with my friends while they played happily and safely nearby. It wasn’t just another coffee shop – it was a gathering place that everyone loved. The neighborhood needed THIS coffee shop. Count me in as one who will not be going back.

  9. Kate

    We still go there all the time with the kids – and they are most definitely welcome! My 2 year old hangs out at the ice cream bar, and my boys still set up their Legos on the table. And, Como Park Grill still has the itty-bitty ice cream scoops – don’t let the changes deter you from coming with your kids!

  10. Susan

    NOooooo TV!!!! For crying out loud….

    REALLY??? You can’t go out to dinner without a watching obnoxious ads, disgusting sit-coms or loud games?

  11. mary

    I agree business folks need to reinvent themselves now and again… but the old java train was 1 of a kind and welcoming to us families with small children.There are a LOT of us in this area and neighboring communities who frequented the java train. Now it’s just another restaurant where we have to try to keep our children close to the table and quiet. Disappointing to see it change in this way… would rather have seen more kid focused changes. We will not be part of the new clientele.

  12. Jodi Husting

    I’m looking forward to my first visit to the new place. Can’t wait to see the changes and have a relaxing meal! 🙂

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