Mesa Grill continues serving hot food in cold weather

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Across the street from Sealaska Plaza downtown there is a small, thin-walled kiosk. It's the sort of place that's a common sight in the summer months but not so much in mid-December. Yet, this one's owner stands as proof the winter's cold weather and absence of tourists doesn't drive away all such street-side vendors.

Jonathan Grass / Juneau Empire
Jonathan Grass / Juneau Empire

Trish Ausdin has been running the Mesa Grill year-round for six years. She loves the work and doesn't see the need to take winters off from it.

"Everybody has to work," she said.

The Mesa Grill is a lunch place, open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. These times are weather permitting, as winter winds can be hard in a kiosk. Still, she doesn't mind that. She keeps a heater inside to help ensure she stays in business throughout the year.

It's this time of year that Ausdin likes to tinker with the menu, too. The Mesa Grill normally serves different kinds of burgers, but she adds her own flairs to them, such as the Mesa Burger or Volcano Burger. She even wanders to different types of burger meat throughout the year, like halibut, elk or buffalo.

She also uses the winter to vary the menu each day, cooking up specials like chicken curry rice, reindeer sausage, soups or other winter specials.

She enjoys doing different foods. As she put it, "It gets boring to make the same cheeseburgers every day. I'm always open to do something different. All my customers like me to be open because I make different food every time."

Ausdin says while the lunch rush is certainly slower during the winter months, it's by no means gone. She says a lot of customers, including city and state workers, frequent the kiosk.

She said that always changes in January when the Legislature is in session. She said they are always good customers.

Next month promises more customers than legislators. Ausdin predicts her business is about to get a lot more busy after December when her neighbor, McDonald's, closes for business.

However, much of her business doesn't come during lunch. Ausdin returns to the stand at 10 p.m. on Fridays and stays until 4 a.m., repeating these times on Saturdays. This is to cater to the bar crowd, which Ausdin says is always hungry.

"Most of my business is that late at night," she said, adding jokingly, "I like to serve my inebriated friends."

Ausdin said she enjoys her work. So much, in fact, she opened the stand right after her previous restaurant was destroyed at the same spot. She opened Corner Teriyaki in this same spot 20 years ago, shortly after moving here from Michigan. However, that building burned in August 2004.

Ausdin wasted no time and put up the Mesa Grill in its place.

"In March 2005 we were back in business," she said.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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