If you ever find yourself downtown on North Main Street, then there’s a good chance that you will run into The Little Grill Collective, a restaurant that has been gracing Harrisonburg with its delicious food and friendly atmosphere since the 1940s. Over the years, the restaurant has had many different owners who have worked to “localize where [the] food comes from, [cook] food with a conscience, and [create] a healthy work environment for [a] fulfilling job experience.”
What’s a collective, you ask? It is a type of cooperative business controlled by its members. As a worker-owned, democratically managed cooperative, The Little Grill members have joined together to produce goods and services for sale since June 2003.
There are currently ten owners emphasizing wholesome home-cooked food and having a positive impact on the community that surrounds them. The Little Grill works to reduce its carbon footprint and partners with local businesses to bring fresh bread, fair trade coffee and tea, organic products, produce, meat, and eggs straight to your table. And if you’re looking for a delicious meal from a menu that includes gluten-free and vegetarian options, then this is the place for you!
When talking with Ashley Hunter, a former James Madison University student and one of the current owners of The Little Grill, you can tell that this is a place where she feels right at home. When you look around the restaurant and into the faces of customers enjoying their meals surrounded by good company, you can tell that they too feel right at home. I guess there’s just something about a home-cooked meal, good friends, and a little love that bring life to the small building that has been a staple in Harrisonburg for so many years.
When asked about her favorite aspect of The Little Grill, Ashley had no doubt in her mind that is was the community. The workers, the owners, and the public are the reason that she wanted to pursue ownership of The Little Grill after being an employee while in college. Ashley originally applied to work at The Little Grill just to have a job, but she ended up finding so much more than just a paycheck.
The Little Grill has specialty nights every Tuesday through Friday from 5 pm to 8 pm. Ashley’s favorite night is Tuesday, also known as Mexi Night. The recipes for Mexi Night came from a former employee who was from Mexico and brought the delicious recipes with her. Wednesday nights are always changing and usually focus on using local produce when it’s available. Thursday night is Breakfast Night and is coupled with open mic night. And Friday is Down Home Night, a Southern home-cooked meal that features catfish, chicken, tofu, and other local products.
It is guaranteed that when you walk through the doors of The Little Grill, you will immediately feel a strong sense of community and an atmosphere based on community. The restaurant is full of joy and friendly customers who understand the mission of the collective. Visit The Little Grill yourself and support local farmers and the community while enjoying a delicious meal with great friends. So go ahead, walk outside, and discover downtown!
Kerri DeVries is the Visual + Social Media Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major at James Madison University.