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Shake it up!

Mark and Alan Laderman are breaking the traditional restaurant mold with Martin's outrageous The Grind Mac and Cheese Burger Bar
Story and photos by Hannah Nave Lewis 7/29/2021

 

The Grind waitress Emily Pennington pulls the cloche from the super hot jalapeño poppers. These are a menu favorite that came from a popular homemade recipe of Mark and Alan.
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Ameal is more than food. It’s the atmosphere, experience, and the company of others. At The Grind Mac and Cheese Burger Bar in Martin, Tennessee, dinner is a complete package of good food, fun presentations, and a memorable experience from an enthusiastic waitstaff. 


Located off University Street in the small college town of Martin, the thriving milkshake and burger bar is run by father-and-son team Mark and Alan Laderman. Alan says the purpose of the restaurant is to give customers a great memory and full  stomachs. 


“The concept for The Grind is for people to come and have a great time,” says Alan, the restaurant’s creator. “Everything here is about fun, nostalgia, and the feeling of being a kid. The design of the restaurant, the different food presentations, and the big milkshakes are all designed to bring people back to their childhood, along with an Americana vibe.”


Every item on the extensive menu — including burgers, mac and cheese creations, salads, nachos, various sandwiches, multiple configurations of fries, and, of course, milkshakes — is presented as if Willy Wonka is the head chef. The dishes are huge, garish, artistic, and above all, tasty. Each milkshake extends well above the top of its glass container with a whipped cream beehive covered in everything from hot fudge and caramel to your favorite candies and gummies. Every burger is an improbable stack of ingredients which may include not only beef patties and cheese, but also ham, guacamole, hash browns, fried eggs, mac and cheese, and pineapple. One is even sandwiched between two enormous glazed doughnuts. But at The Grind, the milkshake is king.


“The milkshakes are a big part about making you feel like a little kid; when you’re a kid all milkshakes are huge,” says Alan. “I love seeing the eyes of the adults get big because they didn’t realize the milkshakes could be that huge and over the top.” 


The extraordinary waitstaff do their best to match the creativity of the food with their own humor, enthusiasm, and warm hospitality. Don’t be surprised if a server happens to plop down at your table and launch into a friendly conversation.


“It’s all part of the experience,” says Mark. “We think of The Grind as an amusement park because we’re here to entertain our guests. From the great flavors to the presentation, we want both our food and our service to be entertaining.”


The Laderman’s have worked together since 2000, when they began designing and selling t-shirts online. After the success of the shirt enterprise, the two decided to open a restaurant called “Sammies” with a creative twist. 


“Our idea for Sammies was to open a restaurant that looked like it was already a successful franchise, so we intentionally made it look like a franchise,” says Mark. “Over the next 10 years, people began moving away from franchises, which led us to The Grind. We wanted to make it look for sure like it was not part of a franchise.”


The Grind is one of three restaurants currently owned and operated by Mark and Alan, as well as Mark's wife, Lisa. The first restaurant is Sammies — located in Martin directly across the parking lot from The Grind and in Union City. Sammies is a quick lunch spot that serves sandwiches, soups, baked potatoes, and a locally famous fruit tea and cookies. The Grind, on the other hand, is a “sit-down” restaurant with over-the-top food and experiences. Alan and Mark focus on The Grind while Lisa oversees Sammies.


Mark says that having a family business and working together is the biggest reward of all. 


“There's nothing better than slapping high fives with your son and your wife when something goes right,” he says. “There have been many times when Alan and I have sat back and marveled at what we've created. Even though we hoped it would be like this, we never really expected it.”


Alan adds that in addition to the family touch, The Grind’s waitstaff is largely responsible for the restaurant's success. 


“They are a huge part of what makes The Grind what it is,” he says. “I set out to find people who would bring the magic to each individual guest. Our team members will make a point to sit down and chat with customers who aren't even in their section, and we all hold the door for patrons coming in and going out. It’s the little things that make the whole experience memorable.” 


While the business is booming and big things are happening for the Ladermans, Alan points out that it hasn’t always been that way. Mark and Alan say they are thankful to be living the real American dream.


“Just 20 years ago, we were delivering pizzas together in Martin,” he says. “Now, we have these incredible businesses and are grateful to be living the real American dream.”


 
 
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