In 2021, Grendel’s Den celebrates 50 years in Harvard Square. Grendel’s has always been a meeting place for the denizens of Cambridge to mingle with travelers, artists, professors and politicians. We’ve seen a huge cultural shift in the square since 1971 and a lot of businesses have come and gone.
This year more than ever we have come to realize the importance of togetherness and how hard it is to live without it. In this time, when each day feels like another poignant historical moment, we could easily let this anniversary slip by in the endless churning sea of headlines, but we realized it’s a pretty big accomplishment to still be here, serving our community, 50 years later. Especially during a time when we’ve seen so many restaurants close their doors.
So, we have decided to celebrate and honor this historic milestone by creating an entire year of special projects, events, concerts and more to engage with and support our creative community. Stay tuned for more updates and info on this, but here's a little post about our history along with some fun photos.
Shortly after Harvard’s Pi Eta Club moved out of 89 Winthrop Street in the 1960’s, Sue and Herbert Kuelzer took notice of the building as an attractive location for the restaurant they were planning to open in Harvard Square. Their vision for the space was a full service restaurant serving “casual gourmet” food at reasonable prices. They came up with the name Grendel’s Den, which suited the cave-like dining room and allowed Sue to make good use of her BA in English Literature.
In 1974, Grendel’s expanded, taking over the main floor of the building. This was the home of the famous “Grendel’s Salad Bar,” two fireplaces, and a sunny, plant-filled evolution, which sprang from Grendel’s basement origins. Around this time, the Kuelzers launched a legal battle challenging a Massachusetts State law allowing churches to veto liquor licenses. With the help of Harvard Law School’s Laurence Tribe, the case went all the way to the United States Supreme court, which ruled the law was unconstitutional.
Herbert & Sue’s daughter Kari assumed management of the restaurant in 2004 following the extremely sad and premature death of Sue from breast cancer. In its second generation of family ownership, Grendel’s is an always-busy neighborhood institution that caters to Harvard Square’s students, academics, tourists and residents from late morning to late night.
We know we would never have made it to 50 years without the support of our community. We'll be sharing more amazing stories as we progress through this 50th year.