Henry's Cafe

Henry Lange lives out a childhood dream, filling stomachs and inducing smiles at a place of his own.
Henry Lange, owner of Henry's Cafe.

Henry’s is the name of the place. Henry is the guy. But mostly, Henry is the experience of eating at Henry’s Café. Nestled in the corner of an L-shaped strip mall in the southeast reaches of Maple Grove, Henry Lange will soon finish his fourth year in a space where few have persisted past their initial annual lease.

In a business where you have to be passionate to survive, Lange has more than that—he has history. “I began washing dishes in my mom’s restaurant and soon moved to the grill,” Lange shares. “I spent all my time there. I loved it and I loved the people.”

So at the ripe-old age of 11, the fervor commenced. He quickly picked up his mom’s knack for baking, and memory for names and faces. “I wanted to serve great food in a small-town diner atmosphere,” Lange says. True to his vision, the store-front café has 12 table tops overlooked by vintage signs that recall a slower era: Homemade Pie 25¢ and Good Eats Served Here. Lively conversation mixes throughout the room and the day’s paper is within easy reach. And, as with all good diners, this sit-down joint beckons your hunger with an irresistible aroma.

Lange arrives at 5 a.m. most weekdays to make ready cinnamon and caramel rolls for the first customers. You can order up eggs and toast for $3.99—a steal! The most expensive item, and local favorite, is the kitchen special: two eggs, American fries or hash browns, with bacon, sausage or ham, and toast or one cake for a mere $8.99. And you’ll find other mainstays on the menu like French toast, made with Henry’s homemade bread, and biscuits with pepper sausage gravy.

If you can squeeze in for lunch, you’ll accompany the business crowd that counts the diner their secret. Daily hot specials, like barbecue ribs and taco salad, are served pronto for a reasonable $7.99. “One of the most popular items is the homemade chili and grilled cheese sandwich,” says Lange.

Henry’s offers an alluring end to a meal with desserts available on a rotating basis. Bread pudding, rhubarb cake and banana bread accompany the always-available cookies, cakes and bread pudding. If the generous helpings leave you no room, you can walk out with these treats, or grab a loaf of the softest white or wheat bread you’ve ever felt. Some customers stop in just to pick up a loaf of bread for home.

Lange feeds and cares for his customers as well as for those in need. Nearly every spring he participates in Dining Out for Life by donating a percentage of a day’s sales to The Aliveness Project, a local nonprofit organization that provides supportive services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families. This small-town diner has a big impact on the regular lives of many people. According to Val Erickson, Henry’s server extraordinaire, there are 100–150 regulars each week: “They love Henry and the cooking.”

 Sure, customers love Henry, but the feeling is mutual. Recent bouts with addiction caused Henry to close the café for two brief periods while he sought help. “The regulars stayed in contact with me and were so supportive in my recovery. It has changed my life,” Lange says.  “I'm grateful to have Val back with me, and I look forward to developing more and more friendships with all my customers. They really are like family to me.”

Case in point, a couple who met at the cafe recently had their wedding at none other than Henry’s, their favorite diner. Another regular, who happened to be a minister, presided. Then…they all sat down for a hot lunch.

Henry’s calls it a day by 2 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, so drop in early for a unique, small-town experience. And be sure to say “hi” to the guy at the grill. That’s Henry Lange, living out a childhood dream. 9691 63rd Ave. N.; 763.533.2304