Becoming part of the family: With friendly staff and good food, Main Street Restaurant is blossoming

Published 9:15 am Monday, May 1, 2023

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When Main Street Family Restaurant opened four years ago in Albert Lea, its owner hoped the restaurant could become a place for families to enjoy eating.

But it’s clear when you’re in the restaurant even just a few minutes that there’s something else that sets the dining establishment apart.

In addition to the friendly staff, the fast service and the enjoyable food, when you walk into Main Street Family Restaurant, you’ll quickly see you’re treated like family.

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Main Street Family Restaurant opened about four years ago at 2306 E. Main St. in the space formerly occupied by the Big Island Grille & Bar.

Owner Naim “Nate” Vrangalla said at the time he was in Spooner, Wisconsin, running the Spooner Family Restaurant. One of his cousins leases from the same landlord he does now, and at one time while in the same setting, he mentioned the space that was available for lease in Albert Lea.

Vrangalla said going back and forth to the Twin Cities area to drop off or pick up family members at the airport, he decided to take a trip down to Albert Lea and explore the space.

He liked the size of the city and the building’s convenience to the interstate.

“It was kind of love at first sight, and I felt a family restaurant would do really well,” he said.

He signed the lease in April 2019, and a month and a half later the restaurant opened.

While there have been some ups and downs — one of which was the distance from their other restaurant in Wisconsin — he said the Albert Lea restaurant started doing really well after the height of the COVID pandemic.

At the end of 2021, Vrangalla and his wife, Leah, decided to sell the Wisconsin restaurant and permanently relocate to Albert Lea, buying a house in the community and focusing solely on the restaurant here.

The couple has two young boys, Ledrin and Orion.

“We feel very welcome and fortunate to have chosen Albert lea as our place to live and do business,” he said. “I think the future can only be as bright as it could be.”

The family is originally from North Macedonia, a country in southeast Europe near Greece and Albania. Vrangalla said he was the first to come to the United States about 15 years ago; followed by his wife 12 years ago; his sister, Tia, 10 years ago; his mother, whose nickname is Nancy, six years ago; and his brother, Chilli, and brother-in-law, Tony Jashari, about a year and a half ago.

“It’s been a very very lengthy process, but I’m glad we’re all here and working together,” he said.

In addition to speaking English and Macedonian, Vrangalla is fluent in Albanian, Turkish and Spanish.

He originally had a background in biology and chemistry and at one time wanted to be a doctor. He started working in a restaurant to save money for college and got pulled in the direction of wanting to work in the restaurant business long-term.

In addition to owning Main Street Family Restaurant now, he is a Realtor through Century 21 on the side.

“Anything productive I can find myself to be occupied with, I don’t hesitate to try,” he said.

The family also utilizes the help of about five other non-family employees in the restaurant.

Offering a little bit of everything, Main Street Family Restaurant has something for all tastes and primarily focuses on breakfast and lunch options. Some of the popular foods include pan-fried omelettes, cinnamon French toast, skillets, and breakfast burritos and croissants for the breakfast meal. Then there’s the salads, wraps and burgers for lunch. Three days a week they are open late for dinner.

They also offer fresh-squeezed orange juice — what he thought was the only place in town to do so.

Vrangalla said they have also had special events by request for larger groups, including a Greek night and Italian night after being asked to showcase some of their authentic recipes from back home.

“We basically treat our guests in the states the same as we do back home — embrace them, treat them like family,” he said. “We go the extra mile to please them. It’s not just a one-time transaction for us. We really want to build that relationship … That’s something I really think has been crucial in building our business.”

They love seeing where all of their customers are from, and he said while a majority are local, they get a fair share of travelers with the nearby hotels and proximity to Interstate 35.

They’ve even had some national performers, including ventriloquist Darrcy Lynne, Jon Bernthal of “The Punisher” television series and even a band that performed at the Freeborn County Fair.

“Our regulars, though, are our bread and butter,” Vrangalla said. “They’re just very, very loyal and supportive. At the end of the day there’s no better kind of advertising than word of mouth.”

And many end up being repeat customers after they taste the food and meet the staff, who they say treat them like they’re all friends.

Mark Anderson, who comes six days a week at 9 a.m. to meet a group of friends at the restaurant with his wife, Joan, said they have had as many as 16 in their group come to the restaurant.

He said their group had been dislocated with the closure of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro a few years back. They looked around at the other options in the community and knew they would be taken care of at Main Street Family Restaurant.

“That’s what it is,” said Paul Hanson, another member in the group. “Here we’re part of the family.”

They said they are impressed with Vrangalla’s commitment to the restaurant, even after being close to shutting down a few times in the pandemic.

They also enjoy learning about the staff’s culture and different life experiences.

At a nearby table, Charlotte Banton, Darlene Olson and Janelle Fischer said they enjoy coming to the restaurant because of the food and the portions.

“They’re very nice people and fast service,” Fischer said.

The women, who live in Alden, estimated they eat at the restaurant two times a month. Some of the food they enjoy include the beef commercial and fried fish.

Banton said they hoped the family would consider opening another restaurant in Alden in the former MineAgain’s space.

Vrangalla said he is proud to be in Albert Lea and loves seeing the new businesses that are opening in the community. He would love to see the city continue to develop into a place where everyone wants to come and choose to make it their home like his family did.

“I’m very humble and thankful of a community that’s been able to embrace us and support us over the years,” Vrangalla said. “We look forward to the future and continuing the success and the legacy we’ve created thus far.”

Main Street Family Restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 2306 E. Main St. in Albert Lea.