Mike Ledford keeps coming back for the home cooking at Zarzours Restaurant - for 30 years.
That's how long he has been coming almost every time the doors are open at the tiny restaurant on Rossville Avenue that has been run by the same family since 1917.
"This is seriously good stuff. It's what I was raised on," Mr. Ledford said.
He said his mother, Margaret Hagan Ledford, raised four kids and cooked all their meals at a house on Kenwood Circle in Brainerd. "We didn't know what fast food was."
Mr. Ledford is such a regular that he's got his own special spot, complete with family pictures on the wall, his lamp and a "reserved for Mike Ledford" sign fixed up by his favorite cook, Mary Smith. An oversized picture of his oldest daughter, Rebecca, is on a nearby wall.
"I like this spot because it's the only table in here with a window," he says. "I like to sit here and read the paper. And you have a view to the front. You can see who's coming and going."
Mr. Ledford says, "Mary cooks with fresh vegetables. I see them bringing in the boxes of turnips. It's not something out of a can or the freezer. You don't find that at many other places.
"And Mary's cornbread is the best."
He adds, "Their desserts are home-made too. Where else can you get home-churned peach ice cream?"
His favorite meal at Zarzours? "The roast beef on Fridays."
Mr. Ledford said he was introduced to Zarzours three decades ago when he was an agent for Mass Mutual. Jim Frazier, who worked with Flop Fuller at Mutual Benefit, took him to Zarzours, which was operated by Mr. Fuller's wife, Shirley Zarzour Fuller. Mrs. Fuller is still the owner, though her health does not allow her to come in often.
He said Shirley used a mother-daughter cooking team at the time. Mary has been the cook for the past 11 years.
Mr. Ledford said he now sells insurance out of his home, and Zarzours "is my downtown office. I meet clients here. I've sold a lot of insurance sitting at this table."