We were in St. Paul last weekend. My husband couldn’t get enough of the potatoes at Mickey’s Dining Car. If you saw the movie A Prairie Home Companion, you know Mickey’s Diner. The movie opened and closed at Mickey’s. Mickey’s is great. It’s everything you expect of a city diner – it’s small and crowded, has a harried wait staff, the regulars at the counter, and greasy food. There’s a quotation on their web site from a review by Neal Kaplan for The New York Times that pretty well sums up the place: “Malts so thick you could eat them with a fork, hamburgers so juicy you can use a spoon, and waitresses so ornery you better know exactly what you want by the time they reach you.”
The truth is, the staff isn’t ornery exactly; they just don’t suffer fools. At all. We ate breakfast at the counter. It’s tight. A man sitting next to my husband was trying to work a crossword puzzle. He asked the waitress if he could move down the counter when some seats opened up. She grudgingly agreed. He hadn’t gotten his food yet or opened up his napkin-wrapped silverware. He got up, taking his newspaper and coffee cup, and sat down at the other end of the counter. “Take your water and silverware with you!” the waitress snapped. You shouldn’t mess with the staff in a place that has clear-cut rules posted above the counter. You must have two people and a $3 order minimum to use a booth, no tips can be put on credit cards, and you must vacate your seat in 30 minutes. Other rules: no smoking, no checks, no take-out. Follow the rules, and no one gets hurt.
Being mild-mannered rule followers, we just loved everything about Mickey’s. The art deco dining car is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1937 and has been open about 70 years – 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. That’s a lot of hash browns, folks! And the breakfast is fantastic! Check your cholesterol concerns at the door, though, because you can’t eat healthy at Mickey’s. Just forget about that and enjoy! My husband had a Denver omelet and hash browns. I had a bacon and monterey jack omelet (cheese costs extra! ) that was unbelievable. The eggs were the lightest I’ve ever eaten and the bacon was super crispy.
The breakfast set us up for a full day of sightseeing in St. Paul and Minneapolis. The big breakfast, however, threw us into a late lunch, so by the time we were hungry for dinner, it was 10 p.m. We left the Fitzgerald Theater and wondered, what’s open at 10 p.m. in downtown St. Paul? We knew the answer: Mickey’s! We managed to snag one of the four booths and eventually one of the regulars alerted the busy waitress that we were there. My husband, remembering those hash browns, ordered potatoes O’Brien, which he loved. For me, fantastic fries and a burger topped with lots of cold, fresh lettuce and tomato. Absolute bliss.
If you're in St. Paul, don't miss Mickey's Dining Car! A true classic.