Band Box Diner
729 S 10th St
Hours: Mon – Sat, 9am – 9pm; Sun, 9am – 3pm
Nestled on a triangle-shaped block in the Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, between Park and Chicago Avenues, is a small white restaurant adorned with bright red letters that spell out Band Box Diner. It is not a dining car, but a more stout structure with much larger windows.
It’s the only diner of its kind left in the Twin Cities; in the 1920s and ‘30s however, there were 14 Band Box diners. Harry and Bert Weisman were the original owners of the then chain restaurant. According to the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission website, the two men were influenced to start their diner as a result of the fast and inexpensive dining option that another chain diner provided: White Castle.
Both the exterior and interior of the Band Box, now a designated historic structure, still closely resemble what the little diner looked like in the 1930s, too. A long Formica lunch counter stands in the middle of the dining area along with a long line of stools. Behind the counter is an open kitchen, and a handful of tables with wooden chairs line the walls. It’s a bright restaurant, primarily white on the inside, but still keeping the red accents. In the summer there are a couple of tables on the side of the diner for outdoor seating.
Come here for classic diner fare. Brad Ptacek, the owner and self-proclaimed “grease magician” can often be seen wearing an apron and frying up orders on the large open skillet. The Band Box definitely has regular customers, but it’s hard to tell who they are exactly, as everyone who comes in is greeted with a friendly hello. With a menu like the Band Box’s, and Ptacek’s credentials (he’s a gourmet chef, formerly of Cafe Solo), there must be new “regulars” made every day.
The menu has the standard diner-food options. Breakfasts, for instance, include eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast options. But there some surprises on the menu, too, and they’re worth mentioning. For breakfast, there is the Lil’ Buddy, made with egg, cheese, and sausage between two little cakes ($5.25), or “ze French” version, between French toast ($5.25) breakfast. The Monster Omelette looks impressive, stuffed with swiss, cheddar, and American cheeses, tomato, onion, mushroom, green pepper, and bacon, sausage, or ham. ($9.50) There are also pancakes and homemade American fries.
For lunch there are burgers made with ⅓ pound fresh Angus beef, or, if that’s just too much burger, there is also a ¼ pound “baby burger” option as well. Don’t pass up getting a side of fries with that; the french fries are made in-house and not to be missed.
Sandwiches include tuna melts (“look ma, no cans!” $6.75), veggie burgers, BLTs, and grilled cheese.
As it says on the menu, there’s a long tradition of “turning grease into a feast” under the Band Box roof; over 70 years, in fact. The folks at the Band Box know how to keep their simple food simple. Perhaps that’s why it’s so good.