ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Not much has changed at Mickey’s Diner in the 80 years it’s been parked downtown St. Paul.
“It’s like walking back into the 50s. Nothing has changed. Everything is original,” Mickey’s cook Keith Schmitz said. “If you look at the front of the menu, that picture is from 1939. If you look around you see everything that’s still here. It’s like a time capsule.”
Even the people are consistent.
“I have my coffee, read the paper and then have breakfast,” regular customer Al Soder said.
But it’s those on the other side of the counter who give this place personality.
“I had a couple who came here from a comedy show in Minneapolis, and they said they should have just come here. This is a lot better than that was,” Schmitz said.
Mickey’s Diner is a small space by design: an exact replica of a 1930s railroad dining car.
“That was during a time when all these dining cars were the rage. All of these Art Deco dining cars,” employee Will Conley said.
The setup is long and narrow, a counter or coveted booth are your seating options, so you can chat with your cook while you watch your hash browns sizzle.
“I like being close to everybody and being able to talk,” Schmitz said.
And sometimes, that person at the counter is famous.
“I met Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and a lot of big bands that have come through here,” Schmitz said.
So have Arnold and Emilio, but there are hazards with the tight quarters. Server Stacy Livingston’s family has worked at the diner since the 1940s.
“I have a lot of bruises on the hips,” she said. “It’s home. I was brought up here. My mom was a waitress at Mickey’s for about 32 years. If she didn’t have a babysitter we were sitting in the back on egg crates,” said Livingston.
Mickey’s is now on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the first diners to do so. It puts in a lot of hours, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“I’m living inside history,” Conley said. “I think there’s a continuity involved with the 24-7, 365. It’s like the game of telephone. You just keep the message going.”
The same nostalgic allure that draws people to Mickey’s from all over the world seems to have the same affect on the help, too.
“I was only supposed to work here for a day to help out,” Schmitz said.
“I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I have cool co-workers. Sometimes,” laughed Schmitz.
“What did you just say?” said Livingston.
“They’re going to edit that. Don’t worry. I told her we have the best love-hate relationship,” said Schmitz.
Mickey’s serves more than just breakfast, so bring your appetite no matter what time of day you go. Your other favorites diners are Nicollet Diner in Minneapolis and the St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul.