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Mickey's Diner

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Photograph of Mickey's Diner taken on July 16, 1975 by Steve Plattner.

Photograph of Mickey's Diner taken on July 16, 1975 by Steve Plattner.

Mickey Crimmons and Bert Mattson opened Mickey's Diner, located at 36 West Seventh Street in downtown St. Paul, in 1939. Such diners had gained popularity early in the twentieth century as inexpensive, often all-night, eateries. Built to resemble a rail car, Mickey's was particularly notable for its unique look. Its unusual architecture made it a local landmark, and earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fifty feet long and ten feet wide, Mickey's has distinctive red and yellow porcelain-enameled steel panels and Art Deco-style lettering on the exterior. A row of ten train-style windows graces the front. The building was prefabricated in 1937 by the Jerry O'Mahony Diner Company in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to resemble a dining car on a passenger train. Then, it was shipped by rail to St. Paul. The interior—a setting for scenes in a handful of movies—features floor-mounted round stools along a well-worn counter.

Mickey's Diner has been operating as a family-owned business since the year it opened. On February 24th, 1983, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Besides its architecture, Mickey's is known for its all-day (and all-night) breakfast menu. The menu features such staples as eggs, pancakes, and hash browns. It also includes Mickey's homemade mulligan stew, hamburgers, and ice-cream floats, shakes, and malts. The diner's website includes Mickey's schedule ("Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year") and its "House Rules" ("No smoking, no checks, no take out").

Mickey's is famous beyond Minnesota. It was named one of America's Top Ten Diners by Jane and Michael Stern in Gourmet magazine. It also has been featured on travel and food television series like Unwrapped, Roker on the Road, Rachel Ray's Tasty Travels, and Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt. The unusual diner has been showcased in magazines such as Smithsonian, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated.

The diner also has appeared in movies that include the Mighty Ducks series of the 1990s and Jingle All the Way (1996). The opening and closing scenes of Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion (2006) were both shot at Mickey's.

On September 3, 2008, during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, photographs of the diner appeared in local and national newspapers for a different reason. Police confronted about two hundred protesters in front of Mickey's Diner. They dispersed them with tear gas, pepper spray, and flash grenades.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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  • Related Resources

Stern, Jane and Michael. 43places. America's Top 10 Diners.
http://www.43places.com/lists/336/americas-top-10-diners

Mickey's Diner. History.
http://www.mickeysdiningcar.com

Minnesota Historical Society. Eateries: Mickey's Diner.
http://nrhp.mnhs.org/property_overview.cfm?propertyID=30

Related Images

Photograph of Mickey's Diner taken on July 16, 1975 by Steve Plattner.
Photograph of Mickey's Diner taken on July 16, 1975 by Steve Plattner.
Photograph of Mickey's Diner take in 1980 by Henry B. Hall.
Photograph of Mickey's Diner take in 1980 by Henry B. Hall.
Reid Ray Film Industries films a scene for the movie <em> Cash on the Barrelhead</em> inside Mickey's Diner. Actor William Bendix is at center.
Reid Ray Film Industries films a scene for the movie <em> Cash on the Barrelhead</em> inside Mickey's Diner. Actor William Bendix is at center.
Photograph of the interior of Mickey's Diner taken between 1930 and 1939.
Photograph of the interior of Mickey's Diner taken between 1930 and 1939.
Photograph of Mickey's Diner taken in November of 1982.
Photograph of Mickey's Diner taken in November of 1982.
Police put up a barricade in front of Mickey’s Diner during a protest at the Republican National Convention in September 2008. Photograph taken for MinnPost by Terry Gydesen.
Police put up a barricade in front of Mickey’s Diner during a protest at the Republican National Convention in September 2008. Photograph taken for MinnPost by Terry Gydesen.

Turning Point

On February 24th, 1983, Mickey's Diner is added to the National Register of Historic Places for its unique architecture.

Chronology

1937

Mickey Crimmons and Bert Mattson commission a New Jersey firm to prefabricate a restaurant in the form of a passenger-train dining car.

1937

Mickey's Diner opens.

1983

Mickey's Diner is added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 24th.

2008

The diner is the backdrop for a confrontation between police and protesters on September 3, during the Republican National Convention.