Fifth post in winter travel series.
I have a soft spot for classic diners as they were a big part of my childhood. When transferred from Hawaii to Maine, we literally ate our way across America. In the 1960s, diner food was cheap for a family with four kids to feed and yet served hearty homemade fare. It may be sappy to say, but I still remember one diner in Pennsylvania that made roast beef (the kind slow roasted with onion, carrots and worcestershire sauce for Sunday dinner) and mashed potatoes with gravy just like my Mom’s. The diner experience is a pure American one and never disappoints with good home-style food.
I had heard about Mickey’s from fellow Taste Trekkers members prior to my trip to St. Paul and the buzz continued during my stay. Staff at the Xcel Center assured me it was definitely a must go to place. If the locals sing its praise, you gotta eat there. Dine where the locals dine and you rarely ever go wrong with the choice.
A short walk from the St. Paul Hotel in lightly falling snow on a Sunday morning brought me to the restaurant. I was lucky to get in without a wait. At times, a line forms that goes out the door. There are only four booths and there is a fee to sit in them. I snagged a stool at the counter right in front of the grill with a view of the griddle to watch the cook do his thing. At Mickey’s the staff know all their regulars by name. The atmosphere is so comfortable, you may end up like I did, chatting with a local sitting on the stool next to you. It’s a very good way to learn about the city you’re visiting.
It may not be the cleanest place I have ever eaten at – the floor covered in slush and dirt tracked in by constant foot traffic needed a good cleaning. Picture vinyl covered stools and booth seats, a bit of cooking grease sheen here or there and some serious wear and tear. Coats are hung on hooks on the wall. There is no place to set a purse or laptop unless you use the tight counter space which is needed more for the food. Cut the décor some slack; it’s been here a long time.
If you’re a health nut or have food issues, this may not be the place for you. They cook almost everything in butter, the good old fashioned way.
I decided on the pecan waffle with a side of grilled ham. The waffle was thick, but not heavy tasting and studded with lots of pecans. The slice of grilled hostess ham reminded me of all the times I ate Saturday breakfast at Angel’s diner in Orlando when I would finish my 3rd shift job at the local newspaper. With a mug of milky tea, it was a warm and filling breakfast for a snowy winter day.
Being there brought back pleasant memories for me. If you like classic diners, don’t miss this place. If you’re of a certain age, being at Mickey’s will spark memories for you too.