Throwback to the ’30s

Mickey’s Diner has drawn crowds through the generations.

The box-car-style restaurant in downtown Saint Paul, Mickey’s Diner, has been an architectural attraction for more than 77 years. Mickey Crimmons and Bert Mattson purchased a diner manufactured in Elizabeth, N.J., and launched Mickey’s Diner here in 1939. The restaurant has been open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year ever since.

The diner is designed in the Art Deco style popular in the 1930s. While most dining cars have faded away, Mickey’s Diner has survived. Author and Minnesota architecture expert Larry Millett is very familiar with the Saint Paul landmark. “Old diners interest people. Mickey’s is unique because of the time period it’s from and the fact that dining cars were more popular on the East Coast. These qualities give it its charm,” Millett says.

Mickey’s Diner was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Its designation as one of the first diners to be a registered historic place helped preserve it during urban redevelopment. “The whole downtown has changed around that diner—it’s something to hold onto from the past,” Millett says.

The metal and porcelain structure has endured the Minnesota weather and become known as a hub for people in search of a classic hot meal. Mickey’s Diner serves breakfast all day, chili and stew, burgers and old-fashioned malts and shakes.

Spanning three generations, Mickey’s Diner has remained family-owned and -operated. Throughout the decades, the iconic diner has been spotted in films such as The Mighty Ducks, A Prairie Home Companion and Jingle All the Way. Mickey’s has also been featured on several programs on the Food Network, including Feasting on Asphalt.

The original Mickey’s is located at 36 W. Seventh St.; another location at 1950 W. Seventh St. is decorated with a variety of classic details from the 1960s.


Millett’s new book, Heart of St. Paul: A History of the Pioneer and Endicott Buildings, will be published in October. Millett also writes mystery novels; his new Sherlock Holmes book, Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigman, will be available in spring.