Waffle from Al's Breakfast

5 ‘Only in Minnesota’ restaurants

Shoebox-sized vintage diners, a classic steakhouse, borscht and an Obama-approved burger will make for a uniquely Minne dining experience.

Al's Breakfast

413 14th Av. SE., Mpls.
Outside Al's Breakfast Bre McGee

This 14-seat diner has been helping the University of Minnesota community wake up for 69 years with such delicacies as buttermilk pancakes studded with blueberries and walnuts, tender waffles filled with strips of smoky bacon (be sure to order the made-in-Minnesota maple syrup, a $1 bonus that’s worth the investment), hearty scrambles and eggs Benedict topped with lemony hollandaise. The hash browns are the stuff of legend. Al’s — named for its founder, the late Al Bergstrom — has a lovable culture all of its own (and a strict cash-only policy), one reason why the James Beard Foundation recognized the 10-foot-wide institution as one of its “America’s Classics.”

(612) 331-9991


215 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls.
Kramarczuk’s pile of sausage Bre McGee

The heart of this third-generation family-owned landmark (another James Beard Foundation “America’s Classic” honoree) is the busy meat counter, which boasts a treasure chest of made-on-the-premises sausages, bratwurst and wieners. The bakery draws crowds for its wicked-good kolaches, cream puffs and strudels. For diners, the restaurant’s cafeteria-style setup specializes in massive portions, reasonable prices and intro-to-Eastern-European fare: pierogi, cabbage rolls, goulash, borscht, sauerkraut dumplings and sandwiches made with the house specialty, garlic-ham sausages. The warm hospitality is gratis.

(612) 379-3018

Matt's Bar

3500 Cedar Av. S., Mpls.
Matt's Juicy Lucy burger Bre McGee

Where did President Barack Obama satisfy his burger craving during a 2014 visit? At this classic neighborhood dive bar, where the tiny grill churns out the house specialty, a cheese-stuffed burger known as the Jucy Lucy. The name goes back to 1954, after a customer bit into one and declared, “Wow, that’s one Juicy Lucy,” with the spelling somehow morphing into Jucy. It’s little more than a fat-laced ground beef patty filled with American cheese. (Hint: Ask for fried onions.) “It’s the simplicity of it,” said grillmaster Tony Stanton, who fries up an average of 400 Jucy Lucys on a daily basis. Another draw? The excellent fries.

(612) 722-7072

Mickey’s Diner

36 W. 7th St., St. Paul
Outside Mickey's Diner Leslie Plesser

The Saintly City’s 24/7/365 greasy spoon sports the theatrical trappings that a person ordering two-eggs-any-style expects at 3 a.m., namely a vintage dining car. Or at least a replica of a dining car, dating to 1937, an Instagram-bait art deco beauty that has a rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places. The short-order cooking is exactly as billed, as is the no-nonsense service (“No smoking, no checks, no takeout” are the rules). Yes, there was a Mickey; he was original co-owner Mickey Crimmons, and he and partner Bert Mattson launched a business that has drawn generations of fans.

(651) 698-0259


26 S. 6th St., Mpls.
Steak at Murray's Tom Wallace

A third-generation family business, and a Minneapolis classic. The specialty of the house — dinner only — is the Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two, a 28-ounce, brick-like strip sirloin behemoth, broiled in a specially engineered grill and carved tableside with tremendous flourish and pride. It’s $105, served with all the right supper club-esque trimmings (soup or salad, vegetables and baked, mashed or au gratin potatoes) and worth every penny. The rest of the menu is straight-up Americana: shrimp cocktail, oysters Rockefeller, wedge salads, creamed spinach and rack of lamb. Dessert? A towering slice of raspberry pie, or a tart lemon Pavlova.

(612) 339-0909