Friday, July 30, 2010

Breakfast at Al's

July 29, 2101

Al's Breakfast is located in the Dinkytown section of Minneapolis, adjacent to the University of Minnesota campus. It is reportedly the narrowest restaurant in Minneapolis, at a width of ten feet (3 m), and possibly the narrowest full-service breakfast diner with counter-only seating in the world. The diner is crammed into a former alleyway between two much larger buildings, hours are 6:00am-1:00pm. The award winning restaurant's 14 stools have seated generations of local students, along with notable figures such as writer James Lileks and humorist Garrison Keillor, all of whom consider the tiny diner to be a significant icon of the state.

I first heard of Al's Breakfast having drinks with a Department of State security person, Jamal, at a Samoan resort. He, being still on duty to protect the recently departed Condelessa Rice, having a Coke, while me being on duty as a Peace Corps Volunteer having something a little stronger. To say Jamal doesn't have a presence would be a gross understatement. He is a mountain of a man who probably eats ball bearings for breakfast. You get the picture.

Well, Jamal has been living overseas with his family for the past eight years, living in what he calls the "World's Hellholes", and was planning to return soon to the U.S. for a post in Washington, DC. When I mentioned I was from Minneapolis, he told me about this fantastic little restaurant in Minneapolis where he had been to only once on a one day visit to Minneapolis years ago. In fact, he had just Googled it's name and location the day before. He was going to take his family there on their way to Washington from their current post in Wellington, New Zealand. I sheepishly admitted never having gone to Al's.

With my visiting 16 year old grandson in tow, we headed for Al's, after not finding it the day before and receiving a parking ticket in the search process. Now a ten foot wide diner doesn't leave a lot of room for counter, stools, grill, tons of memorabilia, and waiting area. In fact, the waiting area consists of people standing behind those already seated. The passage of customer's in and out is hard on the toes. Patron's shift up and down the counter from stool to stool to accommodate parties of different numbers. Waits can be considerable, especially when the university is in session and the temperature drops below zero. Service is what you might expect in a 60 year old restaurant with staff that has a seasoned sense of humor.

The menu is 1950's AMERICAN. I mean loaded with everything to clog the arteries and expand the waistline. The coffee tastes like dirty water, the hash browns have an ample supply of cooking oil, the pancakes are so huge that the syrup runs off them onto the counter. In other words, it's great. It is everything at prices and quantities you can't get these days.

I don't know if Jamal and his family ever made it to Al's Breakfast, but somehow I think they did. Should you ever visit Minneapolis, be sure to visit Al's and bring lots of quarters for the parking meters.

1 comment:

jane reinking said...

Oh good, something to add to my to-do list. 'Never heard of it but now I'm hoping to go there. Will have to wait though since it is just a few more weeks til my adventures in Samoa.