Saint Paul, MN

The History of Long Time St. Paul Landmark Mickey's Diner (1939 - )

Matt Reicher
Mickey's Diner, 36 West Ninth Street, St. Paul.Photo byMNHS

ST. PAUL, MN - Mickey's Diner has served everyday America for over eighty years. It is a testament to an enduring legacy despite many ups and downs throughout its history. The diner remains a nod to simpler times, uncompromisingly unchanging while surrounded by a downtown landscape that bears little resemblance to what it was when it was delivered by flatbed railcar – completely furnished (including flatware) – to the southwest corner of (then) W 9th and St. Peter Sts. in 1939.

After attending the National Restaurant Convention at the Mayflower Hotel in Chicago, Ill, in 1937, David "Mickey" Crimmins and John "Bert" Mattson hired the Mahoney Company in Elizabeth, NJ, to build them a diner. The finished product, a prefabricated thirty-six seat, 10 x 50' rectangular red and yellow porcelain covered steel building, built to resemble a railroad dining car, cost $30.000. Its shape, with curved corners and long horizontal lines, is a prime example of the 'streamlined moderne' architectural style popularized in the 1930s.

Crimmins and Mattson opened "Mickey's Diner" in 1939. Soon, customers could count on three things. They'd be seated alongside an eclectic mix of people from all walks of life, eat delicious, homemade food at a low cost, and find the diner open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In the fall of 1978, the city looked to redevelop its downtown. They planned to widen West Ninth Street, rename it West Seventh, and add a pedestrian mall. The diner stood in the way. There were discussions about picking it up - by crane - and moving it into the planned Seventh Place Galleria (later known as Town Square), but the idea never materialized. Informal talks about making Mickey's Diner a heritage preservation site began around the same time.

On February 24, 1983, the diner was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The long-standing simple structure was now a local icon worthy of preservation. Mickey's Diner was famous. It was named one of America's top ten diners, featured on numerous travel and cooking shows, and highlighted in a bevy of magazines.

In 1988 the St. Paul Companies began construction on a 450,000-square-foot, nineteen-story office tower directly behind Mickey's Diner. Despite local concerns, the diner, although it ended up wedged against a massive blank side wall, was otherwise unaffected by the construction.

Hollywood started taking notice of the downtown Saint Paul landmark in the 1990s. Several TV shows and movies have featured Mickey's Diner, including The Mighty Ducks I, II, and III, 1996's Jingle All the Way, and A Prairie Home Companion in 2006. Notable actors, musicians, and politicians, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Jennings, Robert Plant, Emilio Estevez, Meryl Streep, Al Franken, and many more have walked through the diner's glass doors to enjoy a meal from one of its stools or booths.

A wedding was held in the diner on January 21, 1995. That day, dishwasher Tom Cobb married regular customer Anita Westberg. The marital affair took place in a cramped space filled with fifty people. Food sizzled on the grill while servers served beverages to wedding guests. Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin presided over the ceremony. The diner had never hosted a wedding before.

In 1995 it was recognized for another first — closing its doors. On August 8, Eric Mattson, a second-generation owner of Mickey's Diner, closed the restaurant for two days to protest an uptick in late-night crime in the area. The diner reopened two days later.

On September 3, 2008, violent protests erupted near the diner during the Republican National Convention. Police encountered two hundred protesters, eventually using tear gas, pepper spray, and flash grenades to try and disperse the crowd. Pictures of the confrontation, with Mickey's Diner as the backdrop, appeared in local and national newspapers.

In March 2020, the diner was forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans remain in the works to eventually reopen.

By 1952 Mickey's Diner was one of over five thousand diners in the United States. While most of those spaces came and went, Mickey's remained. The diner has stayed the same while much of the city has redeveloped around it. A steadfast commitment to its past has helped make it a beloved local landmark and social institution.


  • DeFiebre, Conrad. "Diner Closed in Protest." Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 9, 1995, 1B.
  • Fitzgerald, John. "Mickey's Diner." MNopedia | Minnesota Encyclopedia. Last modified August 30, 2013.
  • Guthrey, Molly. "Diner Serves up Well-Done Wedding/Mickey’s Regulars Exchange Vows as Customers Eat and Make Merry." St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 22, 1995. 1B.
  • Ingersoll, Brenda. "Mickey's serves a slice of history that's full of spice and character." The Minneapolis Star, April 18, 1978, 1C.
  • Lindeke, Bill. "Mickey’s and Al’s: What’s happening with the Twin Cities’ two most iconic diners?" MinnPost. Last modified April 1, 2021.
  • Murphy, Patricia, and Marie Mingo. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form." National Park Service. Last modified August 1981.
  • "National Restaurant Association History: Founding, Timeline, and Milestones." Zippia. Last modified September 9, 2022.

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