Mickey's Diner on West Seventh Street. (Illustration: Andy Singer)

It was dinnertime. Well, actually, it was ten o’clock at night and my mom had just finished a big show. I was hungry, cranky, and tired. “Mom, I’m hungry, where are we going to eat?” I mumbled and growled at the same time.

“We’re going someplace special,” she told me as I cranked up the seat warmers and fell asleep on that cold winter night. It was a short drive and she woke me up and dragged me out of the car.

“Alright, so where is this place?” I said in my half-asleep sort of way.

“We’re here,” she replied, as she turned the corner and walked the small steps into the RV-like restaurant. She’d already opened the door halfway when she realized I wasn’t behind her. “Are you coming?” she said, with one eyebrow up and that smug look on her face that only moms can do. It said, Oh, you weren’t hungry; that’s funny, because you were complaining the whole car ride.

“Mom, that’s a car, not a restaurant,” I said, thinking of reasons why we would eat in a flashy RV. But the door was still open and I could hear the conversation of happy customers, so I swallowed my pride and walked in. It smelled good. Not like the smell of gas where it smells great for a few seconds, and then you start coughing. And I know this isn’t the best advertisement, but it smelled like grease, hamburgers, French fries, hash browns, and milkshakes. A million sights, smells, and colors in one place.

I sat down in a booth with the old-time boom box right beside me. I played with it and looked at my mom. She still had the I win expression on her face. When the waiter came, I was scared. She had tattoos and her hair was pulled back in a do-rag, but I couldn’t help but smile when she started making fun of my posture. “You need some help sitting up there, kid?” she asked with a smile. Without realizing it, I had started slouching. I crossed my arms with less attitude than intended, sat up, and let Mom order for me. “What would you recommend?” my mom said, as she glanced at the menu.

The waitress picked up the menu and said, “Okay, so what’s the most expensive thing on here . . . ” just loud enough for us to hear. We laughed, and then she spoke again with a grin on her face. “Alright, I guess the shakes and cheeseburgers are good, and everyone loves the hash browns, as long as you leave a big tip.”

My mom replied quickly before I could object. “We’ll have that,” she said, flashing a grin in my direction.

Let’s just see how good this stuff is, I thought. I got my plate. A feast of cheeseburger, hash browns, and milkshake awaited me. After about twenty seconds, hunger overcame pride and I dug in. This was the best cheeseburger and hash browns I had ever had! And I don’t mean it as in when you go to a fast-food restaurant for the first time and say that was so good. It was, well, wow. The milkshake was creamy and chocolatey, the hash browns crisp, and the cheeseburger meaty-cheesy goodness, and just how I like it. I looked up again.

My mom was absolutely terrified. I, a seven-year-old, had just eaten a plate of hash browns and sucked a whole milkshake, yes, with whipped cream, down into my belly. I licked my lips and took a French fry from my mom’s plate, her mouth still dropped. I raised my hand. “Bill, please,” I shouted over the men at the far table. But when you’re eating the best burgers in Saint Paul—no, Minnesota—I guess this story really isn’t an unusual experience.

Mickey’s Dining Car
36 West Seventh St.

Browse listings for Breakfast & Diners in our Saint Paul Almanac City Guide.

Sebastian Tippett attends Saint Paul Public Schools and is in seventh grade.

Andy Singer is a Saint Paul illustrator who has contributed many amazing images to the Almanac. His website can be found at www.andysinger.com