Al’s Breakfast

Review by: Jane & Michael Stern

Al’s is heaven for those of us who spend our lives in search of great diner breakfast. It is smaller than small, wedged perpendicular to 14th Avenue among the shops of Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota. Customers waiting for one of the fourteen stools at the counter stand hovering just above and behind those who are seated and eating.

In the narrow space between the counter and the back bar, where Al’s hash slingers race to and fro with seasoned aplomb, decor consists of pictures of Elvis and Wayne Newton, foreign currency, and a sign that advises, TIPPING IS NOT A CITY IN RUSSIA (curiously, changed from an earlier sign that said TIPPING IS NOT A CITY IN CHINA). Also behind the counter is a pile of meal ticket books, each inscribed with someone’s name. Many of Al’s customers buy these books and keep them here, so they know they can come eat, using coupons instead of dollars, even when their wallet is empty.

The house specialty is pancakes, which are made with either a whole wheat or buttermilk batter, and are available studded with blueberries, walnuts or corn, kernels. We love blueberries and buttermilk — an enchanting balance of sweet fruit poised in their faintly sour medium, infused with butter. They are barely sticky, delicate-textured, and profoundly satisfying, especially when drizzled with maple syrup. Al’s flapjacks are sold as a short stack (2), regular (3), or long (4); and you can have your waitress garnish them with sour cream and/or strawberries.

The short-order chef up front spends his time poaching eggs, constructing omelets, and griddle-cooking corned beef hash and crisp hash browns. It is an old-fashioned pleasure to watch this guy work, handling about a dozen orders at a time, always snatching whatever he is frying, poaching, or grilling away from the heat at the peak of its perfection.

Directions & Hours

6am - 1pm
  • Monday: 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Thursday: 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Friday: 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Saturday: 6:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Sunday: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM

What To Eat

Pancakes

DISH
Waffle

DISH
Corned Beef Hash

DISH
Hash Browns

DISH
Huevos Rancheros

DISH

Al’s Breakfast Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Al’s Breakfast?

One Response to “Al’s Breakfast”

Simone Legare

November 5th, 2011

Wow, I can’t believe I’m only the second person to review Al’s Breakfast! C’mon, this has got to be the best breakfast place for miles around. I was first introduced to Al’s when I met my husband, a student at the “U” in 1983. The morning after our wedding in 1986, we brought a bottle of champagne with us to Al’s and the other 11 diners (and cooks) toasted to our happiness. We have since moved across the country, but come back to visit family. A visit to Al’s is always on our list of things to do.

Okay, enough already. What about the food? Why do you think we keep coming back? It’s delicious! Favorites include: the “Summer Special” (scrambled eggs with freshly chopped basil and tomatoes and whole chunks of mozzarella in there), the omelettes, huevos rancheros, and the waffles and pancakes too. A short-short stack of blues (that’s one blueberry buttermilk pancake if you’re not familiar with the lingo) is often ordered for “dessert.” Yum.

If you’re lucky enough to be there on a day when Doug Grinna is at the grill, he just might juggle a pancake, an egg, and a bottle of marmalade for you. The waitstaff will yell out the orders to Doug or whoever is cooking, and somehow they get it right. It’s a floorshow and an experience you won’t want to miss. It’s not the cheapest breakfast, but it’s one you’ll remember!

Tips: try to get there early ’cause it’s torture to wait in line behind the stools and watch people eat, especially if you’re really hungry. Bring cash. No credit cards accepted. Keep an eye on the clock ’cause you might have to run out and plug the parking meter while you’re there.

Reply

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