Shirley visiting her favorite restaurant

Choose your own adventure: to pleasureMickey’s Diner is a very special place.

In addition to being on the National Register of Historic Places, the International Breakfast Eater’s Club (IBEC) bestowed Mickey’s with their highest rating: 5-Cups! It goes without saying then but pretty much every moment of every day would be completely perfect if I could sit with a friend at Mickey’s and chat with the eclectic mix of staff, regulars, and newbies alike, while enjoying classic food hot off the grill.

Mickey’s Diner is hands-down my absolute favorite place in St. Paul. It may even be my favorite place in all of Minnesota!

They say you never forget your first time. Do I remember mine? Of course! Here’s a picture from that day:
Michael's first time

I still remember what I ordered: the One-Eyed Jack. This breakfast feast was the first meal I ate at Mickey’s and the last meal I ate in America before leaving for China.

Co-founder of the International Breakfast Eater's Club

Sitting in the picture above is the man that made Mickey’s possible (for me): co-founder of the International Breakfast Eater’s Club, Micah Thormodsgaard. He was the first person I ever ate with at Mickey’s and when I left for China, he was the last. You can also see the One-Eyed Jack!

One-Eyed Jack

Doesn’t it look awesome?! Check out homemade hashbrowns O’brian! That’s enough food to prepare anyone for an 18-hour plane ride. Which it did. In fact, I wasn’t hungry until September. Well done, Mickey!

It’s probably cliché of me to say, but Mickey’s Diner has always felt a bit like the fictional bar, Cheers. The theme song says exactly what I’m meaning:

America's Favorite BreakfastMaking your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got, Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot, Wouldn’t you like to get away…

The short answer is “Hell yes!”

Sometimes going to Mickey’s Diner helps me escape. Talking to the cook or whomever is sitting to my right or left helps me forget about whatever happens to be troubling me. Speaking to the other diners also helps me keep things in perspective. Like the time I talked with a homeless man on Thanksgiving morning about family. Or the time I listened to a St. Paul police officer talk about fatally wounding a man that killed another cop. Mickey’s Diner is full of stories, but you have to really listen.

Mickey's a reason to get excited!

Celebrations happen at Mickey’s, too! This is my friend Nikki on her birthday last year. The plan was to make Mickey’s an annual tradition, but then this whole moving-to-China-thing happened. My apologies to Nikki, I don’t know how to use my camera/phone/camera-phone. We need to eat at Mickey’s soon and take another shot properly!

Ringing in the New Year

On New Years’ Eve, 2011, I had to work in St. Paul at the History Center until 11:30PM. Naturally, Mickey’s Diner is where I greeted 2012. It was bittersweet to be alone on New Years’ Eve, but when you’re at Mickey’s you’re never really alone.

...the stage is set

Another happy customer

This post has a lot of pictures of me at Mickey’s Diner. I thought about deleting all of them and just including pictures of friends, but it’s interesting for me to see how I’ve changed in subtle ways over the five years I’ve been a regular at Mickey’s.

America's Favorite All-Day Meal

QUESTION: If we’re at Mickey’s for breakfast and I’m not ordering a One-Eyed Jack, what is my all-time favorite meal?

ANSWER: America’s Favorite All-Day Meal! Large farm fresh American scrambled eggs fried in American butter, with a generous portion of my favorite American meat — bacon — and Mickey’s famous homemade American hash browns upgraded to (American) O’brians with buttered American wheat toast and jelly, from France.

I have a tongue-boner just thinking about it.

Best MenSpeaking of boners, look at these dicks!

These are some of the nicest guys around — with the exception of the jerk on the far right that calls everybody “dicks.”

This picture was taken just before I left for tour in 2011. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember thinking I always want these guys in my life. These men seek adventure and at Mickey’s that night we found it when the Blink-182 concert let out of the Xcel…

I didn’t even know Blink-182 was still a band before that night. See? Going to Mickey’s is a great spot to learn about culture! Or to feel old when you realize that Blink-182 was popular when you were 14, 12 years ago.

Three of the kindest ladies I know This is a picture of my friend Amy and her girls shortly before before I left for China.

Mickey's SputnikBreakfast was great — as always — but thinking about the meal now, terribly bittersweet.

But I remember following their vehicle on my scooter for a few blocks and thinking about what a perfect day it was. The sun was shining and the air was warm, the girls waved to me from the backseat and I waved back.

The kindness this family has shown me in the short time I’ve known them warms my heart and fills it with joy. So then with delicious food in my stomach and the purr of my scooter beneath me, that moment just felt perfect.

I think that’s why I like Mickey’s, it helps you move from one moment to the next and usually they’re perfect little moments like that.

Post-BBL performance meal with friends

Maybe when I die Mickey’s Diner will become my Heaven… All of the friends and family lost through the ages could come and visit and eat. If there’s nothing to talk about we’d just BS with the staff. Heck, the more I think of it the more I love this idea of Heaven!

Of course, Mickey’s Dining Car wouldn’t be Mickey’s without Mary. She’s been working at Mickey’s for 40 years and if you don’t believe me she’ll punch you in the face and throw you down a flight of stairs. She’s as real as they come. Smart as a whip, sharp as a tack, a heart of gold, and a mouth that makes me blush. She’s the BEST!

The finest server at Mickey's

When I die and Mickey’s becomes Heaven, I want Mary there too. Unfortunately, that’d mean she went to Hell.

Mickey's Dining car

I’ll be back in America near the end of January. If you want to hang-out, you know where to find me.


Michael VenskeMICHAEL VENSKE is an expert mistake-maker whose faith and enthusiasm cause him to leap without looking. One such jump landed him in China where he’s currently teaching kindness, compassion, and the fine art of physical comedy.

Do you have a quip or question? Click here and send Michael a message.

About Michael Venske

Since 2012 Michael Venske has been teaching English in Zibo, Shandong, China. When not in the classroom he's busy writing his next solo performance endeavor chronicling (mis)adventures in The People’s Republic of China.
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