Eulogy for a Neighborhood Landmark

Even though I’m a lawyer, my blog posts don’t always need to discuss law-related topics. I’m entitled to digress from time to time, particularly when the “issue of the day” affects me personally.

This week the St. Clair Broiler, an old-fashioned diner-style restaurant in St. Paul’s Macalester Groveland neighborhood, announced that it was closing for business after serving juicy hamburgers, hot fries, and thick malts to happy customers for over 60 years. Located at the corner of Snelling and St. Clair Avenues in St. Paul, the “Broiler” has been a comfortable dining fixture for my family over the past 30 years. This is a classic “non-chain” restaurant which regrettably is increasingly rare these days. My emotional reaction to this closure runs surprisingly deep, probably because my mother worked there as a waitress back in the 1950s.

I will miss the Broiler’s warm and inviting atmosphere. I suspect others will, too. I’m told that local fiction writer William Kent Krueger felt so much at home that he wrote manuscripts of his New York Times Bestselling books there in the early morning hours over bottomless cups of coffee.

The food was always good—sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great—but I’m sure most who have eaten there would agree that the charming atmosphere of this neighborhood gem was its best asset.

What I will miss most is the neon Broiler sign, adorning this diner’s entryway. It was always reassuring to know that even when it closed at night, the neon flames continued burning brightly throughout the wee small hours (nod to Sinatra) waiting to welcome those who’d come very early the next morning, just as the Pioneer Press was arriving, for a mug of strong, dark coffee and a short stack with a slab of extra butter.

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