One Minnesota restaurant has made Esquire's list of 100 restaurants America can't afford to lose: Al's Breakfast.
For the list, published Dec. 29, 2020, Esquire writers picked the restaurants around the United States to "raise a toast to. ... Because if we lose them, we lose who we are."
In describing Al's Breakfast, which has been operating in Minneapolis under its current name since the 1960s, Esquire writes:
"Flapjacks on the griddle. Hazy morning sunlight through stained-glass awnings. Foreign currency tacked to a shelf, above the Magic Markered coffee mugs belonging to various regulars. A sign that says 'Beware of Attack Waitress.' If a breakfast counter could be the IRL manifestation of a Replacements song, this would be it."
Esquire notes that many restaurants are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic and it's possible that some of these places will vanish.
"It means a lot to me that Esquire included us in this list," Al's co-owner Alison Kirwin told Bring Me The News, adding "There are a lot of other restaurants that should be on this list. We all have restaurants that we would hate to lose, which is why we need to get out and support them safely when we can."
Al's Breakfast is doing its best to stay afloat during the pandemic. Late last year it launched a giving campaign through its website – and based on the way it's going, it seems people in Minnesota don't want to lose the breakfast spot either.
"I am humbled by the amount of people who love Al's, and are willing to step up financially. We have a little way to go, but we'll make it happen," Kirwin told BMTN.
Al's has been open for takeout and has been offering staff meals during the state-ordered shutdowns, but it says what's been even harder for them during all of this is not seeing its patrons sitting at the counter, the website notes.
"Al's is more than just a restaurant to so many people. It's a community of people brought together by delicious food and a tight space," Kirwin said. "It's a tradition that has been passed down carefully to new generations and friends for decades.
"What Al's, and every other restaurant and small business, needs to get through this pandemic is for everyone to take it seriously," Kirwin added. "Everyone needs to follow the guidelines and get vaccinated when it's time. That's the way we stop the spread, stop so many from dying, give our frontline healthcare workers a break, and get our businesses to the other side of this."
Restaurants in Minnesota can reopen for in-person dining indoors on Monday, with restrictions. But Al's won't be reopening because it can't do so until "people start getting vaccinated more widely," Kirwin said.
"Our space is not conducive to social distancing, so it would be almost impossible to keep guests and staff safe, which is our top priority," Kirwin said.