Stick a fork in it: Rochester's landmark restaurant Michael's serves its last steak

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Noted entertainers, retired professional athletes, Supreme Court justices and heads of state have all been treated at Rochester's famed Mayo Clinic.

And many of the notables in search of a fine meal wandered into Michael's Restaurant on the city's main drag while they were in the southeastern Minnesota city.

But that will happen no more.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin covered the last meal ever at the 63-year-old landmark, known for its steak, chops and Greek fare. The restaurant served a full house of sentimental diners on New Year's Eve.

Michael's was opened in 1951 by Michael and Mary Pappas and their sons George, James, Paul and Charles. Charles Pappas was named to the Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2008. Inductees are considered the legends of the Minnesota restaurant industry.

In November, the Pappas family announced it reached an agreement with a developer to close the restaurant, demolish the building and develop a new retail center. At the time the closing was announced, KTTC noted that Michael Pappas was "too emotional" for an on-camera interview about the family's plans to close the iconic spot.

The Pappas family plans to open a "smaller, sleeker" version of the restaurant in the new retail center.

In the meantime, the loss of the restaurant that served celebrities including Sean Connery, Kenny Rogers, Pat Buchanan and Liberace is being mourned by loyal local patrons.

"It's like a death in the family," Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede told MPR News. "I remember talking to Ed Sullivan there once."

It's not just the food that has made Michael's memorable. Reviewers on the restaurant website Yelp consistently noted the decor, which is described as "frozen in time," "right out of Mad Men," and "a relic, in the best sense of the term." One reviewer went on to write the Michael's interior "looks like it emerged from a hermetically sealed time capsule ... richly colored carpets, heavily gilded picture frames, dark hardwood trim, and suit-clad servers transport you to a bygone era."

MPR News noted that downtown Rochester is transforming as part of a $6 billion, 20-year plan to turn the Mayo Clinic into a global health care destination. Rochester is expected to grow by 32,000 residents over the next two decades and city planners expect the blocks closest to the Mayo will look drastically different.

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