The 10 best breakfasts in the Twin Cities suburbs
By Emily Weiss
10. This 1950s-themed restaurant serves consistently good diner classics like corned beef hash and Denver omelets, along with a few more modern favorites, like a Tex Mex burrito and a Cajun breakfast that's positively doused in spicy Hollandaise sauce. Unlike most of the other entries on this list, you won't feel like getting a "real" coffee after having breakfast at Ze's. They have a full list of espresso drinks and will even do you a morning malt or milkshake should the whole soda-shoppe vibe succeed in whisking you back to your high school production of Grease.
Faces: Q&A with Moody Arafa, owner of Cahill Diner in Inver Grove Heights
By Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press
Occupation: Owner (with wife ZeZe) of Cahill Diner (6504 Cahill Ave., Inver Grove Heights; 651-455-4408; cahilldiner.com); the upcoming Ze's Diner (3448 Denmark Ave., Town Centre, Eagan); and director of operations for Axel's Bonfire Restaurant Co.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I've always loved business. I wanted to open my own trucking company, and I did some of that in Egypt. Moving here in 1984 was like being born again. But it was difficult at first because I didn't speak a word of English.
What was your first job in food? I was a busboy at Woolworth's in the IDS Building in Minneapolis. After working there for a month, I thought there had to be something better, so I pushed the elevator button and hit the 50th floor. At that time, it was the Orion Room, and I worked there as a dishwasher. Eventually, I moved into the kitchen and worked those positions. Then, I became a bartender for Cleo's, the 50th-floor bar.
How did you wind up in the restaurant business? I made a trip back to Egypt and met a guy who owned the Signature Cafe in Minneapolis. He was trying to sell it and sought me out to help, and I ended up buying it from him.
What's something few people know about you? That I am huge, huge, huge into family. I'm a father of five - four have a college education. My youngest daughter, who finished a four-year degree in 2-1/2 years, is going to be running the Cahill Diner. My wife is going to be running the one in Eagan.
What culinary trend do you wish would die? I would have to say fast food. It doesn't really help our kids much.
What's something in your career that you wish you had done differently? I love where I am today and that I did everything the hard way. I had a degree in Egypt, but if I had to do it over again, I probably would have gotten more schooling here.
What's your favorite restaurant? I like the Downtowner Woodfire Grill. I like the Mediterranean twist to the entrees and the freshness of the pizza. I also like the open kitchen.
If someone were to play you in a movie, who should it be? I just love Jack Nicholson because you can relate to him. He can play any role, and he can make you laugh.
What's the weirdest food you've ever eaten? Frogs. In Egypt, they're small and you don't eat them. Here, they're the size of chickens.
What's next? My goal is to have three diners, because I love creating jobs for my family and others. I opened Cahill Diner in 2009 and now my daughter can work there and not have to sit in the unemployment line. My youngest son is just about to finish high school. By the time he finishes college, we'll be in a position to give him his own place.
Neighborhood diner vibe and grub live on at 9 east-metro spots
By Jess Fleming
What is a diner?
Technically speaking, it's a free-standing building shaped like a dining car, a la the original Mickey's in downtown St. Paul.
Diners evolved from lunch wagons in the late 1800s, and the dining-car model caught on in the 1930s, when pre-fabricated diners began popping up, first on the East Coast and later around the country. Mickey's opened in 1939.
However, the spirit of the diner, which originally was intended to provide a cheap, quick meal for the masses, lives on in many neighborhood eateries.
As places like Birdhouse on Hennepin, which owners Stewart and Heidi Woodman call their "finer diner," and Kim Bartmann's upcoming Tiny Diner, which will use produce from its own garden, begin to change, yet again, the scope of what a diner is, let's revisit some of the classics.
Here are a few of our favorite places to get a watery cup of joe and a hearty breakfast or standard patty melt in the east metro. Though the majority of these restaurants have been around for a long time, we did include the Daily Diner Frogtown. Even though it's new and the food is somewhat evolved, the diner's focus on feeding the neighborhood with mostly standard breakfast fare seemed to fit the bill.
This squeaky-clean little storefront place next to an auto-parts store in Inver Grove Heights is decked out in decidedly new '50s-style furniture, but it doesn't necessarily lack in character.
The decor is trying to be kitschy, and it is. An oddball mural in which St. Paul landmarks are painted side-by-side with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Egyptian pyramids and the Eiffel Tower is fun to analyze, especially with a snarky dining partner.
Thankfully, the food is good. The M&M Sandwich Melt ($8.25), with caramelized, salty ham and buttery sourdough, is giant and tasty and comes with Cahill's hash browns, which are a cut above many others.
Cahill Diner: 6504 Cahill Ave., Inver Grove Heights; 651-455-4408
Ze's Diner Recognized for Excellence as a Small Business
By Andrea Parrott
Five businesses will receive the 2013 Dakota County Regional (DCR) Chamber of CommerceBusiness Excellence Awards at an awards celebration on Nov. 21.
The awards recognize those businesses that "exhibit innovation, growth and leadership."
This year, Ze's Diner will receive the Small Business of the Year Award.
The other businesses receiving awards include:
- Business Excellence Award: Flint Hills Resources
- Community Leadership Award: August Ash
- Non-Profit of the Year Award: Dodge Nature Center
- Woman/Minority Owned Business Award: Bellacu
The feature presenter at the event is Eagan resident Jeff Pellegrom, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the Minnesota Wild. Pellegrom will present on the business success of the Minnesota Wild.
The awards celebration will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Lost Spur Golf and Event Center, located at 2750 Sibley Memorial Highway in Eagan. Tickets include breakfast and are $30 per person.
Restaurateurs Planning New 1950s Diner in Eagan
Zeze and Moody Arafa are the owners of the soon-to-be opened Ze's Town Center Diner in Eagan.
By David Henke
Moody Arafa never understood the mystique of the 1950s American diner—at least until he and his wife Zeze Arafa started thinking about opening their own restaurant in Inver Grove Heights.
But the more they researched the concept, the more the idea of down-home cooking in a brightly-decorated diner appealed to the Arafas, who are Eagan residents.
"We just really feel in love with the theme," said Arafa, who opened the Cahill Diner in 2009.
Fast forward three years, and the Arafas are just weeks away from opening their second 1950s-themed restaurant, Ze's Town Center Diner, which will be located in Eagan's expansive Town Centre shopping complex. The 3,300-square-foot diner will feature burgers, meatloaf, lamb and pot roast, and all the trappings of 1950s Americana, including flashy decor, vintage-style photos and checker tiles.
Moody Arafa, who is the director of operations for Axel's Bonfire Restaurant Company, has spent much of his life neck-deep in the restaurant industry, including a stint as the owner of the Signature Café in Minneapolis.
The Arafas, who live close to Town Centre in Eagan, have long thought about opening a restaurant in their home city. But it wasn't until the owners of the shopping complex reached out to them that the pair of restarauteurs decided to take action, Moody said.
The Arafas' daughter will take over the day-to-day operations of the Cahill Diner, while Zeze will transition over to their new business in Eagan. Items on the menu will range in price from $7.50 to $15, said Moody, who plans to open the doors to Ze's Diner early in March.
Moody, the father of five, said he has enjoyed working alongside his wife and children over the last year to bring Ze's Diner to life.
"It doesn’t hit me until I walk into that place; it just doesn’t seem real that me and my family are able to accomplish that goal," Moody said. "I do have a lot of high epectations for that place, I think it's going to do really well."
Correction: This article has been changed to correct an inaccuracy. The Signature Café in Minneapolis is still open.
Best Place to do Lunch: Cahill Diner
We would like to thank everyone who voted Cahill Diner "Best Place to do Lunch." We greatly appreciate your business. We strive to provide quality products using the freshest ingredients, while providing excellent customer service. We thank you once again for your support and hope we can continue to serve you and the community.
Best Place for Breakfast: Cahill Diner
Thank you for voting Cahill Diner "Best Place for Breakfast." We have worked so hard to improve our service and food quality. Chef/owner Zeze takes pride in making everything from scratch including our signature items - pot roast, meat loaf, and 100-percent fresh Angus beef burgers. Come and enjoy our fabulous all-you-can-eat fish buffet every Friday. Our family would like to thank you for making Cahill Diner a success.