Some time in the mid 1990s, the Original Coney Island Cafe and Bar in St. Paul abruptly went dark. A sign posted in the window said that the restaurant was closed due to family illness. The sign stayed there for years, but the space remained untouched and looking like they could reopen at any minute. Since they closed, I’ve pressed my face against the window 1,000 times wishing/hoping it would reopen. Well, they finally did…for one day earlier this month during the St. Paul Winter Carnival. We got there early and stood in a line with the diehards that stretched down the block an hour before they opened…everyone waiting for a taste of that famous Coney dog and a peek at space that’s been frozen in time. Sometimes dreams really do come true.
(Top: The line stretched out the door and down the block. And see the original-sized illustrations on WACSO’s website, in gallery #31.)
There are 2 distinct sides to the Original Coney Island…the “cafe” side, and the “bar” side. Walk through a fenced doorway with a sign reminding you that children are NOT allowed in the bar area and the space goes from a very diner-like space with stools at a counter, to a very bar-like space with stools at a bar.
The bar side.
The cafe side.
The old bar gets a workout.
Enjoying the original.
People couldn’t believe what they were seeing: an “open” sign.
Left: Preparing the Coneys. Right: Mustard is key to a good Coney dog / the dogs / satisfied customers.
I’m assuming she’s the daughter of the original owners…she kept saying how happy her mother would have been to see so many people lined up down the street for the dogs.