The Nicollet Diner and the attached Muffin Top Café are an iconic pair—and they are about to be separated. Before you get too worried, let us put your minds at ease: neither restaurant is closing and both will be paired with new concepts that you are just as sure to love.
The Nicollet Diner, the brainchild of local restauranteur Sam Turner, is the only 24-hour diner in Minneapolis. That claim to fame; combined with its classic, perfectly crafted breakfast items like chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and the ever-popular All-American Breakfast, has made it the gold standard of the Minneapolis breakfast scene for its entire six-year lifespan. Combined with Muffin Top Café, which shares a building with The Nicollet Diner, this duo of breakfast-y goodness is a force to be reckoned with.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Turner decided to use the success of The Nicollet Diner and Muffin Top Café to bring Minneapolis two new concepts: Mother Cluckers Pizza and Roxy’s Cabaret. Turner purchased the old Ichiban building last year and his plan to expand was put in motion. Muffin Top Café will stay where it has always been and will now share space with Mother Cluckers Pizza. The Nicollet Diner will move to the new location and will be joined by Roxy’s Cabaret.
Turner is excited about pairing Muffin Top Café and Mother Cluckers Pizza. “We have always sought a larger space for Muffin Top Café and this shuffle allows us to allocate more space to it,” says Turner, “The remaining space will be Mother Cluckers…[W]e are going [in] that direction…because Loring Park does not have a neighborhood pizza joint.”
Pizza will be the main feature at Mother Cluckers, but there are plenty of other menu items to choose from. “Mother Cluckers Pizza will specialize in homemade pizza, broasted chicken, family style sides and oven toasted Hoagies,” says Turner, “Pizza and broasted chicken is…something I am very experienced in and something I knew we could execute extremely well.”
Moving The Nicollet Diner was an easy choice after Turner bought the old Ichiban space. Combining it with a concept like Roxy’s Cabaret is a dream come true. “I’ve always been an enormous fan of stage entertainment, specifically female impersonation,” says Turner, “I am deeply involved in and love that scene so felt Roxy’s Cabaret was the ideal concept to pair with The Nicollet Diner and the Cocktail Lounge and outdoor patios on the 2nd and 3rd floor.”
There are some exciting changes coming to The Nicollet Diner menu. “We are really looking forward to expanding the dinner menu to be geared more towards the dinner theatre experience we are tailoring for Roxy’s Cabaret,” says Turner, “We are raising the bar on our cocktail game across the board and will focus on cultivating a craft cocktail menu to rival any fine dining restaurant or cocktail lounge.” If you want to get a feel for the changes, previews are currently available at The Nicollet Diner and Muffin Top Café.
All of Turner’s restaurant projects are queer-friendly, but it is important to him that everyone feels welcome in the spaces he creates. He hopes that Roxy’s is a place that appeals to all communities—not just the LGBTQ community. “With our ‘come as you are’ culture we work to create fun and safe spaces for all of our friends and neighbors so we tend to be a destination for the queer community,” he explains, “I would not describe our establishment as queer per se, but we definitely do a lot of queer stuff! We work to support the LGBTQIA community through fundraising, events, and any way we can!”
In spite of the excitement surrounding the upcoming restaurants, Turner was the first to say that keeping his restaurants thriving during the pandemic was a struggle—and one that was only survivable because of the strong community built around The Nicollet Diner and Muffin Top Café. “As a small business, we relied on our staff, neighbors, vendors and delivery partners to help us stay afloat. They have come through with overwhelming support, we could not do it without them.”
Next time you are in the neighborhood, stop by The Nicollet Diner or Muffin Top Café. Whether you order one of the preview items or stick to the classics, you are sure to leave happy—and full. And keep your eye out on the new space, so you can be one of the first in line for Roxy’s Cabaret when it opens this summer.