How Al’s Breakfast is bringing people together

July 07, 2021

Want to get closer to your neighbors? Eat at Al’s Breakfast, a Minneapolis diner that’s been a fixture in the Dinkytown neighborhood for decades.


Al’s Breakfast might only be a few feet wide, but it’s reputation is far bigger than its square footage. Al’s has gotten nationwide recognition in food magazines and on television, but most of the love comes right from the locals. Located in Dinkytown, a Minneapolis neighborhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota, parents and grandparents have been passing Al’s down to their kids for generations. Owner Alison Kirwin has worked behind the counter since 1996, and she’s seen firsthand just how large an impact small businesses make in a community.


What makes Al’s unique?

“Being that [Al’s] used to be an alley, we’re sandwiched in between two buildings and it’s 10 feet wide with 14 seats at the counter and nothing else. It forces us to be intimate with our customers in a way you wouldn’t think to be. It forces people to come together in a weird little community. If it wasn’t for sitting at the counter with these people they see week after week, a lot of these people would have never gotten to know each other. It forces people to make new friends and form a community. The space that we’re in facilitates that.

The freedoms we have as staff at Al’s lets us be who we are. We don’t have to go out of our way to be polite to people, we can be as snarky and funny and brazen as we want to. It makes for a more real experience sometimes, but it’s also more theatrical. We’ve had lots of theatre people [on staff] over the years, and there’s always someone at the counter juggling or telling jokes. Our space lends itself to that really well.”

Why is Al’s so special to Dinkytown residents?

“Back before the 1950s, there was a huge train changing in the area. There were all these transient employees coming in. The whole neighborhood was filled with little diners and restaurants. Over time, so many things have changed. Even now, it’s changing faster than ever before. Al’s has been a constant along with things that are now gone, but we’re still here. Maybe it’s because we take up so little space that nobody needs us to move anywhere. Between the fact that we have good food and community, it’s been carefully passed down by University of Minnesota students’ parents and grandparents. Part of making the community at Al’s has always been inviting people back.”


What dish is Al’s best known for?

“In the 90s, Gourmet magazine shared a version of our pancakes. We’ve continued to get a lot of press about our walnut blueberry pancakes. The other thing on the top of people’s list is our Jose omelet. Everything at Al’s is made from scratch, our pancake batter is all homemade, and our Jose is our poached eggs with cheddar on top of hash browns with salsa. We make our own salsa and poach eggs the right way. It’s delicious.”


What makes small businesses like Al’s so important for building community?

“Small businesses are at the core of everything we all do. Everybody has a chance to be an entrepreneur and make their own way in life, and they give people a chance to be creative with something they love to do. It gives people the chance to experience the personality of lots of different people and ideas. It opens the door for lots of people to become the next entrepreneur in the next generation of people. It’s important that people see what you can accomplish with lots of hard work.” 


Inspired by businesses making positive impacts in their communities? Read on to learn how this woman started and expanded her salon business beyond just hair.

Learn about U.S. Bank

Related content

For today's relocating home buyers, time and money are everything

Crypto + Relo

High-cost housing and down payment options in relocation

Addressing financial uncertainty in international business

High-yield bond issuance: 5 traits lawyers should look for in a service provider

Administrator accountability: 5 questions to evaluate outsourcing risks

Easier onboarding: What to look for in an administrator

In a digital world, Liberty Puzzles embraces true connection

3 tips to maintain flexibility in supply chain management

Complying with changes in fund regulations

Digital banking and cloud accounting software: How they work together

Artificial intelligence in finance: Defining the terms

Evaluating interest rate risk creating risk management strategy

Adjust collections to limit impact of USPS delivery changes

How running a business that aligns with core values is paying off

Meet the Milwaukee businessman behind Funky Fresh Spring Rolls

How to identify what technology is needed for your small business

How to get started creating your business plan

What is needed to apply for an SBA loan

How to test new business ideas

Planning for restaurant startup costs and when to expect them

How iPads can help increase efficiency in your salon

Tools that can streamline staffing and employee management

Opening a business on a budget during COVID-19

How to redefine challenges with business collaboration

Empowering team members

10 tips on how to run a successful family business

5 steps for creating an employee recognition program

How to reward employees and teams who perform well

The role of ethics in the hiring process

8 ways to increase employee engagement

How to hire employees: Employee referral vs. external hiring

Give a prepaid rewards card for employee recognition

How small businesses are growing sales with online ordering

Gift cards can extend ROI into 2022

What you should know about licensing agreements

3 simple brand awareness tips for your business

How a small business owner is making the workplace work for women

The growing importance of a strong corporate culture

Meet your business credit card support team

Using merchant technology manage limited staffing

Business credit card 101

5 tips for managing your business cash flow

Do I need a credit card for my small business?

How to apply for a business credit card

How jumbo loans can help home buyers and your builder business

Prioritizing payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic

5 questions business owners need to consider before taking out a loan

How to establish your business credit score

8 Ways for small business owners to manage their cash flow

Break free from cash flow management constraints

How Lip Esteem is empowering women

When small business and community work together

Community behind Elsa’s House of Sleep

Improve online presence your business

How a family-owned newspaper is serving its community

Honey Luxury Beauté: growing a side project into an eye-catching beauty business

How Gentlemen Cuts helps its community shine

How tenacity brought Taste of Rondo to life

Use this one simple email marketing tip to increase your reach

How a travel clothing retailer is staying true to its brand values

How community gave life to lifestyle boutique Les Sol

How Shampoo’ed is transforming hair and inspiring entrepreneurs

The San Francisco bridal shop that’s been making memories for 30 years

How Al’s Breakfast is bringing people together

Celebrity Cake Studio’s two decades of growth and success

How a group fitness studio made the most of online workouts

How Wenonah Canoe is making a boom in business last

How a bar trivia company went digital during COVID-19

How to build a content team

How (and why) to get your business supplier diversity certification

4 questions you should ask about your custodian

Tactical Treasury: Fraud prevention is a never-ending task

The benefits of payment digitization: Pushing for simplicity

How this photography business persevered through tough times

Community and Coffee: How one small business owner is breaking down barriers

Choosing your M&A escrow partner

Employee benefit plan management: Trustee vs. custodian

Webinar: Reviving mobility, what to expect

Webinar: DEI tips for transforming your mobility program

Why retail merchandise returns will be a differentiator in 2022

Omnichannel retail: 4 best practices for navigating the new normal

The client-focused mindset: How to network effectively

Is your restaurant Google-friendly?

Business risk management for owners of small companies

For small business growth, consider the international market

Refining your search for an insurance custodian

Preparing for your custodian conversion

Business tips and advice for Black entrepreneurs

Webinar: AP automation for commercial real estate

Webinar: CSM corporation re-thinks AP

The future of financial leadership: More strategy, fewer spreadsheets

Tech tools to keep your restaurant operations running smoothly

Enhancing liquidity management: 4 benefits of visibility

The client-focused mindset: Adapting to differing personality types

Save time with mobile apps for business finances

The client-focused mindset: What do clients expect?

Automated escheatment – learn how to prevent and resolve unclaimed property

Webinar: CRE Digital Transformation – Balancing Digitization with cybersecurity risk

Webinar: CRE technology trends

Webinar: AP automation—solve payment challenges with an invoice-to-pay solution

Start of disclosure content
XX-011 Equal Housing Lender
XX-014 Loan programs: credit + home
WI-031 Bank + USBI disclaimer