'I'm going to do whatever it takes': Minnesota restaurants brace for challenging month ahead

The Ideal Diner in Northeast Minneapolis has been around for more than seventy years. (FOX 9)

New restrictions announced by Gov. Walz prohibit indoor service at bars and restaurants in Minnesota, forcing businesses to rely entirely on takeout orders for the next four weeks.

The Ideal Diner in Northeast Minneapolis has been around for more than 70 years. It’s a neighborhood staple known for its bright yellow, retro exterior and classic diner dishes.

“Having the faces at the counter is half the diner,” cook Chris Wick said. 

Those faces, mostly regulars, haven’t been able to visit Ideal since the first state shutdown in March. Part of the diner’s charm is its counter overlooking the grill. Seating is limited to only about 20 stools, so with ongoing occupancy limits, sitting inside has been prohibited. 

“This diner has been through a lot, but this is the biggest challenge it’s had,” owner Kim Robinson said. 

Robinson’s mother worked the grill at Ideal for 50 years. Running the diner is something that runs in her blood. But this year, she’s had to get creative to keep the business afloat. 

The Ideal Diner in north Minneapolis. (FOX 9)

“We have the takeout window. Who would have ever thought the Ideal Diner [would have] the takeout orders and now I just signed up for Bite Squad and Door Dash,” Robinson said. 

This year, Robinson’s mother passed away at the age of 90. She’s also been battling breast cancer, all while navigating the challenges of owning a business during the pandemic. 

“We get up every day and say a prayer and go to work, and I make what I can that day,” Robinson said. 

She says her regulars are what is keeping the classic diner alive. 

“I come every weekend. I’m just sad I can’t sit here and eat with them I miss that a lot,” said a regular who calls himself 'Stew from Cali.'

“In Minneapolis, we have a really strong pride for our local business - and especially as Northeastern. Nobody loves, especially Ideal, more than Nordeasters,” customer Robb Lauer said. 

Robinson says she’ll keep trying to survive off of takeout as long as she can, but after running out of money to pay employees from the Paycheck Protection Program loans issued earlier this year, she’s not sure how much longer this piece of history will last. 

“I’m going to do whatever it takes to get this over with and get back to normal whatever normal is going to be after this,” Robinson said.