There it sits, a hole in the wall café on 4th street between 5th and 6th ave in Duluth. The small restaurant does not seat more than about 30 people. A woman with frizzy hair bustles around. She sits, or walks, or runs, or more poetically, floats around the small café pleasing her customers with such ease. Penny Briddell may be behind all the madness at Uncles Louis, but she is front and center when it comes to the operations of running the place. The owner does not have a sob story or a rough upbringing. She just works hard, really, really hard.
Into to fire here: Maybe
That hard work almost came to the ground one Sunny Duluth day in 2007. Smoke was pouring out of every hole in the café like a steam engine or your mother the first time she catches you drinking underage. There was about 4 or 5 minutes of silence with a mix of a few sobs during the flames. Due to the breakfast focus of the café, it was already closed for the day and luckily no one was inside. The Duluth Fire Department was called much to the shrigrin of ooh's and ahh's from a crowd of about fifty that had gathered at a safe distance to watch the hopes and dreams of the staff slowly smolder to the ground like a midsummer bonfire. The omelet and gyro loving student and the Hillside faithful wondered if they were going to ever be able to enjoy their favorite breakfasts and lunches for fewer than 10 bucks again. Hundreds of letter poured into Penny's mailbox from residents supporting the café and wishing and praying the 50's style order up café would reopen as soon as possible. Or there would most likely have been a ton of angry Duluthians who not going to be getting their proper nutrition each morning. And you can get it hot and early. 6 AM the coffee is brewed, eggs cracked, and toast toasted.
The Hillside community of Duluth has been treated to the breakfast place since ???. The staff is always friendly, and the people are always hungry, and the portion sizes are visually appealing for even the hungriest of the hung over college students who pile into Louis every weekend, and I mean PILE. The capacity is 55? So, usually during the busy hours everyone else patiently waits their turn outside to walk into the doors of the aroma of breakfast heaven. They seat themselves, they wait, anxiously, and they scower the menu, which looks more like a Susan King novel about a serial killer who is incredibly skilled in culinary arts. -30?? Choices are what you must eventually trim to 1, which is fine because the next time you come back, and you will come back, you can order something different, and, im not a food critic, but you will probably like it not only for its taste, but for the few bucks you can keep in your wallet for desert, if you have room.
It's a Saturday, overcast with a chance of rain/sleet/snow. The winter is turning into spring, which in Duluth, is still winter. The streets are littered with trash, which no one bothers to pick up. Most likely it is from the Twins Bar the night before. Which is located a stones throw across the street from the café. There are stoplights on either side about a half block from the front doors. Directly next door is a small Laundromat on the east, on the west half there is a small Chinese place followed by Quizno's. The café is not a visual spectacle, but once you walk inside the double doors of Louis, you are greeted instantly with a warming hello. On this brisk day, there are a variety of people in Louis. I sit in the corner and just watch, a man with a long grey beard who appears less fortunate gulfs down French toast, which is absolutely drenched in syrup and powdered sugar. In my experience volunteering at the homeless shelter, I saw people like him, it made me wonder, is Louis providing for the homeless? Either way it gave me a warm feeling. There was a healthy mix of college kids, eagerly waiting their selections they have made from the massive menu, in between the "I was so fucked up last night" and "Oh I barely remember that, what was I doing"? There are hillside natives that have made it a tradition to come to Louis for breakfast, as well as families who are experiencing it for the first time.