MADISON (WKOW) - An iconic Madison restaurant opened the doors to its dining room Thursday after a year of being closed due to conditions of the pandemic.
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While Mickies Dairy Bar in the shadow of Camp Randall Stadium at 1511 Monroe Street continued to do carry out during the months of no in-person dining, manager Shea Thongnuam says the establishment's diner ambience has always been one of its biggest selling points.
The building housing Mickies has been there since the first World War. Customers began being served at its counters in the forties. Thongnuam says at that time, the property was split between dining and a small grocery operation to include bottles of milk for sale.
Thongnuam says the restaurant began operating under the name Mickies in the 70s. His parents have owned it for the past 30 years.
Thongnuam says his family also owns the building. He says during the months of missing dining room revenue, there was never a consideration of closing up shop and closing a chapter in Madison history.
"We try to take the optimistic route," Thongnuam says. "How can we get through this, (rather) than how can we get out of this."
Thongnuam says this week's change in Dane County's public health order to increase restaurant capacity from 25 to 50 percent was critical to his eatery's reopening.
The resumption of dining room business was brisk later in the noon lunch hour, with a mix of college students, long-time regulars and the curious.
UW-Madison graduate Kalley Carlson brought her visiting parents from Minneapolis to soak in the return of chili omelets and blueberry pancakes fresh from kitchen-to-table. Ironically, the last time Carlson's parents were in Madison was Mickies first day of carry out service last year.
"The food is yummy," Carlson says.
She likes the way sitting in one of the restaurant's booths and watching the buzz of activity makes her feel nostalgic. "It reminds me of the breakfast restaurants I worked at back home," Carlson says.
Thongnuam says he knows it may take the public a while to regain its comfort level with in-person dining. But he thinks tradition will win out.
"Will we get back to what we were pre-COVID, with fans from Badger football games wrapped around the corner? I think there's a very good chance."