When you walk into the Cobblestone Café in the heart of downtown White Bear Lake, you’ll see a black-and-white photo from 1947 of two smiling waitresses in their Malt Shoppe uniforms. On June 2 of that year, the Malt Shoppe opened its doors, advertising free cake with each dish of ice cream on grand opening day.
Fast-forward 66 years, and the Cobblestone Café is still the same great small-town malt shop in many ways, but with various changes in ownership, it’s transformed with the times throughout the decades. Two of the most notable changes have been the addition of the back room in the restaurant and the outdoor patio that diners frequent in the summer months. But one thing remains the same—it still welcomes regular customers through the doors each week and serves up those delicious malts.
Today, Alicia Buroker owns and runs the Cobblestone Café. She purchased it in 2000 with her parents, who happened to own it once before, from 1966 to 1976. “I was about 3 years old when they sold it,” she says. “It was Mr. T’s Diner then. My mom always tells me the story about how I got my fingers stuck in the hinge of the side door.”
Buroker views the Cobblestone Café as a family-friendly establishment in the White Bear Lake community. Keeping with that theme, Buroker’s son works at the café, along with two other waitresses whose children work there, too.
But not only is it a family-oriented establishment, it’s also a special place for many White Bear Lake residents. “We have a lot of regular customers,” Buroker says. “There are people that we’ve seen start dating, get married and now have children.”
White Bear Lake resident Bill Matschke has been coming to the Cobblestone Café each week for about the past 10 years. He works right down the street and often finds himself visiting for breakfast or lunch. “It’s convenient and a nice walking distance—and I enjoy the food,” he says.
Matschke remembers when the Cobblestone Café was a small malt shop, too. “It’s been around a long time,” he says. “My sister even worked there in the mid-’50s.” He remembers it being a late-night café, where people would stop for a cup of coffee on the way home from a night out on the town. “I can always go in and find someone I could sit down with,” he says. “People are friendly and let you join them. “
The Cobblestone’s menu has changed over the years, and these days they specialize in breakfast, serving up fan favorites like the Italian hash with eggs, diced potatoes, fresh veggies and Italian sausage. Their hash browns are popular among the regulars, though Matschke also recommends the raisin toast.
And, of course, you can’t forget those malts. “Sometimes people come in and even have a malt for breakfast,” Buroker says. Chocolate tends to be the favorite, but with more than 13 flavors on the menu, there’s no shortage of combinations to choose from.
Some of the staff members have been working at the beloved café for years and have become like family themselves. “We have so many nice people here,” Buroker says. “We close for 12 days every February, and when we open again, it’s always so good to see them.”
So next time you stop by the Cobblestone Café, take a peek at the photo of the original Malt Shoppe girls who were there when it all started, and think about how much has changed—and how much, luckily, hasn’t.
Cobblestone Café: 4760 Washington Square, White Bear Lake; 651.429.6793. Hours: Monday through Saturday 7 a.m.–3 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.–2 p.m.