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Charlie's Exceptionale Cafe's Racially Insensitive History

An unearthed an article exposes ugly truths about the historic restaurant, tarnishing the namesake of the Charlie Awards.

In a Throw Back Thursday post the Star Tribune's Rick Nelson shared the below image of a story dating back to 1953 on his Facebook page. Today, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl posted the picture publicly, sharing an excerpt of the article detailing an ugly chapter in restaurant history.

It would seem that Charlie's (noted as "Charley's" in the headline from the Minneapolis Spokesman) actively discouraged patrons of the "wrong color."

The article dates back to 1953

The Star Tribune article relates the story of three men attempting to have a lunch inside the restaurant. Although a reservation had been made, the restaurant could not apparently locate the party's name in the books after observing one member of the trio was African American. Allegedly, "When the man in charge of the dining room saw Fager talking to the other two patrons he called two bouncers and Fager was forcibly removed from the cafe via the kitchen entrance." The man in question was Frank W. Fager, identified as the executive secretary of the Minneapolis Mayor's Council on Human Relations.

According to the piece, "Charlie's is the only top-flight restaurant which continues to practice discrimination against Negro patrons in Minneapolis." Furthermore, "The only Negro ever known to be served inside the restaurant's dining room was William Seaborn, Urban League Industrial secretary, now of Detroit." He and his party were "shunted to an upstairs room despite protests."

The restaurant would continue to operate for nearly thirty more years and it is unclear when the racial prejudices evolved.

Until now, Charlie's had occupied a warm, nostalgic place in the pantheon of Minneapolis' restaurants. So much so, in fact that a local awards show honoring our local food scene was named the Charlie's. Organizers of the Charlie Awards have are looking into the history of this article and are unprepared to comment at this time.

Charlie's Exceptionale Cafe closed in July of 1982.