One of five apartments above a Dinkytown coffee shop caught fire over the lunch hour Friday near the University of Minnesota, forcing authorities to block off the busy retail block.
Several fire trucks responded to the flames and billowing smoke above Espresso Royale, 411 14th Av. SE., shortly after noon.
The blaze was under control within an hour or so, said Stephen Wood, who works at a nearby pizza place. Assistant Fire Chief Cherie Penn reported no injuries and added that the fire's cause has yet to be determined.
The building belongs to Paul Dzubnar, who also owns the Green Mill restaurant chain.
D.J. Helmbrecht said it was his unit, the one facing the street, that caught fire. Helmbrecht said the flames were pretty much contained to the one room. He said firefighters rescued his pit bull, Foster, and his two cats, Momma and Orik.
"I'm really grateful they got them out," said Helmbrecht, one of seven residents displaced by the blaze.
Penn said that two units were damaged by the flames and that other parts of the building suffered smoke and water damage.
The businesses on either side of the coffee shop, China Express and the iconic Al's Breakfast, escaped damage. Espresso Royale was closed and was dealing with water from the fire hoses.
"We stayed open right through the fire," said Doug Grina, who co-owns Al's. "It was actually kind of funny because it got kind of smoky."
Grina said the 63-year-old diner was two-thirds full when someone walked in and said, " 'There's smoke coming out of that window.' "
Moments later, Grina added, one of his customers said, " 'Feed me quick. I want to get out of here before they close you.' "