Monday, September 19, 2005

Downtown Minneapolis

I decided today would be a nice day to take a bit of a nostalgic trip to downtown Minneapolis where Bar Man once lived and worked. My buddy Jerry (he was at Maxwell’s) still works down here so I figured I could meet him for a drink as well. Sandy, my hostess with the mostess, decided to take half a day off and head out with me and The Mysterious Chinese Woman.

797) Brass Rail

I know, What happened to Augie’s? Well, it is a strip club and I was with two women, but that alone would not dissuade Bar Man. However, the fact that it didn’t open until 5:00 P.M. did. Ah well, one can’t hit them all. There is a nice old wood-grained Formica-topped bar with a brown padded arm rest. The foot rest is a dark linoleum and there are padded burgundy bar chairs. Glass shelves behind the bar hold the liquor and the shelves are decorated with pink Christmas lights. There are mirrors behind the shelves and they are flanked with small green, red, and orange lights. A small nebbish looking naked guy with a small erect penis and wearing a green light shade on his head also sits on the bar. The general ambience is quite cheerful.

Co-Managers Tim And Greg

Old style light fixtures hang from the dark ceiling and opposite the bar the wall is lined with mirrors, some of them quite fancy. A ledge for setting down your drinks runs the length of the wall just opposite the bar and there are tables in the back.

Bar Man, Sandy, and The Mysterious Chinese Woman In The Back

There is also a small bar in the back that is open at night when the place gets more crowded. There were pull tabs available but Sandy let us down. No winners. Maybe she is only lucky in American Legion clubs.

I had a bottle of Budweiser.

798) Happy Hour Bar in the Gay 90’s

The Gay 90’s is a large place that has two separate bars that are quite distinct in their décor. Unfortunately the much more elaborately appointed, and larger, side was closed. The Happy Hour Bar was doing a good business though and this is where I met Jerry. The bar had scalloped edges and was dark wood with what looked to be inlaid marble decorations. Plain wooden bar stool. Despite the no smoking laws in Minneapolis (even stranger than in New York, it isn’t state wide so you can still smoke in some counties) you can still buy cigarettes in bars. Camels and Kools were being offered for $4.25 a pack from a display behind the bar. There was also a vase of yellow and red flowers next to the cash register and that was about it for color in this nicely dark retreat from the harsh reality of a beautiful sunny day. I love to sit in dark bars and listen to the patrons sit for hours discussing how unusually nice the weather is.

The walls in here are either brick or wood paneled with mirrors and the ceiling is painted black with exposed ventilation ducts. There is a Silver Streak Bowling machine. A television above the bar was showing some kind of a sit-com but underneath was a jukebox that playing away. In the back is a crawl sign displaying information such as the Happy Hour hours (just about all day) and reminders that smoking is not allowed.

I had a rum and Coke.

799) Murray’s

This place has been around forever (as have the Brass Rail and Gay 90’s). It was considered one of the very best restaurants in Minneapolis back in the 50’s and well beyond that. In fact when I was up at Rainy Lake Donna took a book out of the library that was a photo essay of classic restaurants in Minneapolis. Murray’s was featured and is one of the few still standing. It doesn’t look like it has changed that much since it opened, but I hear it is about to be remodeled in the near future. Bar Man laments this but, although it has been lovingly maintained, nothing lasts forever, except some of the wait staff. You have to go at night to see them though, the fairly small day staff are relatively new.

The bar in the front is a good sized classic bar, dark wood, etched glass, brown bucket bar chairs, bottles and glasses behind the bar. Very nice.

Martine With Bar Man And The Mysterious Chinese Woman

After having a drink at the bar we went in for a leisurely late lunch and had the famous Golden Butter Knife Steak. This is a large porterhouse steak for three people and it is delicious, as you might imagine. You really can cut it with a butter knife. There is a reason this place has been around so long. Interestingly, Martine, our very friendly bartender and waiter, once lived in Brooklyn not too far from Peter Lugers, possibly the only restaurant that could rival Murray's porterhouse (and has been around just about as long, if not longer).

The dining room is all drapery, hanging chandeliers, plush dining booths with little marble dining tables, and mirrors.

Sandy And Bar Man In The Pink

The Elegant Dining Room

If you are ever in Minneapolis be sure to drop in here and visit this classic.

I had a Bombay Martini at the bar before lunch.

800) Ike’s

Right next door is a newer place designed to capture the same general era as Murray’s, but in more of a Rat Pack kind of way.

They do a good job of it too. I thought the name was intended to be evocative of Eisenhower but it turns out to be the name of the owner’s uncle or something. I got the story the last time I was here but that was a year ago and I forgot. Last year I had lunch here and they were featuring turkey. It was great and the portions were huge.

But that was last year. The top of the U shaped bar is marble and it is edged with brown wood. The open end towards the door is wear the carving station is located. Overhead cabinets hold glasses and bottles of wine and four televisions. They do have 12 beers on draft and a decent selection. There is a large sign announcing that Ike’s is open for breakfast every day at 7:00 A.M. Ah, eggs and a bloody Mary, great way to start the day. There are large tiered wire baskets holding oranges and limes and lemons with bottles of wine in the top basket. Large bowl shaped lights hang from the ceiling. Large urns of flowers flank the doorway in front of the carving station.

Bar Man Enjoying His Beer At The Bar

Large painted floral scenes, mirrors, and various pictures that reinforce the early 60’s them of the place decorate the walls. Also a number of signs with such witty sayings as “Before you give someone a piece of your mind, make sure you can get along with what is left.” Bar Man nearly fell of his bar stool he laughed so hard (not).

I had a Rush River beer.

A very pleasant day. I hit four bars today and, as you probably already guessed I would, made number 800 for the year here in Minnesota leaving me with 200 to go. I will probably hit at least one more at the airport before I head back to New York.


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