Where does North Minneapolis go for night life? The answers include “home” and “to church” as well as “out.” For this third article in a three-part series on dining out in North Minneapolis, NorthNews looks at places that serve alcohol and are open in the evenings.
In part one, we looked at the Camden area and posed the question of whether the market supports establishments offering sit-down evening meals. In part two, we looked at West Broadway and south of that commercial artery, the Near North area’s coffee shops, diners, fast food and take-out establishments. Those articles are available under “News Archive” on MyNorthNews.com, the Sept. 26 and Oct.31 editions.
Halek’s, at 2024 Washington Ave. N, called “The Original Sports Bar” because “we earned every one of these trophies, not because we have a bunch of big screens,” has been in Bill and Sharon Halek’s family since 1947. “We sponsor a team pretty much if a customer asks,” Sharon said, “in a lot of different sports. We don’t have softball anymore—we used to have so many, they had to split it into Halek’s Purple, Halek’s Gold, Halek’s Blue.” (Players got older and gave up the sport, and there weren’t younger ones asking them to sponsor.)
Bill’s dad bought the business from Connor’s Bar, and in 1958 or 1959 bought the building from Gluek’s.
“It’s a well-built building. There used to be an auto repair shop” in the part that’s now the pool room, Bill Halek said. It was well-enough timbered to support cars driving in. It’s strong enough to support digital billboards, and there are twenty sleeping rooms in two floors upstairs. Halek and his four siblings now own the building. Bill bought out his brother’s interest in the bar in 2003.
The history goes back even further—Bill’s grandfather was at 10th and Washington (what is now Club Jager) before prohibition. “It was Bill’s Place, with my dad and two uncles. My dad broke away, they eventually sold it to someone who sold it to the current owner,” Bill said. At one time Halek’s owned what became the Rainbow Bowl.
They’ve been trying to sell for several years. Bill will be 78 and would like to retire. “We love the people, we’ll miss the people, but not the hours.” A deal fell through in 2009—there was a controversy over the eventual name change that would be needed, though it failed for a financial reason.
Bill and Sharon were both raised on the Northside and went to Ascension; Bill graduated from De La Salle, Sharon from St. Michael. Their daughter Alisa Halek, who also manages a chain of beauty salons, helps manage the bar when they’re gone. It’s “kinda like a Cheers bar,” they get to know everybody, and it’s family-friendly. Her 7-month old son is getting to know everybody “just like she did.”
Halek’s runs casino trips for bar patrons, and sometimes on Saturday nights, will have karaoke. “If you have something special, they appreciate it,” Sharon said. Particularly in recent years, they’ve organized special events, especially for holidays. “We had an adult prom night where they could dress up like they would have, we crowned a king and queen. It was a lot of fun,” Sharon said.
Alisa does the Facebook page. Sharon manages the events, and said that became an important part of rebuilding business in response to the recent recession. Bars in general faced challenges “when DWI’s got big, and then the smoking ban, and then the recession.”
Alisa chimed in, “They say that there are two things not affected by a recession, lipstick and (something else), I like to say it’s lipstick and liquor. Look good and go meet people. There are lifetime friendships formed here.”
There are pull tabs available, benefitting the Twin City Wrestling Club. On Saturday they planned to have a drawing at 6 p.m. on the free Vikings Board. “We don’t charge them for it, so it’s not gambling,” Sharon explained. “We can give prizes.”
It’s a bar. They serve frozen pizza and cheese bread if customers need food. The family reminisced about late night spots where people used to go after the bars closed—Happy Days next to BJ’s where “they had the best pork tenderloin.” The Tally Ho on Broadway between Bryant and Dupont “had the best pies.” Top Diner. Now, “we choose not to be open later than 1 o’clock,” Sharon said, “so they may go to another bar that stays open later, not sure where they go for food.”
“We knew Eddie” (Peck, famed owner of Broadway Pizza). Bill said, “all the liquor licenses used to come up on the same day. That’s how I met the other bar owners, standing in line re-applying for the license.” He said there used to be “plenty of business for all.” Halek’s used to be a police officers’ bar; “we sponsored their teams, we even sponsored their band in the Northside parade.” The precinct was then located on Third off Broadway, and police officers lived in town.
Donny Dirks Zombie Den is practically out the back door from Halek’s. “We were so happy when she got that place.” The previous bar, Stand-Up Frank’s, was a legend. Sharon remembers her father taking her there for a candy bar when she was little just to see the place. But in its waning days, it was in danger of being closed down, as Johnny A’s was before Good Sports came in. “When they let the riff-raff in, it made it harder for us,” the Haleks said.
“We’ve paid, and we work at it” to keep things clean. They have off-duty police come through periodically, and have security guarding against drugs, “the biggest threat to our country,” Bill said. If someone acts up at Halek’s they can be banned from the bar for 30 days.
Halek’s draws customers from the Northside and all over. “We used to cash checks at noontime” for workers at nearby industries, “and we had sandwiches then, but that is a thing of the past,” people can’t have a couple of beers at lunch and then go back to work like they used to, and many of the industrial buildings have for sale or for lease signs. “But we’ve noticed buildings are starting to take shape and look nice, coming up from downtown,” Sharon said.
Halek’s 65th Anniversary Party will be Saturday, Dec. 1, 3-9 p.m. with happy hour prices, drawings, meat raffle, trivia contest, and toward the end of the party, a karaoke contest. The event announcement reads in part, “Must be present to win any and all prizes. Thank you for 65 great years. Thank you for the memories. Thank you to our founder Mike Halek Sr.”
Halek’s, 2024 Washington Ave. N, employs nine part-time bartenders who’ve been with them for decades. Business heats up about 4 p.m.
The Original Broadway Station
The Original Broadway Station, Inc., better known as Broadway Bar & Pizza, 2025 West River Road, has been corporately owned since the early 1990s but has a long local history. According to the broadwaypizza.com website, John Spallaci brought the recipe from Gorviano Valli, Italy. “In 1961, Eddie Peck bought Spallacci’s operation, along with his fabulous recipe. Continuing the pizza tradition, along with his wife Dorothy and mother Mamie in his North Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant and bar, Eddie made sausage from scratch, while Mamie simmered special sauces and kneaded fresh dough for delicious homemade pizza. Eddie’s pizzas quickly became the neighborhood favorite with standing room only at the old Broadway Pizza.”
“When Eddie had to move his pizza restaurant due to I-94 construction,” the history continues, “he stayed in the north Minneapolis neighborhood that made his pizza famous. Purchasing land in the heart of the railroad activity that drove North Minneapolis growth, Eddie honored the neighborhood and people at the heart of his pizza restaurant’s success by choosing a railroad theme for his new Broadway Pizza.”
Broadway Bar and Pizza “is one of our better bar locations, but people come there more for food,” said Tiffany Downing, marketing manager for the 15 Broadway Pizza locations.
Ages “25 to 54 is our target, the group we see most of,” though older and younger generations are welcome. “We’re family-friendly, we have the train” that goes around the restaurant on a track near the ceiling. There is a kids club. Of all the restaurants, this original location, like other long-established restaurants NorthNews contacted, has a bit of a regional draw. Downing said people who’ve moved away come back to visit, people new in town have heard about it and check it out.
Broadway Station is also located convenient to people working at the nearby Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board headquarters, even those working downtown who come up for a quick lunch buffet in the basement. The basement rooms can accommodate party rentals up to 200 people for formal or informal events such as groom’s dinners, or fundraisers. There are two seating areas on the main level, one with dining booths, and the bar area with televisions and table/booth seating.
The bar sponsors a handful of sports teams—adult as well as high school. The business did feel the recent recession, but Downing said their community orientation served them well to not only get through it, but expand the restaurant chain by a couple of locations in the past few years.
One of two corporate locations in the group, Broadway Bar and Pizza has an extensive pizza, burger/sandwich and salad menu. Kitchen hours are: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday, noon to 11 p.m. The bar stays open one hour later than the kitchen on all nights.
Fourth Street Saloon
Like the exterior that’s being transformed slowly, the interior of Fourth Street Saloon (328 West Broadway) is a multi-layered study in contrasts. Patrons play pool behind the new windows at the corner. Stare at the wall and the wood behind the bar long enough, you see the simple carved decoration and eons of adaptations. A hand-lettered sign “no panhandling, no loitering, no begging” joins the brass engraved sign “If you’re too young to buy, don’t even try.”
Over the DJ/band area in the third of four sections, there’s a perfect, ornate tin ceiling along the outside edges which 13-year manager Mike Oker and his son uncovered, restored and repainted. In the middle, “there used to be a second bar here, and there were lights all around this top part,” Oker said, but they didn’t get them working again.
Because the sound equipment would obstruct windows in that section anyway, they’re going to cover the 1970s storefront outside with a photographic mural of an old Jewish bar and cafe that once occupied the space. Behind the 1970s energy-saving nearly-windowless front there was glass block; they didn’t keep that.
In the fourth section, off the parking lot behind Charles Caldwell’s mural atop the freeway, the dance floor continues. On busy nights that’s where everyone enters the bar, through a metal detector, subject to pat-downs and purse searches. “There is an element around here,” Oker said, the bar needs to watch for patrons’ safety.
There’s a service window where bar patrons can get food from the Wings & Things that fronts onto West Broadway and does a brisk take-out business all day. It was hard fought-for, the city finally allowed them to pilot the idea, Oker said.
In the evening, from the bar “it’s getting something to sober up to go home,” the Wings & Things attendant said. Combos range from $3.99 to $7.99 (the most expensive being fish, or Italian beef), wings are the most popular, and “things” range from a breakfast waffle, to okra, onion rings, mushrooms or zucchini and of course, chili cheese fries.
The bar runs two-for-one drink specials Friday and Sunday 8-10 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday 8 to midnight, and all other nights 8-11 p.m. Bar closing time in Minneapolis is 1 a.m. “but you can buy an option for 2 a.m.,” which they did, and Oker said “people just started coming out later.”
Weekends attract the younger crowd with today’s hip-hop. During the week, though, the music is Old School; Motown, blues and jazz. Monday nights, the Old School band A-Nutha Level performs live starting at 8 p.m. Karaoke is starting up by Danny with Wycked Sounds on Tuesday nights, now the bar’s slow night, around 9:00.
Tonia Johnson wrote on Facebook: “Fourth Street Saloon is where most bikers (motorcycle riders) hang out. I sometimes stop by during Happy Hour on Tuesdays. It’s a fun place. It’s got the Cheers thing going on, where everyone knows your name. At about 11:00 p.m. it turns into a much younger dance crowd especially on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Oker is general manager and a part-owner, used to own a karaoke company and was a deejay at Fourth Street. He said they have another bar in Albert Lea, called The Nasty Habit, and used to own two others in other Minnesota towns.
Oker talked about the bar’s community involvement in biker barbecues, ribfests that are kid-friendly until 6 p.m., National Night Out and other contributions. “We want to be a positive influence. On security and safety I have a short fuse. Screw up once and you don’t come back.” He said there are dangers and risks in the bar business, “you need to be a step ahead of everything. A dozen bars like mine have been closed down,” and he intends to keep it clean so as to be the last one standing.
Other bars and night life
At 200 West Broadway, Good Sports Bar and Grill has the best bar food, Hawthorne Hawkman blogger Jeff Skrenes and other neighbors stated when NorthNews posed the question “where do you go?” on Facebook.
Paula Pentel said “I frequent the Good Sports Bar and think their food is great and under-reported.” Good Sports did not respond to requests for an interview.
Recently, Skrenes said while he favors Good Sports’ food, the beer selection and TV screens at the Camden Tavern and Grill at 46th and Lyndale are making it “among the best in North Minneapolis.”
The Grain Belt Premium sign over the door doesn’t say “T-Shoppe” any more, but the neighborhood bar just south of 42nd on Fremont is still there. A reviewer on Yelp said “this is the type of bar you would find up north or in cabin country.” Food choices are chips or frozen pizza.
Prompted, several Facebook respondents talked about it: Scottie Tuska said, “The times I’ve went to the T-Shoppe it was a great crowd. A lot of regulars. The type of people you can sit next to and strike up a good conversation. It’s a good old fashioned 3.2 bar.”
Dan Hanson: “T-Shoppe’s always a good time. Small town feel, love it.” Amanda Furth: Friendly folks. Super cheap prices. They make you feel like you’re really a regular after being there only a few times.”
Within North Minneapolis, other evening establishments include: Victory 44, Tooties on Lowry owned by Nick and Lili Johnson, Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den and the Aims Elks Lodge. In Bryn Mawr, both Sparks and Cuppa Java have wine and beer available.
There’s BJ’s strip club at Broadway and Second which is advertising “no cover, free drink on game day, chili is back.”
An outpost surrounded by freeways between the Northside and downtown, Lee’s Liquor Lounge at 101 North Glenwood has several band/dance nights and special events, such as Trailer Trash’s Trashy Little X-mas show kick-off party on Nov. 24.
People with the time, flexibility and money have easy access to the bar and restaurant scene on the north edge of downtown for lunch, dinner or night life. On North Washington there’s Cuzzy’s, Sapor, Bunkers, JD Hoyt’s Supper Club, The Loop Bar & Restaurant to name a few; and nearby the Monte Carlo and Origami. Club Jager “a pearl of a bar since 1906” is open Monday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., according to their website.
Keiona Cook, head fashion designer of Qe’ Bella, offered her young perspective on the bar and club scene where some of her clients wear the fashions she has designed :
“Fourth Street Saloon—they go there seven days a week. You can play pool all day for free on Mondays, then Wednesdays and Saturdays are ladies nights. Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays they’re packed. Cover charges are usually $2 or $3, at most $5. They do a lot of business at night,” and it’s both black people and white people.
“We go to the (former) 200 Bar, now called Good Sports, everybody’s packed in Sunday or Monday. That’s also working class. There’s karaoke. I don’t see too many young people there.” They also don’t have to have big security, she said, being a neighborhood place.
How about along North Washington? “A lot of people go to Bunkers, where they sometimes have live singing.”
“Some will go downtown, to the W, it’s classy. Or the strip club Augies Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; Club New York, on Fridays the Sound Bar, Wednesdays The Lounge. Augies has good music, and it’s not that big.”
The Aims Elks Lodge, on Plymouth Avenue, Cook said, “is always packed. That’s older people. Young people 21-25 will go to Fourth Street. And there are lots of after parties at people’s houses. Most people want to go to a place they can walk home from if they’ve had too much.”
Lisa Neal-Delgado said “I go to the Elks a few times a year (mostly after some kind of reunion. It hasn’t changed in 30-plus years, the same people I grew up with in Minneapolis go there and it hasn’t been invaded by a slew of Chicago folks yet. Nice old neighborhood bar that people go to that still live in or used to live in that neighborhood.”
Where else do people go to unwind or meet friends? From Facebook:
Deb Balzer: “This Northsider goes to Victory 44, loves the convenience of Robbinsdale and the fun bars of Northeast Minneapolis. Downtown is convenient for live theater. West End in St. Louis Park for movies.” Jude Lampson, a Northeast resident, said “every few weeks I head Northside to Victory 44 where the food is chef-driven, experimental, clever and absolutely de-lish. And it’s inexpensive.”
Alexander Zachary: “We just discovered (within a stone’s throw of North) Element Pizza on Broadway in Northeast. Some of the best wood fire pizza and great friendly staff.”
Brian Finstad said he returns to his former neighborhood near the Midtown Global Market and Eat Street, when not at Good Sports or Donny Dirks. “If I had one wish for Northside entertainment, it would be for Broadway Pizza to have a Psycho Suzi’s style patio. Suzi’s looks out at a scrap metal pile. Broadway probably has the best river and skyline combo view in the city. “
Chriss Garlick Reichow said, “When we go out to eat I usually am looking for something I don’t cook at home. For example, I love fish but no one else in the family does so that is an item I will order out. For entertainment, sadly we usually leave North Minneapolis. Although, it is pretty frequent that we end up at a friends home for entertainment—I have found North Minneapolis to be very small-town-ish and am quite happy with the number of neighborhood get togethers, both planned and spontaneous.”
Others mention Travail Kitchen in Robbinsdale, Northeast Social, and the Lyn-Lake area in South Minneapolis.
Mention white-linen dining, Bill and Sharon Halek say they have a tradition of going to Murray’s downtown for special occasions. It’s recently remodeled, they’re looking forward to a night of the Holidazzle parade and dinner at Murray’s. Little Jack’s on Lowry in Northeast was another favorite, when Jack Reshetar ran it.
Jax Cafe on University in Northeast is often a Northside family choice for formal occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Jax, Little Jack’s, and Westphal American Legion in Robbinsdale all hosted formal banquets for the North West Minneapolis Business Association within the last 20 years.
Westphal’s banquet space, at 3610 France Ave. N. is now St. Petersburg, capable of seating up to 80 people, “sophisticated, romantic, classic, unique” according to the promo on the website, myvodkabar.com. Alisa Halek said St. Petersburg is a favorite for her and her husband, both of them Polish. “It’s fabulous food, go and watch how another culture lives. The bar area is great,” with an engaging bartender who helps people figure out which of the 100 vodka varieties they would like to try. “Recently they put more tables in the bar area, and a piano. It’s a great surprise spot, like a Nye’s, but Russian. “
Adults who were in North Minneapolis about 25 years ago remember Rick’s Cafe American (where the mosque, Masjid An-Nur is now) and many would like to see a “white linens” restaurant on the North Side again. For example, people coming to the Capri Theater’s Legends series and various other events there remark that it would be really nice to be able to park the car once, have a leisurely dinner before and a drink or dessert after the show, as is possible in South Minneapolis or in Northeast on 13th Avenue near the Ritz Theater.
It’s hoped that this series will have addressed the myth or reality that “North doesn’t have any good places” (fill in the blank with whatever it is one wishes for) while illuminating the market forces and tenacious business owners who have given us what we do have and enjoy.