[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. The Sultan of Sot visited drinking establishments in the East End of Superior for this article, which appeared in the May 1, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. A few updates: The Office went out of business in 2015. East End Tavern and Hudy’s Bar remain in business. Mr. B’s later became Pudge’s]
I set out looking for Eddie’s Ribs in Superior’s Itasca neighborhood, following the left-handed, pencil-scrawled directions of some coffin-dodger I met at the Pioneer Bar in Duluth. At some point, I take a turn that I’m pretty sure is incorrect, driving into an area that common logic would demand turn into either a suburb or a swamp, when suddenly — whoa! — a bunch of bars. Needless to say, it’s at this point that the whole big-plate-of-ribs idea is immediately jettisoned to make way for the get-hammered-right-here-and-now idea. It’s a common occurrence in my life.
2129 E. Fifth St.
The first place on the agenda for the night is the Office, which I choose first for two reasons: 1) it’s called the Office, and 2) it’s right next door to an ancient radio store that has to have the coolest marquee I’ve ever seen. This relic must be from the 1940s, and if you haven’t seen it you should probably get out there and take a look at it before the city decides it’s too beautiful and old not to be replaced by something uglier. But I digress.
What amazes me first when I walk into the Office is that it’s a pretty nice place. No one is belligerent. It’s clean and well provisioned. It’s a friendly neighborhood bar. Most amazingly, there are plenty of people here, representing both genders. I was expecting spent pull-tabs all over the floor and three or four old men slurping watered-down Old Milwaukee and overflowing their colostomy bags. Don’t get me wrong, that would have suited me fine; I may be critical, but I’m no snob. But this place — this place is like the North Pole Bar or Norman’s. Frankly, I’m not just satisfied, I’m downright pleased.
I’m especially pleased when I find out that pitchers are only $4.50, and there are some good middle-of-the-road beers on tap, like Leinie’s Creamy Dark and Michelob Amber Bock. Nearly as good is the 50 pounds of ice resting neatly in the bottom of the urinal, augmented by the ball-point graffiti on the wall reading, simply, “ICE.”
East End Tavern
2114 E. Fifth St.
This place boasts that it’s “in the heart of Old Town,” which, since I’m not entirely sure of where I am, I’ll choose to believe. The moment I walk in the door, however, I think I’ve made a mistake in leaving the Office. Here, the clientele is 100 percent male, and “Civil War” by Guns ’n’ Roses is on the jukebox. But then some fillies come in behind me, a new song kicks in and the initial illusion is broken.
Full of beer and cheer, I decide to order a Captain Coke, swayed I admit by the bottle of Captain Morgan sitting on the bar. The bartender, gleeful that her suggestive selling has worked, pours me a stiff one. Everything is great until she says, “A guy like you … I’d imagine you’d be at the 3rd Rock.” Now, I was just rejoicing in my mind about how the East End is so completely out of my world that I had never even heard of it. I was beginning to feel like I was in another country. This is like someone mentioning the 3rd Rock Bar to me when I’m in China. I want to scream, “How the hell do you know about the 3rd Rock? And how dare you bring it up when I’m having such great fantasies about this neighborhood?” But of course, she doesn’t know who I am, and this place is closer to Tower Avenue than my apartment. It takes me only 10 seconds of attitude adjustment before I’m back in my fantasy world, in a neighborhood I could possibly move to if I ever needed to lay low for awhile. And there in my fantasy world I remain until Black Sabbath comes on the jukebox and I realize I’m in jeopardy of staying here all night. It’s time to head to Hudy’s.
2126 E. Fifth St.
Finding it not a whole hell of a lot different from the East End Tavern, save for the Soggy Bottom Boys on the juke instead of Sabbath, my mission at this place is to have a little personal taste test. All of this, I must remind myself, is supposed to be research — research with you the unstable-bodied consumer in mind. So I order a Captain Coke, aiming to test its merits against the one I just downed at the previous joint.
But I can’t honestly tell you the difference. I think the first one was a quite a bit stronger, but my attention, like everyone else’s in the bar, is distracted the whole time by this bearded mofo trying to find the men’s room. “Where is it?” he rants, getting more and more impatient, while beers go untouched and pool games halt. No one is helping him; everyone seems to be watching him in amusement like this is all some kind of performance art. Which I suppose it is. At any rate, I’m pretty much done with my drink by the time someone takes pity on him and shows him where it’s at.
2223 E. Fifth St.
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much about Mr. B’s, save for the fact that it was very, very crowded, it being nearly 11 o’clock. But here’s what I recall. Near the door, a bunch of guys are huddling around the pay phone, which keeps ringing. Whenever it rings, one of them picks it up and talks to the person on the other end, who you can tell is pissed as hell. Next to the pay phone, where other bars might list numbers for cab companies, Mr. B’s has chosen to list numbers for the Office, the East End Tavern and Hudy’s. That doesn’t matter to me; I don’t need a cab. I’m walking to Papa Don’s all-night restaurant. I know it’s somewhere between one and 50 miles away. It’s a beautiful night; I’ll get there eventually. Too bad I’ll never find my car again.
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