Bars / Drinking Establishments Posts

Ripped at the Keyboard Lounge in 2002

[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. Twenty years ago the Sultan of Sot stumbled into the Keyboard Lounge in Proctor and wrote the article below for the Sept. 18, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

So I walk into the Keyboard Lounge and, although there’s a fistfight going on in the middle of the floor, I’m distracted. The violence, the hollering, even the gang of people on the karaoke stage providing the obligatory a cappella version of “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” can’t compete with … uh … well … you should sit down for this.

I don’t normally have hallucinations when I’m drinking, so I will gladly swear upon a kitchen cupboard full of barley, hops and yeast that everyone in this joint is wearing nightgowns and underwear. The female bartender is wearing pasties. The male bartender is wearing a bulletproof vest and silk boxers. There’s a guy who looks like Sonny Bono and he’s wearing assless jeans. There’s a woman wearing a black fishnet number that’s getting everyone bothered. Everywhere I look is flesh and panties and frilly stuff. A sign on the wall finally explains. It’s “Naughty Nightie Night!” Well, that’s just typical for the Keyboard Lounge. Ask for an explanation, get an exclamation.

Ripped at Burn’s Bar in 2002

[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 drove out to Rice Lake Township for this article, which appeared in the June 26, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. Burn’s Bar, by the way, closed in 2013.]

Throughout my long history of drunken escapades, I’ve seen quite a bit. I’ve seen prostitutes working their trade right out in the open. I’ve seen barroom floors covered with blood. I’ve had white-trash women sic their mongoloid husbands on me. I’ve never seen a gunfight, but I have sipped suds right next to fresh bullet holes. One time, a guy seriously tried to sell me on the idea of pimping out young girls. “You don’t have any ambition,” he told me. “Where are you going to be in five years?”

But at no point during any of this have I seen anything like what I see when I pull into the parking lot at Burn’s Bar. Burn’s Bar is awesome.

If you need simple evidence, then judge the place by its patrons’ appreciation of great poetry, which is scribbled on the men’s room wall.

Ripped in Superior’s East End in 2002

[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.

Blush nightclub to close at the end of May

Hip-hop artist Tarli performing May 7 at Blush during the Homegrown Music Festival. (Photo by Paul Lundgren)

Owners of Blush, a community-based art gallery, music venue and drinking establishment, have announced it will close at the end of May.

Ripped at Shooter’s Saloon in 2002

[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 Shooter’s Saloon, 624 Tower Ave. in Superior, and composed this article for the April 3, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. Shooter’s went out of business circa 2009.]

Shooter’s Saloon is a really nice place. The people who work there are efficient and friendly. The drinks are reasonably priced. The room is large and there are pool tables and a video hunting game with a big orange shotgun. Every time I go to Shooter’s, a live band is performing for no cover charge. Yet, it’s still the kind of a scene a judgmental guy like me looks at and says to himself, “How can I wreck this by weaponizing my prejudice?”

See, Shooter’s is a country-western line-dancing bar, and country-western line-dancing people love to go there. This is the one, only and perfectly acceptable reason why I’m bothered by Shooter’s and want to wreck it. I want to go up to any of the ridiculous posers there and say, “Howdy pardner. Nice belt buckle. You look like Nick Bockwinkel. Is that the AWA belt or World Class? Say, I have a question for you. I was just thinking about how Halloween was five months ago, yet you are still dressed up like you’re in a gay bar in Nashville, which got me to wondering, have you ever once milked, roped or gutted anything? Have you even shot a BB gun at a beer can? I mean, come on Hoss, we’re on the boozebelt of Superior, Wis. Who are you kidding?”

Ripped at Sanitary Harry’s in 2002

[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 penned this article for the March 6, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. Sanitary Harry’s went out of business not long after.]

St. Louis County Highway 7 is a long, thirsty road. I started tonight’s quest in Twig, figuring there would be some combination bait, liquor and grocery store there, and the proprietor would offer me a stool, creating a bar-enough atmosphere. No such luck. If there is any booze in Twig, I can’t find it. It’s enough of a task for me just to find Twig. Any attempt to retune the radio or pay attention to traffic is enough distraction to completely miss the tiny township so feebly, yet aptly, named.

If I am anything, however, I am determined. True, quite often I am not anything, but tonight I am indeed determined; “determined” being a synonym for “thirsty.” So I keep motoring down Highway 7, and, after mile upon mile of driving through more and more nothing, I start hoping for space aliens or Sasquatch to please abduct and abuse me before I die alone of sobriety. Finally, I find a small shack in Kelsey with a bunch of Arctic Cat jackets mulling around outside it, marking the spot. Aliens, Sasquatch … the Snowmobile Monkeys of Kelsey will be close enough for me. The name of their headquarters is Sanitary Harry’s.

Radisson restaurant and bar rebranding

The Duluth News Tribune reports the Radisson Hotel Duluth-Harborview is rebranding its top-floor rotating restaurant and its ground-floor drinking establishment. The restaurant will become the Apostle supper club and piano lounge; the bar will become the False Eyedoll retro Tiki bar.

Matchbooks from Superior-area Restaurants and Bars

One year ago Perfect Duluth Day published a collection of “Matchbooks from Duluth Restaurants and Bars.” Now we honor the neighboring city of Superior, and the rest of northwestern Wisconsin, with a collection of matchbooks from Superior-area restaurants and bars.

Ripped at Pizza Lucé in 2002

[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. Pizza Lucé opened its Duluth location in 2001 and quickly caught the attention of the Sultan of Sot, who penned his review for the Jan. 9, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. The restaurant has undergone several renovations in the past two decades, so we note here that the U-shaped semi-unisex restroom is no longer as it was. Also, the early morning openings are no longer a thing.]

As an old-fashioned Duluth rum hound, I want to dislike Pizza Lucé. When a Twin Cites enterprise expands to Duluth and sets up in a nice, clean new building, I pretty much go into auto-hate mode. But not this time. Pizza Lucé is a friend of the drinking class.

First off, there’s a decent happy hour seven days a week. Plus, there’s the extended hours — you can go there and get drunk at 7 a.m. (they actually have a list of morning-time cocktails for people who want to do just that), you can check out some live music in the evenings or you can go there for booze-soaking victuals after bar close.

New restaurants abound in Duluth/Superior; trend is tacos

Aaron Maloney and Alex Giuliani prepare tacos in July during a popup preview of their future Canal Park restaurant, Chachos Taqueria. Image via Facebook

Though 2021 was another year punctuated by pandemic problems, new Duluth-area restaurants proliferated. The Twin Ports gained more than a dozen restaurants, as seasoned and fresh-faced entrepreneurs alike took the leap to open eateries.

Among 2021 restaurant closures were two of Guy Fieri’s favorites

Television personality Guy Fieri poses outside Shorty’s Pizza and Smoked Meats with members of the restaurant’s staff. Fieri visited four restaurants in the Twin Ports area in 2014 — Shorty’s, Gannucci’s Italian Market, Pak’s Green Corner and the Kounty Quarthouse. All four have since closed.

The effect of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry is tricky to quantify, but in the Duluth area there is one noticeably positive trend. More new eateries are opening than existing ones are closing.

While the ongoing pandemic played a role in pushing some eateries that were in trouble over the edge, in most cases other factors were at play. At the top of the list of closings in 2021 were three family-owned ethnic restaurants.

Ripped at Mama’s Bar in 2001

[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. Twenty years ago he filed a report from Mama’s Bar, 1019 Ogden Ave. in Superior. Mama’s went out of business circa 2017. This article appeared in the Nov. 14, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

There are two kinds of mamas in the world, and Mama’s Bar in Superior is named after both of them. One of the first things you notice when you walk into the place is all the hot mamas. Black-and-white photos of Veronica Lake, Marlene Dietrich, etc. line the wall across from the bar. At the bar, the real-life mamas sit. The 45-year-old white-trash mamas are always out in full force at Mama’s Bar. The place is everything I ever wanted in a filthy dive.

Mama’s is one book you shouldn’t judge by its dirty pink cover. Yes, the exterior of the place is painted pink — but it’s not a gay bar. This, of course, begs the question: What stereotypes can our society possibly rely on anymore? A pink bar called Mama’s, full of straight patrons, does nothing to simplify our already complicated lives.

Tap on Tower opening Oct. 15

Jordan DeCaro, the entrepreneur who opened Duluth Tap Exchange in 2020, is poised to launch his second self-pour drinking establishment. The Superior Telegram reports that Tap on Tower is slated to open Friday, Oct. 15, at 1106 Tower Ave.

The location is the Schiller Building, formerly the home of Sclavi’s Italian Restaurant & Bar, which opened and closed three times between 2009 and 2018.

Ripped at the Rendezvous in 2001

[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. Twenty years ago he filed a report from the Rendezvous Bar in Scanlon, roughly 10 miles west of Duluth. This article appeared in the July 25, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

So, it starts with Sean the Locksmith and me barreling down the southbound lane of I-35, sober as a couple of appellate court judges. Sean is worried, and with good cause: The brakes on his newly purchased Delta 88 are suddenly … how shall I put this? … nonexistent.

The plan, and I’m not saying it’s a good one, is to sort of just not go any faster. Sean plans to take the momentum we have and ride it out, giving little nudges on the gas pedal to keep us going in an attempt to run out of speed precisely as we reach an off-ramp. Eventually, with a little practice, he actually does it, landing us in the heart of beautiful Scanlon. We immediately head to the Rendezvous Bar with its promise of wonderful, sweet booze to wet down our sizzling nerve ends.

Having traveled I-35, writer tips one at Black Woods

Texas-based writer Emily Gogolak drove the entirety of Interstate 35 from Laredo to Duluth for an essay in N+1 magazine.

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