The interior of the Kom-on-Inn in West Duluth is surrounded with Arthur Fleming’s oil paintings of industry that stretched across the city in the 1950s. The building at 332 N. 57th Ave. W. was constructed in 1891 according to St. Louis County land records and the bar took the name Kom-on-Inn circa 1942 under the proprietorship of Frank M. Crotty according to city directories.
In its series The Slice, WDSE-TV presents short “slices of life” that capture the events and experiences that bring people together and speak to what it means to live up north.
[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 Ashland, where he visited the Black Cat Coffeehouse, which remains in business. The article appeared in the May 30, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
So I’m in Ashland visiting my mom, and after three or four days of listening to her rant about some “potato bug infestation” while under the influence of Tequila Rose and Aunt Jenny’s George Jones records, I decide to walk around and discover all that “alternative” Ashland has to offer. Namely, “alternative” Ashland consists of that hippie college, the co-op and the Black Cat Cafe. My instincts tell me that only one of these places is going to serve up any kind of booze, so I skip the first two and jump right to the Black Cat.
The Black Cat is among the growing number of regional coffee shops that have discovered the obvious: Coffee shops that serve booze are some of the most comfortable places in the world. I’ve said this a million times, but here’s all you need to make an outstanding drinking establishment in this area: good beer, great live music, couches and dim lighting. Of course, reasonable prices help, too. The Black Cat has all of this in spades.
When Perfect Duluth Day last tallied regional craft beer production in 2018, the Twin Ports and surrounding region had tripled output over the previous five years, quenching area thirst with about 57,000 barrels of beer. Suds production has certainly slowed and dipped a bit since the previous audit. This mirrors the national trend, which indicates a 9 percent decline in production by small and independent brewers in 2020.
[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 took a ride to Grand Lake Township for a night of imbibing at La Grand Supper Club. The establishment closed in 2010 and was replaced in 2016 by the Cast Iron Bar and Grill. Goodbuzz documented his experience for the March 21, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
So, Sean the locksmith shows up at my door and tells me that he’s “in the mood to drive.” How fortunate: I’m in the mood to drink. I suggest we head up the Old Miller Trunk Highway to Le Grand Supper Club and see what kind of mischief we can find.
Le Grand is a nice, big place, and tonight it’s all but empty except for a group of disgruntled pool players and about six or seven inebriated regulars at the bar. If I did my drinking on the weekends like any normal person, I might be able to see this place packed as a cover band such as Sh-boom attempts to rock the house. But weekends are made for pleasure drinking; I’m here for business drinking.
I asked my friend to describe the strangely named bar that he said was our destination for the night. He paused, frowned, and sought out the right analogy.
“Well,” he said, “It’s as if a 1950s diner met a hunting shack.”
So began my first visit to Liquor Lyle’s, an establishment just south of Hennepin Avenue’s corner with Franklin Avenue in the Wedge neighborhood of Minneapolis. A year later I moved into an apartment next door, and for my two years in the Twin Cities, Lyle’s became the hub of my social life, the one place that could summon a crowd with a simple text: “Lyle’s?”
It hosted grad-school study sessions and end-of-semester blowouts and many a nightcap after a long night on the town. A handful of young alumni turned it into a Georgetown bar when the Hoyas made the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2015. Whenever one of us left the city, Lyle’s was the home to the last party, and after I went on my way, no return to Minneapolis was complete without at least one night in that dark, lovable hole. In town for a professional conference in Minneapolis some years ago, I dragged a group to the bar and blended a few of my worlds. After another day of state hockey, we would decamp there to relax, maybe lure in a few friends who weren’t into hockey to catch up with them, too. My last bar experience before the COVID-19 outbreak took me to Lyle’s after the last night of the 2020 tourney. At least I know I was one of the last people to enjoy it.
[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 visited two Duluth bars — Mary’s Place and Terry’s Place. Both would later change their names. Mary’s Place became Clubhouse Sports Bar in 2005, then closed in 2014. The building at 132 N. 34th Ave. W. is now home to Stadium Pawn. Terry’s Place became Bergey’s in 2006 and remains in operation. Goodbuzz documented his experiences at Mary’s and Terry’s places for the March 7, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
“I haven’t had my sled out in a month,” complains the dude across the bar from me. “I worked 60 goddam hours this week.”
I tell him that I also worked 60 hours this week. I don’t mention that drinking is my job.
Then my new friend starts complaining about what a lousy game he just bowled. He seems cheery though. Complaining seems to make him happy; each self-deprecating remark inspiring a grin and a nod in my direction to indicate he knows that my life also sucks. All our lives suck. We’re at Mary’s Place / Stadium Lanes on Wednesday night.
It’s been five years since Perfect Duluth Day published its first gallery of Duluth-area matchbooks. Since then, the collection has grown significantly. This new post features only matchbooks from bars and restaurants in Duluth. Some of them have been pulled out of the original post and placed in this new post; others are appearing for the first time.
Enjoy the nostalgia and, whatever you do, for the love of humanity, please close cover before striking.
[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who visited Goodsports Bar & Grill at 2827 Oakes Ave. in Superior and penned this report for the Feb. 7, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. The former Goodsports location became home to Ace’s on 29th in 2009.]
I’ve discovered something. I was afraid to mention it over the past month because I didn’t want you sorry sheep following me around. But now that the 2000–2001 Superior Boot Hockey League season is over, I think it’s safe to let you know: Goodsports Bar & Grill rocks.
You probably don’t believe me, and you shouldn’t. Goodsports? What can be good about another sports bar with a bazillion televisions and the same old burger menu and Viking/Packer décor?
Well, let me explain: While hockey players are definitely some of the most annoying people in the world, the sport of hockey is sweet. It’s fast, it’s violent and it involves incredible skill. Best of all, there’s no marching band at halftime and no seventh-inning sing-along. Between periods, some goober drives a big tank in circles.
Left: Maggie’s restaurant in Bayfield marked 40 years in business in August and announced its closure in October. Right: The Crooked Spoon Cafe in Grand Marais was destroyed by fire in April. (Photos via Facebook)
The scourge of COVID-19 has challenged restaurant and bar owners at every level. The temporary closures during the pandemic are too long to list, and the industry outlook for 2021 is filled with uncertainty, but surprisingly few businesses announced they were calling it quits in 2020.
Two of the region’s most notable restaurant losses occurred in small towns away from Duluth, and COVID-19 was perhaps only loosely to blame.
Born Eliane Papai around 1935 in Spain, Eliane married her way into a couple other last names; she is mostly referred to as Eliane Brau, using the last name of her second husband. I think of her simply as Eliane, in deference to her singularity. Below I argue that her role in the “Letterist” movement of early 1950s Paris has been diminished; conversely, the achievements of the Letterist men have been overblown. It has been too easy to write her off as a passive “muse” for these men who indeed loved her fiercely. She deserves parity. Sadly, unlike her lovers, there is a distinct lack of information about her on the internet. I cannot even determine if she is still alive. Eliane is an invisible icon.
[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 documented his experience at the Anchor Bar in the Nov. 29, 2000 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
At the northern edge of the United States lies the state of Wisconsin, which leads the nation in alcohol consumption. At the northern edge of Wisconsin lies the broken-down city of Superior, which features the famed Tower Avenue, a street lined with dozens upon dozens of cheap dives. And at the northern edge of Tower Avenue lies the Anchor Bar, the Queen Mother of all dives, a place that represents everything good in the world.
The Anchor Bar is the love of my life. The beer selection is extensive, the food is excellent and both are cheaper than hell. And though all appearances indicate that it is a bar for thugs, there are no thugs there; the tough women behind the bar ran them out years ago. Fortunately, they grudgingly tolerate the hooligans and drunks, such as myself, who remain. Decorated in early pigsty, the place is dark and greasy-smelling, and is populated by the kind of people who just want to drink beer and act like real humans.
Imran Khan’s longtime vision of a drinking establishment in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood briefly came to fruition in February. Then the COVID-19 shutdown happened.
Since late August, Khan has described the status of his business as “partially open,” though the doors have generally been locked. Those hoping to try out the Golden Bulldog will need to wait while the search for a bar manager continues.