Tooties on Lowry is a bar that if you were to see inside in the dead of night when there is no people, beer or food around, you might go in but not without some serious hesitation. It has the look of a place you would find tucked away in a small town in the boondocks of Wisconsin – wood paneled walls, vinyl stools with rips in them, a gravity furnace hole in the center of the place, a ficus tree in the center of the dining room…

But you do not notice those things when you enter in the height of things. What you do see are families and friends gathering and hugging each other. Old friends bellying up to the bar and shaking hands with the person sitting next to them. Kids running around the game room playing with each other in games of hide-n-seek. Though the physical aspects of the building detract from the appeal, it’s the people and the employees that generate the merriment and jovial nature of the atmosphere.

Credit: foodio54.com

Having eaten there before, my comments on what Tooties is only solidified with this mancuisine visit – It is a community space that locals come to eat food, drink, and be together. Being at Tooties just makes you feel warm inside, before you even have a beer or bite of food.

Their tap selection is notable, at our visit they had just had Insight over for an event and had some of theirs, along with many other local breweries (an a surprisingly absent presence of the big brew dogs, which we enjoy).  We tweeted Tooties in the morning of our visit asking what food we should try and one recommendation was to have the peanut sauce from their wings cover a burger patty and served. It was delicious [thanks twitter Tooties!].

Top commendation goes to their wings. We did Tooties’ “Wing of the month” which has ghost pepper and Surly and they were top notch. Their wings have the right amount of meat, cooked at the right temperature for the right time and covered with deliciousness. Their wing cooking process is refined, and creates delicious and filling wings.

If you are ever in the Robbinsdale area, at North Memorial Hospital (knock on wood – you won’t need to!), or in North Minneapolis and you are looking for a place to settle in, we strongly recommend giving Tooties on Lowry a visit.

Food: 4/5 typical bar food, made in a way that raises them above.
Drink: 3/5 Beer and wine bar, with local selections but not too diverse.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Welcoming, friendly and warming
Overall: 4/5 Good food, great atmosphere, tired building.

With the new onslaught of high end restaurants selling fancy burgers and fabricated authenticity it is always a pleasure to find a place without pretense, where the same fryer and griddle have likely been in use since before a Clinton or a Bush entered politics (maybe even a Kennedy as well). If you are looking for an establishment that is content with its current clientele and does not expense with the frivolity of trying to be “the new thing”, look not further than Schullers Tavern in Golden Valley.

The place proclaims itself the “Last Real Roadhouse”, which I take as a jab at the influx of chain based roadhouse-esque eateries that popped up in the mid to late 90’s around town (with some still remaining). Since the place first opened in 1929 I am guessing they have seen many a trendy establishment come and go and one would hope they will weather current trends as well.

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Image from http://www.schullerstavern.com

The Place: The building has clearly been built upon in a few minor expansions over the years and you may feel like you stumbled into the back alley entrance to a speakeasy (the place did open during prohibition). Upon entering you first pass a barred and locked beer cooler before actually finding your way to the bar and restaurant area. From what we gathered this is tied to off-sale liquor sales that Schullers offers. While not uncommon in the “land of cheese” or in the Northwoods, happening upon an on/off sale joint when you live in the Twin Cities metro area is like finding an hidden onion ring in your basket fries. It’s something that you didn’t know you wanted but you quickly realize is a good idea.

The Atmosphere/Service: The crowd appeared friendly overall with a hint of suspicion at the new faces we brought in. There was no problem finding a place to sit at a table (maybe at 15% of capacity on a Tuesday around 6). The bar, however, was full and you got the sense that these seats were rarely available during business hours. The random smattering of other patrons included a couple guys in suits working on some sort of business plan, a large group of people in the corner seemingly there to celebrate some sort of milestone, and a few small groups of people clearly there to enjoy good food and good company. Our server was attentive, friendly, and made sure we did not go thirsty.

The Food/Beverage: Upon arrival I put in an order for a refreshing beverage (happy hour prices are only on standard domestic beers but this includes GrainBelt/”Premo”) and a full plate of wings. Schullers puts any place charging more than $10 for 10-12 puny meatless bones covered in sauce to indisputable shame. WARNING: A full plate of wings is 3 lbs of sticky whole chicken wing deliciousness, prepare to be full. With three of us we were able to polish the plate clean but the prospect of trying to fit a meal into the outing was out of the question. As any self-respecting tavern should there was also a popcorn machine and a tap list that included a handful of local brews in addition to the standard domestic options.

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If you find yourself on highway 55 in golden valley in need of some cold refreshment, some sustenance, and a no nonsense environment, head on over Schullers. Just tell them Mancuisine.com sent you!

An event at work gave a few of us the option to venture out around lunchtime. After a short discussion we came to J R Mac’s for a [thankfully] quick bite. We found a spot right in front of their door in the tiny parking lot and came into a bar space filled with one table of 6+ people and sporadic chairs filled thereafter. No head turns or quieted tones upon entry – unique for us.

Taking a couple chairs at the bar we were greeted by the one bartender/server who placed the laminated menus down and explained to us that Saturdays were ‘Taco-Days’ and that she recommended going that route as specials go all day. Obliging to the lady we ordered some tacos and some beers.

The pull tab booth in the back had a line of regulars and we joined the movement. The big surprise with this visit was that the taco shells were deep fried and then filled, like a crunchy enchilada. Although this provided for some ideal taco flavorings the insides were the style that you may find at any run-of-the-mill fast food taco joint.

Before we left and discarded all the empty pull tabs [no big winners here] a look around gave a nice summary of what this place tries to be, and quite frankly is: a neighborhood bar with an atmosphere that welcomes and indulges, but lacks the backbone to bring in anyone outside of ‘dropping in’ distance.

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J R Mac’s Tacos
  1. Food: 3/5 Classic bar fair
  2. Drinks: 2.5/5 Limited beer list and drink specials. Spotty glassware.
  3. Atmosphere: 3/5 Quiet atmosphere centered around the bar and pull tabs.
  4. Overall: 3/5 Worth a stop, but would be hard to be a regular.

J R Mac’s website

joestan

With 10-14” of snow fresh on our yards, little did we know that going into this night of the third largest 24 hour snowfall in Minnesota history would have us travelling to three locations in one night. After all, it has been awhile since the men have gathered!

gophercorkThe roadways brought about a staggered and partial arrival to our only planned location for the night, the Gopher Bar in St. Paul. An irreverent place famous for its coneys.Two of the men walked up to the door to find it… locked. All the lights were off, no note on the door and no notice on the web. With a wind chill in the single digits a quick decision was made to hike a few blocks  north to Cork’s Irish Pub.

Cork’s is a hotel restaurant, to begin with. The atmosphere was welcoming and many groups of friends gathered, decided to defer the cold until warm in the stomach and imbibed the liquid courage to brave the bitterness outside. This place has an Irish bar feel – the dark wood, wall hangings and a good number of people-pleasing taps, all within the mainstream producers. Happy hour goes until 6, and as the waiter put it when asked, “pretty much everything is half off”. A round of beers, and orders of scotch eggs, chicken wings and walleye fingers were made as more members trickled in from there extended snow-delayed commute, fingers numb from the cold. The food was worth staying for, but as we had more members still traversing the roadways we decided to go to a place closer to them and with more character for us.

We moved quickly back to our vehicles and caravanned south on West 7th to Joe and Stan’s Bar. One of our members was brought to a halt on a bridge by the car ahead of him and got stuck on the ice! Before his delayed entrance we could only guess what happened to make him pause in our gastronomical journey.

Joe and Stan’s is quite the place. There are locals, stragglers and a helpful bar staff that occupy the room. It had the rural bar feel with a city bar comfort for freshman groups to the bar such as we.  We took over the area next to the pull-tabs and ordered a round, more wings, and the necessary onion rings. Everyone at the table ordered something different, an unusual occurrence for a Guys Night Out. Broasted chicken, multiple types of burgers and a rack of ribs occupied our table as we gorged ourselves on the plethoral variety. The broasted chicken was glorious, the type that when belches happen later in the evening, as they often do, the reoccurring taste does not come as a deterrent for more, but a beckoning to return to its origin. They have nightly food specials and decently cheap beer that made our wallets happy after the bill arrived.

It was a journey from start to finish and I do believe that we ended in the right place. As stated during the night, the Gopher Bar is our Sasquatch – we believe it exists but have yet to experience the Coney because of its elusiveness, and judging by their web site, they prefer it that way. -Isaac

Inspired by their connection to the Star Prairie Trout Farm and recommended by several members, we made our way to Pat’s Tap on Nicollet and 35th in Minneapolis. A mere 103 blocks from Brad and six blocks or so from Isaac and Jeff. Very tasty, great selection of brews, yet a bit on the upper end of the mancuisine credit card limits.

Only four were able to make the event this time. One was working downstream on the MIssissippi about 100 miles, one was grouting, one somehow missed the announcements and plethora of emails, and one ended up in Chicago and surprised to get the “where are you” email. Nonetheless, the four of us who found our way through the Nicollet Ave. construction had a fine time.

Pat’s used to be called Casey’s and, in fact, when you do a Google Streetview of the place you get a fine look at Casey’s. The outside has not changed much with the exception of a clear lack of Shamrock in the color scheme and some serious construction on Nicollet. . Nice place inside with a bar, separate seating for tables, a patio, and a small skee-ball/ pinball room (free). The tables inside filled quickly during the 6:00 -8:00 time on Monday  but there was still seating outside on the patio. We had a great bench on the interface between the bar and eating area. The help was friendly, frequent and knowledgeable about the solid and liquid offerings. Not a loud establishment at this time of night but others have written about noise levels on the weekend.

The food was top notch. We had the Wisconsin fried curds with some kind of British ketsup sauce and fried beans with a great ginger dip.  Sandwiches varied form the well reviewed bacon burger (easily up to the review-Doug finished it in a heartbeat) to the cheeseburger , the pork terrine, and the Rachel. Every one was a hit. The pork had some kind of zesty salsa on it, maybe that’s what terrine means- well recommended by Trev. Many of the foods listed where the food came from and, for the most part, this place has some serious Wisconsin connection. Hopefully it has little to do with union bashing.

It was a pleasant visit with no complaints about the place. The bill was a bit of a surprise. With tip, the four of us managed a couple apps, dinner burgers, and two pints apiece for a total of $132. Not our usual night out. We’ll have to verify this but Pat’s may be our new highest per-person outing, replacing the Buffalo Tap in Savage.

Nonetheless, a fine evening. Our next outing will be with the prospective Rib Cook-off judges evaluating their qualifications: beer selection, familiarity with Douglas Adams, disgust with post-modern relativism and general zietgiests. Looking for a spot in the mid to south metro- any suggestions?

Rib cook-off is scheduled for September 1. Comment for an invite.