BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR--MINNEAPOLIS - 2005
In our judgment, the best neighborhood bar can't be trendy. It can't even be new. It has to be the kind of place you can count on to be there, decade in and decade out, with longstanding regulars but room for newbies. At the Poodle, they're not about to change the formula that's been working wonderfully since 1975 (longer than that if you count the previous downtown location), and for that we thank them. The Poodle's the kind of place that changes decor less often than the Catholic church changes popes; where the staff is always welcoming but not overly so. It's the kind of place where, during karaoke (Tuesday and Wednesday nights), you can watch a still limber and charming but progressively wobblier octogenarian coax every lady in the bar to the dance floor. It's the kind of place where you can comfortably go for a beer at 10:00 a.m., if, say, you have a friend who's about to go away to jail for a while and you're planning a morning send-off (not that we've ever done that). There's room, both physically and philosophically, for everyone here. The backroom pool tables are often taken by whippersnappers while old-timers dominate the bar stools, but they all mingle in the middle, especially on weekends when blues and/or cover bands are performing. The only discernable alteration over the years has been a small overture to the changing neighborhood--huevos rancheros and a couple of other tasty Mexican items on the menu that fit nicely with the American standbys; all the Poodle's food is well executed and reasonably priced. There are generous drink specials, different every day, and pull tabs, two more great-neighborhood-bar requirements. And we like that the customers here vary widely in age, race, and temperament, and that the bartenders are kind enough to remind patrons of the street-parking restrictions after 10:00 p.m. (the Poodle has additional parking in a lot kitty-corner from the bar). Not everyone will know your name here, but we also count that as a good thing.