2519 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis
You know, when I really look back on it, I think I must have headed off into idiosyncracy-ville sometime between kindergarten and second grade, because I can distinctly remember the most coveted toy in kindergarten--brick-printed cardboard blocks you could stack and stand on--and how I enthusiastically pitched into the fray, stacking, climbing, getting my name on the list for further stacking and climbing, etcetera. But this
was clearly my false self, because after school, with no block-stacking eyes to see, I was strictly a books and crayons sort. And then I remember that by the time second grade rolled around my identity was more firmly knitted together, because whenever anyone trotted out their prized sticker album for my inspection, I'd simply make a quick withering comment in French and stare fishily at them through my martini.
But as far as I can remember, no one bothered to buy me a drink during that critical time and say: You know, kid, if you will only devote your considerable intelligence toward occupying the middle-of-the-road in the most shining way possible, your every hour will be filled with ease. Consider devoting yourself to simple popularity! Then, jobs that are easily explained to your relatives will bubble along to you on sylvan puffs of wind. Shopping will be a snap, because the thing you most desire will be whatever is most abundantly available. And above all, loan officers will verily leap across their desks like ponies bounding over gates to subsidize your easily understood life.
This all comes to mind right now because if you think it's easy to get a loan to open a business called Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge, you've got another think coming. Just ask Leslie Bock, who pulled it off. "I've had the same business bank account with First National Bank of the Lakes for 11 years," says Bock, "and they wouldn't give me a loan--they didn't like the name. I'm thinking, 'You like Saint Sabrina's Parlor in Purgatory--but you don't like Psycho Suzi's? Explain.'" Bock is the owner of that classic Uptown business Saint Sabrina's, the one that offers club-wear, avant-garde shoes, piercing, and tattoos under one roof, and draws rebel kids from 300 miles in every direction.
"But, for Psycho Suzi's, I eventually found another bank," Bock continues. "So in that way it was nothing like opening Saint Sabrina's, which was a completely horrible experience. I had realtors tell me to my face I was an idiot--one realtor even made me cry. Banks? Forget it. Who wants to give a loan to a place named Saint Sabrina's Parlor in Purgatory?"
So how'd it get here? By one of those uncommon acts of faith that make Minnesota so much better than anyone expects. Turns out that Bock, a Minneapolis native who had gone to the University of Wisconsin at Stout and majored in design, had opened a small store called DV8 on 25th and Lyndale where she sold clothing she made. "It cost me $275 a month in rent," remembers Bock. "I would sell the clothes in the front, make the clothes in the back, and was basically there every waking hour as both owner and sweatshop." She needed a bigger space for a bigger business, the business that would be Saint Sabrina's. But, as previously reported, no dice.
But then she met a guy with a shoe store. "His name was Tom. I can't even think of his last name right now. He wanted to move to California. We talked, and he knew I couldn't get a loan. So he said: I think you can do it, you seem like a hard worker. For whatever reason, he had faith in me, which made me have faith in myself." With nothing more than a promissory note from Bock, Tom moved to California, and Bock sent him his money every month for two years. An Uptown institution was born--and hence, the beating, unique, idiosyncratic heart of the city was strengthened in a way that it never would have been by a thousand safe bank loans for a thousand Old Chicagos.
And then she opened this neat pizza parlor, which is basically Nye's for a new generation and is going to be tremendously useful for anyone who lives in Northeast, no matter whether they need new piercings or not.
Psycho Suzi's--you're going to love it. It's cheap, it's fun, it isn't at all cheesy. It's everything you like about tiki bars, plus everything you like about not having to leave the realness of the inner city, and it even has a comfy old-style Minneapolis down-at-the-heels quality. "I was trying to create a bar that feels like it's been around forever," says Bock. "It's really important for me to create comfort. All of my friends are sick of going to clubs, or super-loud, super-designed modern bars. I tried to create something cozy and tacky and crappy--but not too crappy."
She succeeded, I think, and the fact that blue-collar folks from the neighborhood flood in for lunch should prove to you that it's not a stupid, schmaltzy, concept-driven souvenir stand. Well, that and the fact that it's in the old A&W-cum-Soda Works behind the car wash and across from the lumberyard. Right off the corner of Lowry and Marshall. You know the place, right? Right off the Lowry bridge?
And, as is right and good for any place that's behind a car wash and across from a lumberyard, the drinks are either very cheap or very strong. How cheap? From $2.25 for a can of beer like Hamm's, Schlitz, or High Life. How strong? Consider the Paralyzed Polynesian ($6.75), made with four different rums and served in a brown headhunter glass. Psycho Suzi's has about a dozen different tiki drinks like that, with fetching names like the Walking Dead and Volcanic Eruption--aptly described on the menu as "50 ounces of nonsense." Most of the drinks are served in glasses you can buy for $4, glasses like Easter Island heads, hula ladies, pirates, white skulls, logs, or little Buddha dudes dancing. This I think is marvelous, because now you can buy someone a drink for their birthday, and give them the mug, and voilà! You don't have to stop at Patina on the way.
How are the drinks? They're classic '50s tiki drinks, which is to say they're not classic '90s tiki drinks with loads of fresh fruit, but they're on the authentic old-fashioned plan, made with Trader Vic's specialty liqueurs, and are pretty much exactly what your grandparents drank on vacation. I mean, they do all the things they're supposed to do. Like make you laugh, make you brilliantly witty, and make the people at the nearby tables shockingly attractive. Unfortunately, these tiki drinks also seem to make them smoke more, which is the only real drawback to the place; if you dislike smoke, don't even think of coming here, because even in the nonsmoking sections the thick stench of misspent hours can get pretty stenchy.
But if you like deep-fried hot dogs, do not stay away another hour: Here is the only place I know of where you can get beer-battered mini-hot dogs deep-fried and served with mustard. They're called Red Rockets and they're surprisingly good: salty, rich, absurd, and decadent in the way that Evil Knievel was decadent, in a life-flaunting, life-delighting way. And why not have your Red Rockets ($4.95) with house-made onion rings ($3.95)? Sour, light, fresh, and handmade, these go in the local onion ring hall of fame. I particularly enjoy that they come with a rich and brisk ranch dipping sauce, because--why not? Homemade cheese curds ($4.95), pillowy and sweet, round out the cardiac catastrophe, and I mean that in the best possible way.
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