Remembering Muddy Waters, Lyndale's beloved coffee shop turned bar-restaurant

So long, you glorious patio.

So long, you glorious patio. Bre McGee

On paper, this story spans decades and owners, but isn’t so complicated, right? Muddy Waters Bar & Eatery was a coffee shop that grew into a beloved cafe, bar, and restaurant.

In a Facebook post shared Saturday evening, Muddy Waters announced to the community that Sunday, May 3 would be its last day in business after three decades serving the Twin Cities.

“We want to thank Minneapolis for loving us for so long. We are heartbroken, but resolute in the knowledge that Muddy Waters is not, and cannot, be a place. Muddy Waters is people," its owners wrote.

That “place” started as a coffee shop at the corner of Lyndale Avenue South and 24th Street in 1989 until a 66 percent rent hike booted them down the street and into the heart of Lyn-Lake in 2011. Facing a gamble no matter what, Muddy’s owners went all in on the new space, evolving the cafe’s concept to include a full bar and kitchen, and polishing an erstwhile “hot mess” until it radiated all day, come-as-you-are warmth incarnate.

It will be sorely missed by many.

Few things in this world could cure a hangover (itself a gift from Muddy’s bartenders? Often!) like their breakfast poutine and a bloody sipped at the copper-topped bar. During Minnesota’s fleeting warm months, entire days could slip away on Muddy’s patio, due in no small part to its beer selection, handsomely curated from the get-go at the new location. We might have taken for granted that Wu-Tang Wednesdays provided the best midweek respite around, and come election season, where else could a yung wonk find a reliably packed, respectfully hushed bar to watch midterm results roll in?

But ask anyone and they'll tell you, Muddy's was so much more than that. In fact, that’s exactly what co-owners Sarah Schrantz and Paddy Whelan requested while announcing the establishment’s closure… likely to help everyone get a little, erm, closure.

Some of you may ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ Our answer is tell us. Tell us what Muddy's meant to you. Start with your name and class (ie, I’m Sarah Schrantz, class of 1997 for it being my exclusive hang out spot, and Muddy Waters was the only place where people could actually handle the answer to the question of “How are you?”. I suddenly was not alone). Knowing what Muddy's was to you will literally heal our broken little hearts. Please tell us. All the way back to 1989. Muddy’s contains multitudes, and we want them laid out on display, little instagram videos or tweets or Facebook posts.

Please take a moment to read Muddy’s full closing statement below:

The announcement gained legs of its own thanks to Muddy's longstanding popularity and ability to embrace so many of the Twin Cities' social circles. Heartfelt tributes from crushed patrons have begun pouring in, often citing (correctly) that Muddy's was the perfect place to bring out-of-towners looking for a glimpse of what makes Minneapolis wonderful.

To honor their request and the place itself, and to come clean (for “ethics” or whatev), I submit the following:

Sarah and Paddy took me in for three years as an employee, working for Muddy’s sister restaurant, Dark Horse (in St. Paul, and still in operation). Recovering from a couple huge surgeries and significant trauma, I was in really bad shape, and didn’t know how I would keep a roof over my head.

Freelance writing wasn’t going to do it.

One day, years after I'd started working in St. Paul, an employee at Muddy’s got in a bad accident, and I was asked to pinch hit until they’d recovered. (Sarah and Paddy are the kind of people who hold your job for you when the worst happens; there's plenty of things to worry about in this world, but they kept employment from being one of them.) So when I showed up at Muddy's straight from a funeral to train in and learn stuff like the menu’s allergy accommodations, no one batted an eye.

Like Sarah wrote, it was the kind of place that could handle you as you were – on both sides of the bar. 

After that regular staff member at Muddy’s came back, I’d pick up the occasional shift there to make ends meet, right up until I started full-time at City Pages… I, personally, will never be able to repay Sarah and Paddy for the positive impact they made in my life.

Dammit, my keyboard is soggy as hell…

Yeah, Muddy's will be sorely missed, alright. 

Muddy Waters as a "hot mess" back when Schrantz, Whelan, and then co-owner Danielle DePietto acquired the space from Jon English in 2011. (Cool move, turning us into hot messes now…)

Muddy Waters as a "hot mess" back when Schrantz, Whelan, and then co-owner Danielle DePietto acquired the space from Jon English in 2011. (Cool move, turning us into hot messes now…) Rachel Hutton