TPB: Early Bird

If you are getting too old to stay up late there are still options

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

When Friday comes around, and the weekly grind at the office comes to an end, can you really be expected to stay up with the late night college crowd?

I used to think that going out at 11 pm and staying out until 2 am was the only time to go out and have fun in the local nightlife. This began in college when most of my friends didn’t get off work until very late and afterward we would meet up at the bar. When I finished college I kept up that same schedule despite having a job that required me to be on and ready to deal with hundreds of people at eight in the morning.

To get a view of the gritty nightlife of Duluth you really have to go out and experience it firsthand. When I moved up here in 2004 the first shows I attended were at Bev’s, Beaner’s, The Tap Room, and Luce’. There were other bars that would open and close through the years, but that was where I lived on Friday or Saturday nights until I hit my 30s. Once the Tap Room closed (twice), The Nor Shor changed direction, and other places died down a bit, I felt like I needed a new scene.

The scene that I happened upon by chance was at Grandma’s Saloon in Canal Park. After spending late nights at the Sports Garden and upstairs at the main building I ended up ordering a drink at the downstairs Saloon Bar one weekend afternoon. When I got my bill it was shockingly low. Later I found out that during their happy hour between 3 pm and 6 pm that everything in the bar was half price. This was a bit better than the typical rail, wine or reduced price specials at other places.

When the next Friday rolled around my wife and I went there after work. We ended up finding a great spot to sit and met the bartender Eric. Already a legend, he knows how to deal with the customers and has been voted by this magazine as the best bartender in the Northland. He also owns a toy store with his wife in Canal Park and knows the ins and outs of Duluth.

Granted the Happy Hour crowd is a bit older than myself, and at times can be filled with tourists, it is my favorite. Once you go there a few times you get to know the other patrons and it has become our own little private Cheers.

Usually after the cheap drinks we are looking for a cheap meal to compliment it. There are a few places to head out after you leave Grandma’s depending on if you do or do not have a designated driver: Green Mill and their $5 appetizer specials (until 7pm), The Brewhouse, or the Anchor Bar and Thirsty Pagan Brewery in Superior.

If you haven’t had the Anchor Bar’s burgers you are an outcast up here. I fear even writing about them as it is tough enough to get a seat there already. My father makes us eat there every time he comes up here and the waitresses and cook are the hardest working people I have ever seen. You have to be quick to get a good table though. The best spot would be the library in the front where you are given your own little nook.

A lot of people have been to the Anchor and one can only eat so many burgers in life (or in a week). The next hot spot would be Thirsty Pagan Brewery. This place has changed so much in the past few years that it is virtually unrecognizable from what it once was when I first went there back in 2004 to see bands late at night. Tons of seating and usually a good band playing in the bar area makes for a great early evening place. The deep dish pizza is the best I have ever had and comes in all sorts of varieties.

The beer there is along the lines of the Brewhouse in Duluth, but with more experimental styles. In the summer they had these great wheat beers that were very unique that I still miss. I suppose this is the only drawback to TPB, that they change so much and once you begin to like something it is gone.

The other cool thing I like about TPB, besides that they have live music at 6 pm on a lot of nights, is the artwork on their shirts. The Kenspeckle Letterpress (a local endeavor) did the logo for TPB and their Burntwood Black beer logo. Check out the Siverton Gallery in Canal Park for their work, which also includes the Chester Creek logo for the Brewhouse. The Brewhouse is also a must for the great bartenders, best French fries ever made, and bands every night.

Last week we watched Eric Rhame and enjoyed a great Greek pizza and North Coast Amber at Thirsty Pagan. When we returned a few days later the pizza and beer were already changed and gone. I suppose with a schedule like that you really can’t get sick of something, but you greatly anticipate its return.