I never want to drink another Wondrous Punch but I have no regrets about trying one.
Until this weekend, I had never had a “Wondrous Punch,” but I’ve always known the name. Most Twin Cities residents do. It’s the signature drink at Red Dragon, a dive bar located on Lyndale in South Minneapolis. As far as I know, Red Dragon’s always been there. The exterior looks the same as it did when I used to drive past every day ten years ago.
People tell their Red Dragon stories wistfully. They typically occurred a while ago and end in “I don’t remember much,” a brawl, or puking. “The Wonderous Punch is really strong,” they add.
Many things in Uptown have changed. When everything becomes newer and shinier, I’m drawn to establishments that keep serving what they’ve always been serving in an unapologetic, irony-free manner. They don’t serve kale salad or change their menu font from Comic Sans because they don’t want to.
Some things don’t seem to change and sometimes that’s a good thing.
Technology, fashion trends, seasons, seasonal latte flavors, these are all things that can change. But my favorite Chinese buffet? I don’t mind so much if this stays the same.
In high school, the Highland Park area of St. Paul was the place to meet, at least for our groups of friends. Jake and I didn’t go to the same grade schools and wouldn’t meet for many years to come, but we both gathered at the Highland Park Perkins, Caribou, Jimmy John’s, and Cleveland Wok back in the day.
Finals week and that break between the ending of a school day were special times where we piled into someone’s car and headed to Highland Park. We like to imagine that we crossed paths at some point.
Things that weren’t, but really should have been included in our pre-marital PREPARE Inventory assessment:
- The speed at which one prefers to watch Netflix series.
- One’s preferred thermostat settings in both the summer and winter.
- How to divide up leftovers.
Sure, we argue about money and chores from time to time, but our biggest most heated fights have been about cream cheese wontons.
Cream cheese wontons are my favorite food in the entire world. They always were. And when we order them, I will count them and squirrel away exactly half so that I can enjoy the leftovers at my own leisure. Jake has this theory. Instead of splitting meals in half, he should get to eat 2/3 because he’s larger. Basically, he’s wrong.
Our Lunar New Year meal began with an auspicious start.
During the Lion Dance, the lion regurgitated a head of lettuce and it flew across the room. We heard wine glasses clatter.
“This hasn’t happened before,” exclaimed our hostess. She held up a water glass into which the flying lettuce had made a perfect landing. We clapped and the festivities continued.