The Li Po Lounge is a mood.
The inside is dimly lit and there is no food. Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” hummed in the background, followed by Puddle of Mud’s “Blurry.”
The sign advertising the signature Mai Thai listed three types of rum, “Chinese Liquor” and pineapple juice. “Are we supposed to pick one of the rums?” I asked Jake. “No, it includes them all.”
Bourdain featured Li Po Lounge in his San Francisco episode of The Layover. Toasting him in a place that he loved with a drink that he liked felt very important. This Mai Tai here felt more like a quest.
Even though we’ve lived in the Twin Cities most of our lives, there are many classic and much talked-about restaurants we haven’t visited.
The North Loop area in downtown Minneapolis has boomed since our first move to Fargo and we haven’t spent much time there. In fact, we rarely go to downtown Minneapolis on weekends. I love working there, but am eager to catch the early bus after work to beat the traffic and crowds.
It’s possible to find parking downtown, but you will have to navigate around all of the construction, meters, and pay lots/ramps, all typical downtown stuff. If you can take a bus, the light rail, or Lyft, it’s a breeze. And, you don’t have to worry about enjoying some drinks.
The Garden State soundtrack was the soundtrack of my young adulthood.
The movie and the music resonated with what my friends and I were feeling in college. It captured our coming-of-age angst, anxiety, uncertainty, and desire for something more. Whatever more was. We weren’t quite sure (and probably still aren’t). But we knew it sometimes felt like that Shins song or trying to let ourselves feel like whatever we were actually feeling, falling in love with our best friend, or screaming into an infinite abyss. Watch a clip of the movie scene here.
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.
Update: Gyst closed its regular restaurant functions. We visited earlier this fall. While the food and beverages were excellent, the “no tipping” notes on the menu were gone and the prices were about the same.
At any moment I expected the bartender to tell Jake, “I’m sorry sir, but we have to cut you off.
“Can you get cut off at a kombucha bar?” I wondered, as he ordered another glass.
Jake’s best described as a beverage enthusiast. He loves all kinds of beverage, from coffee to tea to kombucha to beer. His favorite non-alcoholic drink is definitely kombucha, something I haven’t learned how to make yet. As long as we were at a fermentation bar, he wanted to try everything.