Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo bar hopping in rural Minnesota, Part II March 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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The rather non-descript R & L's Pit Stop photographed in Hope in 2011.

The rather non-descript R & L’s Pit Stop photographed in Hope in 2011.

THE SMALL TOWN liquor store or bar rates as more than simply a place to grab a cold one or wolf down bar food.

New Richland bars, 2011.

New Richland bars, 2011.

Oftentimes, these rural establishments serve as community gathering spots. Locals belly up to trade stories, talk crops, solve the world’s problems. There’s a certain comfort in that, in the familiarity of sharing gossip and opinions and woes within the confines of a dark space, sheltered from reality.

The seemingly popular Cabin Bar in Nicollet, photographed two years ago.

The seemingly popular Cabin Bar in Nicollet, photographed two years ago.

Sometimes these places remain as the sole business along an otherwise vacant Main Street. On a Friday or Saturday night, vehicles line the streets. Folks gather to shoot a little pool, drink a little beer, tell a few jokes.

One of my favorite buildings and attached vintage signage. I need to return and explore this place.

The Monty Bar anchors a corner in downtown Montgomery and features wonderful vintage signage.

For awhile, troubles vanish, the body rests, a sense of community togetherness prevails.

Creative graphics for a bar in Kilkenny.

Creative graphics for a bar in Kilkenny.

All of this I imagine as I photograph the exteriors of small town Minnesota bars and liquor stores. Unique signage, creative names, architecture and more draw me visually to these watering holes.

The Roadhouse Bar & Grill is a popular dining spot in Wabasso. During the summer, old car enthusiasts and motorcyclists gather here for a weekly "Ride In" that draws up to 1,000 people. There's plenty of outdoor seating on a sprawling patio where a hamburger bar is set up for the popular event. The grill offers an extensive burger and sandwich menu with everything reasonably priced.

The Roadhouse Bar & Grill is a hot spot in Wabasso. During the summer, old car enthusiasts and motorcyclists gather here on Tuesday evenings for a “Roll- In” that draws up to 1,000 people. There’s plenty of outdoor seating on a sprawling patio where a hamburger bar is set up for the popular event.

Each holds a story. And if you, a stranger, venture inside, heads will swivel, eyes will bore and the locals will wonder. What is your story?

BONUS BAR PHOTOS:

The Old Town Tavern advertises its Dam Days specials. Great place to eat.

The Old Town Tavern advertises specials and more during Morristown Dam Days 2013.

A misguided attempt, in my opinion, to update the American Legion in West Concord. Photographed in 2010.

A misguided attempt, in my opinion, to update the American Legion in West Concord. Photographed in 2010.

The Pub in Canton, near the Iowa border.

The Pub in Canton, near the Iowa border, photographed in 2012.

CLICK HERE TO READ “Bar hopping, Minnesota blogger style.”

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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26 Responses to “Photo bar hopping in rural Minnesota, Part II”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    When traveling, these establishments provide the needed respite/nourishment……..they may be the only business found in the settlement (as you noted). When we first moved to this area, we found such spots also contained a grocery corner and a gas pump out the door! A bar w/ stools along one wall provided the burgers & sandwiches for the noon ppl and the after work beer for same. Such interesting, warm come-together spots!!!!!

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    If there is one thing that seems to survive in small towns, it is the bars, taverns – however you wish to refer to them. I suspect they survive for the very reasons you’ve laid out here. They do possess their own flavor of small-town charm. The locals that often inhabit these places never seem to be short on character. If you are lucky the establishment will have some sort of claim to fame and/or specialty. Love the signage.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Have never really been into checking out local bars or those when we travel but lately we have been expanding our horizons a bit and finding new hole in the wall places. Some are bars because those do seem to be the places with a great deal of character and the stories that those places could tell are endless. Nice shots.

  4. Deanna Auge Says:

    The two Dennison bars have had a number of façade changes over the years. The one on the Southernmost part of town has a fun exterior design. The present owner may have some pictures of those previous fronts hanging on renovated interior walls. Enjoy a pizza while you are there. Then, drive, or walk the half block or less, to the bar a bit north for a “like home-baked” slice of pie. I’ll always remember the generosity of the owners, Mr.and Mrs. Swarts. On cold-snowy-rainy days, they invited the children inside when waiting for the Northfield School District school bus to arrive. We were so thankful for this cozy retreat on those inclement weather days.

    • Sounds like it’s time for a return trip to Dennison as I’ve only been there once and that was for a quick walk-through. No stepping inside to dine or enjoy a cold one. Is the pizza homemade?

      How thoughtful of Mr. and Mrs. Swarts to allow you kids to wait inside.

      • Deanna Auge Says:

        Do not know if it is homemade but was very good. My father, Fred Revier, ran a blacksmith business and was the Mayor of Dennison for many years. We lived just north of the school, the property with the horse weather vane atop the barn.
        The Northfield News did a story about it some years ago.

      • Alright, Deanna. We just got a good recommendation last evening on the Fireside Lounge.

  5. I love the signage as well as the names of bars. Growing up I thought it would be cool to live above a bar or a pizza joint – probably get old though with the noise at all odd hours and the smells of food – ha! Great Captures – Happy Hump Day:)

  6. Jackie Says:

    Great pub shots Audrey! I have a 2nd cousin that lives somewhere behind that pub in Canton :) I met him by chance when he was a patient of mine in the hospital. I told him about my road trip down that way so he told me I should stop by next time Im in Canton, he said, “I live right behind the bar”….convenient????

  7. Thread crazy Says:

    Now I know you’re going to laugh Audrey, but the pictures of the New Richland and Roadhouse bars, reminds me of the bars I walked by on my walk to school each day. We lived just a mile or so from school in Lakewood, Ohio, so I walked to school, then walked home at lunch and back and then back home again in afternoon! As a kid, I was always running past them, especially on days when they had the doors propped open. Memories galore…

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    These bars look very different to the ones in your images. And either the snow has melted or you didn’t take these photos a couple of days ago! xx

    • You’re right that these photos were not taken recently. I’ve included dates in most of the cutlines. We still have plenty of snow on the ground here in southeastern Minnesota and I shoveled three inches of new snow yesterday from the driveway and sidewalk.

  9. ryanware Says:

    I’m 3 for 9. I have photos of three of those. Most creative names I’ve run across would be “The Town Pump” in Madison Lake MN and the “Pour House” in Arlington, MN. No idea if the “Town Pump” exists anymore as that was back in college days.


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