Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The place where everybody knows your name… August 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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DO YOU EVER WONDER about a business name, how it came to be? I do.

A popular watering hole in Courtland, Minnesota. Look closely at the sign and you'll see a small crow perched on the letter "O."

A popular watering hole in Courtland, Minnesota. Look closely at the sign and you’ll see a small crow perched on the letter “O.”

Let’s take The Crow Bar and Grill in Courtland along U.S. Highway 14 just east of New Ulm. I’ve passed this bar countless times on my way to and from my native southwestern Minnesota. I even imbibed there many decades ago.

But not until this last trip, did my husband and I discuss the bar’s moniker. I’d always assumed The Crow Bar was linked to the obnoxious bird by the same name. I write “obnoxious” because crows  awaken me too many mornings with a raucous caw, caw, caw. I’m right, according to the miniscule crow perched on the “O” in the bar’s signage.

My husband, however, contemplated that the name could also refer to a crow bar, as in a tool. How clever. Perfect. The Crow Bar.

Never been inside this bar in downtown Farmington.

Never been inside this bar in downtown Farmington.

Over in Farmington, south of the Twin Cities metro, I came across Gossips Bar & Grill with the tag line, You heard it here first!

Now isn’t that the truth when it comes to bar talk and old crows.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Pizza & beer on a Saturday night in Kilkenny January 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:52 PM
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I SUGGESTED WE STOP for directions at the corner gas station.

“How hard can it be to find this place in Kilkenny?” my husband responded.

He was right. Kilkenny, population around 150, in Le Sueur County, runs only a few blocks in all directions. Surely we could find “the bar on top of the hill with the really good pizza,” per our friend LeAnn’s recommendation.

Atop the hill in Kilkenny by the water tower, we found the Liquor Hole.

Atop the hill in Kilkenny by the water tower, we found the Liquor Hole.

Just up the road from Bud’s Service, we found the Liquor Hole.

I expect in warm weather, the front patio is a popular dining and drinking spot at the Hole.

I expect in warm weather, the front patio is a popular dining and drinking spot at the Hole.

We arrived Saturday evening as the last wisps of daylight faded, enough time for me to snap a few outdoor shots before entering the Hole.

Inside we found your typical small town restaurant/bar—pool table in the corner, stools ringing a horseshoe bar, neon beer lights blazing, televisions blaring, opened pull tabs littering the bar top, smokers stepping out to light up a smoke…

A section of the dining area.

A section of the Liquor Hole.

No pool players yet early on a Saturday evening.

No pool players yet early on a Saturday evening.

Be sure to follow the bar's pool rules.

Be sure to follow the bar’s pool rules.

Lots of neon beer signs.

Lots of neon beer signs.

But there were a few surprises, like the homemade wood sign announcing Kilkenny’s inability to afford a town drunk and a fat-bottomed girl print I refused to photograph.

Kilkenny bar humor posted below the Bud Light sign.

Kilkenny bar humor posted below the Bud Light sign.

And when Randy asked for a Schell’s FireBrick beer, the bartender/owner looked at him and said, “Come on, this is Kilkenny.”

Alright then. We both ordered a Nordeast to go with our $11 House pizza topped with sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, onion, mushrooms, green pepper and green olives. And just for the record, the pizza is not entirely homemade. The crust is pre-made. I asked.

The Liquor Hole's House pizza.

The Liquor Hole’s House pizza.

None-the-less, the pizza was thick and tasty, loaded with cheese and was delivered on a cardboard round with several small paper plates, plastic forks and a half-inch thick stack of napkins, most of which we used.

“Cuts down on the dishes,” Randy joked as he observed the disposable tableware.

But we didn’t mind. After all, in the bartender’s words, “This is Kilkenny.”

A last shot of the Liquor Hole before we got into the car and drove 15 miles back east to Faribault.

A last shot of the Liquor Hole before we got into the car and drove 15 miles back east to Faribault.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling