If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em. Or such is the philosophy behind Betty Danger’s Country Club, the latest venture from left-brained restaurateur Leslie Bock.
A few years ago, Bock, the eccentric owner of Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den and Uptown tattoo shop Saint Sabrina’s, got the itch to take up golf. She may not have known a double eagle from a birdie, but figured she would enjoy “drinking beer on the big, rolling grass.” Admittedly self-conscious, she sought to join a country club to learn golf from its private instructor.
But her application was denied.
“They said they reject people because of two reasons: the inability to afford it and the quality of your character,” Bock said, still sounding a little hurt. “Then I decided that wasn’t that cool. I was very confused and didn’t really know what that meant.”
It stung. But the snub spurred the concept for Betty Danger’s — her new “country club on crack” on the site of an old car wash and the original Psycho Suzi’s in northeast Minneapolis. The 200-seat restaurant and bar, 2501 NE. Marshall St., is like a bizarro golf and country club for the 99 percent.
“I don’t think a certain group of people necessarily needs to own preppy, or education or own a lot of the things that come with that life,” Bock said. “Ours is better because we have plastic animals and vertically revolving patios and pink fireplaces.”
That “vertically revolving patio” is actually a 65-foot Ferris wheel, which looms over the 19,000-square-foot plot with pink lights making Marshall Street look like a midway.
The plastic animals line an outdoor mini-golf course. Dubbed the Monetary Correction Golf Course, its 8 ½ holes follow a narrative Bock dreamed up, which (spoiler alert) ends with a middle-class victory.
“I don’t want to call it art, because it’s not that great,” she explained. “But it’s interpretive and I want people to figure it out for themselves. It asks more questions than it answers. I hope people will see it as thought-provoking, but if they see it as just playing golf that’s fine. Have some beer, play some golf, enjoy the sunshine.”
Neither the links nor the carnival-style attraction will open until spring, but once the Ferris wheel is rewired it will run year-round with winter riders offered hot drinks and blankets.
Members — yes, memberships are available — score unlimited golfing, butt-the-line privileges and lockers for wine, growlers, expensive cigars, whatever.
For now, guests can settle into the astro-turfed four-season front porch billed as the Garden Room (housing the aforementioned pink fireplace), the 26-seat bar or the main dining room, aka the Library, which has a raised section lined with intentionally tacky equestrian wallpaper. Servers in prep-school attire plop menus, tucked inside preppy lifestyle books, on doily ornamented tables. Taxidermy animal heads on the wall and above a less-loud fireplace preside over the comfortably kitschy room in which you could seat grandpa with a straight face — until he spots the four-letter word on the wine list.
The “Mexampton” food is a whimsical mashup of Mexican cuisine and assorted comfort dishes, ranging from jalapeño mac ’n’ cheese to grilled and stuffed tortilla sandwiches.
“It’s not Mexican and it’s not Tex-Mex. It’s Mexampton, which is different,” Bock proclaimed. “Way more calories.”
Entrees (about $10-$15) such as Edward’s Lasagna — a pasta-stacked brick of braised beef and cheesy excess — certainly throw weight-loss resolutions under the golf cart. The fortifying Minne-Mex Pot Pie is a pastry-capped mess of braised chicken, vegetables and a thick, rich gravy that’s satisfying even if it won’t win foodies’ hearts. Psycho Suzi’s gooey Mitsy’s Mex Rolls, a deep-fried staple stuffed with spiced chicken, black beans and pepper jack, have been transplanted to Betty’s “hors d’oeuvres” roster alongside cast-iron shrimp and South-of-the-border bar snacks.
In lieu of Suzi’s tiki theme, the drinks list features a handful of margaritas — the common man’s martini — including the Dartmouth with muddled fresno peppers and cucumber.
Like nearby Psycho Suzi’s, Betty Danger’s should become a destination restaurant for metro dwellers this summer. Come warmer weather, garage doors will open up the bar and the pastel-hued Garden Room so patrons can roam the different areas. For a buck, a Tiki Tram will shuttle bargoers between Betty’s, Suzi’s and the zombie-themed Donny Dirk’s during the summer surge.
Never mind taproom-speckled northeast Minneapolis’ “brew district” status. This swath of the Mill City is now Bock Land.
The third in Bock’s “Addams Family”-esque trio of bars, Betty Danger’s is the most ambitious and over-the-top of the delightfully demented siblings.
“There’s a lot of internal pressure for me personally,” she said when asked about trying to outdo herself. “If I ever get crazy enough to do another project, which I’m not going to, somebody should shoot me.”
Or at least show her how to serve tacos on a roller coaster.
Michael Rietmulder, of Minneapolis, writes about nightlife.