When one of the Twin Cities' most notorious bars, Stand Up Frank's, closed earlier this year, I wouldn't have believed in a million years it would be reopened and reimagined as something called Donny Dirk's Zombie Den. Real zombies could dig themselves out of the ground and eat my brains before that would happen, because that would be crazy.
But crazy has happened.
The buzz roaring throughout the local blogosphere last week centered on this reopening (better yet: resurrection) of a north Minneapolis bar infamous for its stiff drinks and scary shootouts.
The new owner, Leslie Bock, of Psycho Suzi's and Saint Sabrina's, has totally transformed the tiny bar into something best described as classy kitsch.
The stunning new interior comes straight out of a 1950s Las Vegas lounge (the classic part). The zombie stuff (i.e. the kitsch) is hilarious, and more nuanced than you'd expect from a bar named Donny Dirk's Zombie Den. In the corner, a small chainsaw sits inside a glass case that reads "In case of zombie attack, break glass." The bartenders all dress like Simon Pegg in "Shaun of the Dead" -- white button-up, red tie and blood stains. The friendly female servers wear long black gowns. Again: This is a classy zombie joint.
All in the family
The bar's name falls right in line with Bock's other businesses. She said she's just adding another member to the messed-up family (Get it? Suzi, Sabrina and now Dirk).
"Donny Dirk is the rebel that just got out of jail and he's just trying to straighten his life out," Bock said.
All jokes aside, Bock said she took the closing of Stand Up Frank's very seriously.
"It's really painful for me to see institutions like this shut down," Bock said. "I didn't want to see its history destroyed. There were a couple of bad years. But if you talk to people around here, there were a lot of good memories, too."
Except for Prohibition, the building near Broadway and Washington Avenue N. has been a bar since it was built at the turn of the 20th century. Bock had been negotiating with the previous owner before Stand Up Frank's shut down April 25. She moved in five days later and began the extensive remodeling.
Of course, getting a liquor license wasn't easy. The city wanted to be sure that "I wouldn't repeat the problems of the past," Bock said. She doesn't think drug dealers and prostitutes will be too interested in a building that's been repainted bright green and promotes a geeky zombie motif.
While she thinks the perception of danger at Stand Up Frank's might have been a bit overblown, she's complied with the city's request for tighter security. At night, two bouncers watch the door and patrol the newly fenced-in parking lot. There are a half-dozen security cameras, too.
"I mean, a lot of people were scared to come here," Bock said.
They have a 'Batphone'
Now back to the classy kitsch. Gone are the linoleum floors, beat-up bar stools and old beer signs. Here are the highlights of her remodeling:
• The floor is covered with casino-grade tiger-striped carpeting. Ridiculous.
• The walls feature brown, custom-made smoked mirrors. "Very hard to find, I might add," Bock said.
• All of the booths and bar stools are covered in plush Vegas-style tufted vinyl.
• There are three deer heads (one was already there; she added the others for good measure).
• Hanging above the bar is a green neon sign that reads, "Undead Frank Lives."
Frank's legend also lives on in one of the "specialty" drinks, a $3.75 humdinger called R.I.P. Frank (basically a shot of liquor on ice). If you want something a little fancier, try the Donny Dirk signature cocktail, which is the bar's version of a chocolatey Alexander.
This week, the bartenders began offering the "Weird Science" interactive cocktail, which is a drink you design yourself. Bock compares it to raiding your parents' liquor cabinet as a kid. You write down the liquors on a note card, the bartender mixes it, you pay for it. If you like it, they'll keep your card on file for the next time you come in.
Did I mention they have a Batphone? It's just like the red one in the campy "Batman" TV series, but instead of calling the Caped Crusader, it calls Psycho Suzi's. Donny Dirk's doesn't have a kitchen, but if you want to order off Psycho Suzi's menu, you can ring them on the Batphone and they'll drive your food over.
"It was very, very hard to find," Bock said.
To complete her classy kitsch makeover, Bock has darkened the place by covering the windows with black drapes. "We want it to feel like Vegas, where you're never sure what time it is," she said.
If by "Vegas" she means "Vegas with a zombie ambience," then mission accomplished.
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