Family photos hang on the walls. Longtime inside jokes have references on the menu. Nods to Doug Flicker’s past are everywhere at Bull’s Horn Food & Drink (4563 34th Av. S., Mpls., bullshornfoodanddrink.com), and that’s very intentional.
In a way, his remake of south Minneapolis dive bar Sunrise Inn — Bull’s Horn debuted on Tuesday — is a homecoming.
“Food has always been very personal to me,” said Flicker, chef for the Walker Art Center’s Esker Grove and the acclaimed former Piccolo. “But this feels like going back to my roots. It just feels really, really comfortable. It feels like I know this more than I know anything else.”
That’s because Flicker practically grew up in a dive bar in Pierz, Minn.: Flicker’s Liquors, owned by his Uncle Rollie and Aunt Marilyn. A photo of them — Rollie holding a drink and smoking a cigarette and Marilyn in the midst of preparing fish for a fish fry — now hangs in a frame over one of the booths on the inside right wall, one of many black-and-white odes to Flicker’s past.
But history of place plays a big role in the revamped space, too. While Flicker and Amy Greeley, his longtime business partner and wife, removed a section of the bar, the original, nicked wood remains the focal piece of the room. The retro green vinyl booths, the textured mirror backsplash on the back bar, the plywood-style wall paneling — even the Grain Belt sign hanging outside the stone building — are all well-scrubbed relics of the Sunrise Inn.
The new features are mostly behind the scenes: new electrical, heating, venting and plumbing systems and an entirely remade kitchen and bathrooms. Everything else? Hand-picked by Flicker and Greeley, with the idea of maintaining the bar’s lived-in vibe. Take the 1971 jukebox, for example, the popcorn popper and the bubble hockey table. Where the women’s bathroom once was, a pulltab bar will soon be.
“We spent a lot of time finding old things that would fit in this room,” Flicker said. “Even the new things [such as the amber plastic tumblers, for sodas] will have an old feel.”
The menu, once reserved for burgers and breakfast, will expand to what Flicker calls an “Americana” lineup of appetizers (including chicken wings and cheeseburger nachos), salads, burgers and sandwiches and daily trays — specials for each day Bull’s Horn will be open (Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight). Included in the sandwich section are two varieties of the pizza burger, since Flicker and Greeley can’t agree how it should be prepared: with the cheese on the inside of the patty, like a Jucy Lucy, or on the outside.
“So we’re going to figure this out, finally,” said Flicker.
When Sunrise closed earlier this year, it was one of the city’s last 3.2 beer bars. The new beer selection will range from Hamm’s and 40-ounce Colt 45s to craft brews such as Fulton, Able and Castle Danger on tap. Wine will be categorized by “light, medium and heavy” for red and sweet, “perfect and dry” for white. And here’s another major distinction from the past, when the Sunrise developed a reputation for seedy behavior: There is a kids’ menu, with TV tray-style meals.
“I hope there weren’t kids in here before,” Flicker said. “That will be a big change. This was an eyesore for a long time as Sunrise, sadly enough, and I think people are excited to see it cleaned up.”
Twin Cities 400 Tavern (1330 NE. Industrial Blvd., Suite 400, Mpls., tctavern400.com), a casual restaurant and bar highlighting Minnesota-made beers and spirits, is now open in the former Anchorage restaurant location at the intersection of I-35W and Industrial Boulevard.
The TC 400 will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, offering items like chargrilled wings and burgers. A different local beer and local spirit will be showcased each quarter.
Also in northeast Minneapolis, near popular pizzeria Young Joni, a new doughnut shop has surfaced.
On the docket
Taste of the NFL’s season of events continues this month, with a Nov. 18 (6 p.m.) fundraising gala at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel (5601 W. 78th St., Bloomington). Chefs Stewart Woodman, Todd English, Steve Samson and Corner Table’s Thomas Boemer will be preparing a meal. Tickets are $100; reservations can be made by calling 952-656-5925.