Totally Doin’ It with Art and Emily: U Otter Stop Inn
U Otter Stop Inn is a bar in Northeaast Minneapolis, at 617 Central Ave NE. Every night of the week they feature karaoke from 9pm until close.
As a beer drinker and a karaoke aficionado, what I am about to say does not come hastily, nor on a whim: U Otter Stop Inn is, point for point, my favorite bar in Minneapolis.
Sure, there are bars with better beer prices (like the VFW in Uptown) and there are bars with more extensive (which is not to say better*) karaoke song selections (I’m looking at you, 1029), but numbers are notorious liars. What makes the Otter great are its intangible assets.
First, there’s Kat. Kat is your lovely karaoke hostess who can belt out a tune herself and always keeps the singers in order. Kat is an hilarious conversationalist who can keep everyone in check. A whole bar of drunkards demanding to know why they aren’t next, when are the going to sing, they need to leave soon so can the sing next, COME ON I WANT TO SING. Kat is always happy, knowing she is mocking them to their face and they have no idea. She’s brilliant.
Then, there’s the clientele. A friend of mine and I, after frequenting the Otter for some time, decided we would start taking notes on the percentage of groups of people who came into the bar when we were there (some weeknights, some weekends). We split the crowd into four groups: Hipsters, Douchebags, Old People, and Other. Once we had enough data we were going to analyze it and determine exactly what kind of bar the Otter was. We returned multiple evenings, taking rough percentages on the same napkin. Each time the numbers varied wildly, and after six or seven recordings, we gave up. There is no pattern. I can only assume it is because this bar sits within a supernatural nexus within Minneapolis, much like the Bermuda Triangle: it is in Northeast Minneapolis, but sits between 6th and 7th Streets Southeast.
Also, the puns. U Otter Stop Inn has no fewer than three puns. U is a pun meaning both University and second person singular pronoun. Otter, in this context, is a pun for “ought to” (which is totally true. You ought to stop in.) And Inn, another word for tavern, is a pun for the preposition “in,” thus completing the three-deep superpun. Plus, on The MySpace dot com, Kat’s profile name is Kat E. Clyscmic.**
Finally, there’s the bar itself. I’ve been to many bars, some of which have karaoke. Some of these bars even call themselves karaoke bars (I’m looking at you, Nye’s). However, no bar as small enough or set up as well to put the focus on the karaoke as the Otter. Every other bar in Minneapolis is a bar that has karaoke (which patrons seem to take as something to talk over/ignore until it is their turn), whereas the Otter is a karaoke bar, where the fine art of karaoke is practiced for an attentive, appreciative audience.
So, dear reader, I say, U indeed Otter Stop Inn.
*Sure, the 1029 has access to probably thousands of songs to download in addition to the ones in their karaoke books, but in that vast internet library they can’t find room for Punk Rock Girl by the Dead Milkmen? For shame, 1029. You’re lucky you have Another Postcard.**NOTE: I write the all-pun blog www.punsultancy.com. I love puns.
At the risk of having to change the name of this column to “Totally Being a Drunken Embarrassment with Art and Emily,” I agreed to write about the Otter this week. Because, much like last week’s Rock for Pussy debacle, I have made some bad decisions at this establishment.
It all started when I moved to Minnesota in the summer of 2007 and hadn’t quite learned the ropes of Minnesota drinking. For example, the first weekend I lived here I tried to buy beer. On a Sunday. In a gas station. It didn’t work out.
Another place where I went wrong, alcohol-wise, was expecting that shots (I was fresh out of college and still felt like doing shots on a regular basis was a good idea) would be about an ounce or so, not, like in some Minnesota bars, the size of a cocktail. Except all booze.
So anyway, I went to the Otter, agreed to take multiple shots with a friend of a friend, did a rowdy rendition of “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips (while vigorously pumping my fist in the air) and then spent much of the next day on my bathroom floor.
And I swore to never return. Because obviously it was the bar’s fault, not mine.
So fast forward a few years to when I meet Art, who is a lover of all things karaoke, and he suggested that we return. I was hesitant because of my past experiences, but it turns out that if you don’t drink your 21-year-old self into oblivion, it’s actually a great place.
They’ve got a mildly crotchety bartender who seems to keep track of the tabs by memory and feels perfectly comfortable telling me that my hair doesn’t look very good in my driver’s license photo (and then showing it to someone else, who for some reason had a plate of cookies, to confirm) and an emcee who, if you write mean things about her on Craigslist, will refute your claims and post embarrassing pictures of you proving her point. Because she doesn’t put up with that crap.
Oh, and you also get to see Art dance like this (thanks to Meg Canada for the photo):