I think I’m turning into one of those guys who can’t let go of his college days.
I’m going back to Mankato, Minn. today, where I spent my college years (and then some) before moving to Portland last July. I was more than happy to leave, but the one difficult part was moving on from the best job I ever had — bartender at South Street Saloon.
SSS is the kind of bar where you’ll hear Toby Keith and Kanye West played back to back. The wood floors were laid more than 100 years ago, made indestructible by decades of beer, liquor and peanut spillage. Tap beer is 24 oz. or bust. The Jameson is kept in the freezer. Every weekend night, it’s a battle between the decibels and occupancy — one trying to outnumber the other.
It’s a high-volume bar in a college town, but that says absolutely nothing about the crowd. You’d catch plenty of Minnesota State students, true, but you’d get bikers, townies, alumni or even Minnesota Twins on an off day.
I made more money bartending part-time at SSS than I did working full-time at a big boy job in Portland. The only problem was at my last job, I had real benefits — health coverage, 401K, paid vacaction. At SSS, I had $2 drinks at any bar in Mankato and maybe a little notoriety. (It’s a small enough town.)
My buddy Joel (above, right) and I worked Wednesday nights for a few years. It used to be a busy night in downtown Mankato until a string of alcohol-related deaths forced the city to crack down on liquor specials. Mankato ain’t what it used to be — likely for the better — but on the right Wednesday night, with nothing else to do, SSS is still the place to be come midnight.
I could’ve tried to throw my own homecoming party in Mankato. When it came down to it, I wanted to work. That’s how much I loved working at South Street.
If you’re in Mankato tonight, come see me!