When I discovered a local bar called Brokedown Palace, I was stoked thinking it was a tribute to St. Paul fantasy author Steven Brust’s novel where humans are a hobbit-ish underclass. Can you imagine the open mics?
Turns out the name’s a Grateful Dead song, too. Who — besides endlessly informative Dead fans — knew? Ken Kesey would. The American counter-culture icon who wrote “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” loved the Dead. “Brokedown Palace” was his favorite encore because it meant something different on each hearing.
Brokedown Palace is nestled on the Maple Street frontage road just east of 90th Street amid convenience stores and light industry adjacent to Homestyle Cafe. Fewer record stores aside, things haven’t changed much around here since “The Crow” was in theaters. If you’ve not been here in awhile, turn south on 88th Street then immediately right onto the frontage road. Miss it, and the resulting bad trip will make the brown acid at Woodstock seem like Pez.
Once you arrive, the parking lot is a vast vista of viable diagonal options, and you will not be able to miss your tie-dyed destination. The front has a distinct variation of the Grateful Dead skull sporting an “N.” You open the doors of perception into a chill, welcoming bar anyone could jam in endlessly.
And now I’m going to freestyle about my favorite feature, Lee the bartender. Almost before I had a chance to knock the snow off my galoshes and notice the beautiful skeleton mural adorning the stage, Lee impressed me by stepping politely away from a conversation with a couple of regulars.
Acknowledgement might seem standard, but I can’t tell you how many bars I’ve walked into only to be avoided like a wart-covered toad with bad credit by the only person legally allowed to wet my whistle.
Second, Lee was not impatient with my usual questions, but described the tap options with perfunctory hospitality. Third, he poured my Clown Shoes Porter ($6 pints/$9 28.5-ounce dukes) with a head any European drinker would appreciate. Fourth, he offered to give me a splash more, since most Americans think head on a pint is somehow a cheat.
The man is a unicorn. Tip big.
In addition to the stage mural, there is a good deal of Dead/Husker memorabilia swirling about the place, concert posters, an autographed helmet, local art and a large aquarium. Entertainment includes pool, darts, live music Thursdays, Wednesday karaoke, a Monday pool league and a Tuesday night open mic hosted by Adam Houghtelling.
Happy hours are 3 to 6 p.m. daily, so check the website for rotating specials. Homestyle Cafe is connected by a Dutch door, so get breakfast or lunch through that portal.
Taps include the aforementioned Clown Shoes, plus Bud, Bud Light, Code Brewery’s Hopped Red, Urban Artifact’s Sector 9, Kros Strain’s Fairy Nectar, Aviator from Knee Deep, Breckenridge Brewery Ale and a large assortment of crafts both canned and bottled.
I’m going back for my own encore of Brokedown Palace. Hope to see you there.