MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’re in the midst of March Madness, and everyone is skipping work to flock to their favorite sports bar with brackets in tow.
So where’s the best place to watch game after game? You voted and sent Natalie Nyhus to a bar that’s been a staple in St. Louis Park for the better part of a century. This is Bunny’s Bar & Grill.
Bunny’s Bar and Grill, voted best sports bar in Minnesota, was born 80 years ago, and it’s been a legend in St. Louis Park ever since. Owner Gary Rackner and his father bought the place in 1988. His son, Jason, was just 3 years old at the time.
“It had been in the same family from 1933 to 1988, so really there’s only been two ownership groups in all the years of Bunny’s,” owner Gary Rackner said.
As far as sports bars go, this has it all: More than 30 TVs tuned into the big game, free popcorn, huge portions and cold drinks.
“Are you surprised that you won best sports bar in Minnesota? Umm? No,” Jason Rackner, Gary’s son, said.
Maybe that’s because on any given day at any given time, the place is packed with folks from all walks of life.
“People go, what makes Bunny’s? I’ve owned it for 28 years, and I can’t really say what makes Bunny’s,” Gary Rackner said. “People compare it to Cheers. Even though it’s a big place now, it’s all a family.”
Gary knows just about everyone by name, and so does his son.
“There are multi-millionaires here and people living paycheck to paycheck. And they all get along,” said Gary Rackner.
Once you walk through the door past that iconic referee bunny, you’re not just in a bar, you’re part of a community.
“We know not just what you’re going to drink, but we know the name of your kids. It’s not just a farce. We do care about our people. We take care of each other,” said Jason Rackner.
That’s why it’s not just the employees you’ll see there seven days a week.
“Only on the days ending in ‘Y,’” said one of the regular customers.
“We’ve got bartenders, one who’s bartending right now who’s been here since 1974. That’s completely unheard of in this industry. But there are a lot of bartenders and servers who’ve known me since I was as tall as this table,” said Jason Rackner.
The Rackner’s have members from the entire family helping with every aspect of Bunny’s. And they consider all staff family, related or not.
“We are a big, goofy weird family. But we all get along for the most part. Like any family, you have your issues at times. But it wouldn’t be a family if we didn’t. It would be a true family,” said Jason Rackner.
Jason says he one day hopes his dad passes the torch – or ball – in the hope that Bunny’s will be around for another 80 years. Because he knows the customers rely on them and they rely on the customers.
“Enough changes in this world, right? It’s nice to know you have a place that isn’t going to change too much,” said Jason Rackner.
Bunny’s is also a place to come for freebies. They have free popcorn and free food over happy hour every day during the week, and cheap burgers late night. Your other favorite sports bars are Big 10 Restaurant in Minneapolis and B-52 Burgers and Brew in Inver Grove Heights.