MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Half Time Rec is a St. Paul institution. It was even the backdrop for the movie “Grumpy Old Men.”
This place defines dive bar.
Scott and Steve Mars are the brothers who’ve tried not to mess this place up the past five years.
“It is a dive bar, and we take pride in that,” Scott said. “We want to keep it a fun dive bar atmosphere.”
But a dive bar can sometimes only go so far financially.
“Our sales kept increasing, but at a certain point a corner bar, it will plateau,” Steve said.
So they built a kitchen, and brought in fine-dining chef Jack Riebel – a James Beard award winner.
“I’ve actually fallen in love with dive bars, if you can believe that,” Jack said.
He’s developing restaurants with the guys who own Smack Shack, the Minneapolis food truck-turned-lobster emporium. They are also friends with the Mars brothers.
“It’s an unlikely partnership,” Steve said.
Jack built a menu — the Paddy Shack — based on Irish pub classics. There’s a Reuben-esque sandwich, but corned beef trumps pastrami for tradition’s sake. And it’s elevated with a monster pile of slaw.
The fish and chips is made with sustainable cod, and a batter designed to create the ultimate crunch.
The menu here is not too expensive, and not to chefy.
“I come from 20 years of fine dining, so for me it’s like, ‘How do you just make a simple burger?'” Jack said. “I mean, it sounds crazy, but the reality is I had to learn to kind of temper it.”
The cork dog is a deep-fried, quarter-pound Ballpark Frank, wrapped in bacon and topped with beer-cheese macaroni — all for under $8.
The food is so good, it just makes you smile.
Half Time Rec is on Front Avenue in St. Paul, just off of Lexington Parkway, south of Como Park.
They’re doing lunch and dinner now, and hoping to add weekend brunch soon. Click here to visit their website.