MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a time where foodies chase the newest restaurants and the coolest place to take an Instagram picture, the Monte Carlo Bar & Grill has stood the test of time.
In 1906, it opened as a Minneapolis saloon where only men were allowed.
“I bought it as a saloon and I wanted to operate it as a saloon with food,” said John Rimarcik, the Monte Carlo’s third owner, for the past 40 years.
The bartenders are “not recreating an old drink, they’ve made those drinks their whole career,” he said.
Over the years, it’s been the spot for bold names to hang out: Kirby Puckett, Kevin Garnett, WCCO News legend Dave Moore.
The kitchen found a hit right away with a relatively new menu item for the time: the chicken wing.
“I didn’t want the wet, sticky wing. So I put a wing recipe together – not creative, some luck – but a drier wing,” Rimarcik said.
On most nights, Rimarcik said 80 percent of the customers have an order of wings at their table.
“We get jumbo wings, toss them with a seasoned flour, then plate them and wrap them overnight,” said Rimarcik’s son, Tony Rimarcik.
Those wings are fried for about 12 minutes – and then tossed in a dry rub with 18 different elements including cinnamon, red pepper, and cumin.
The history of wings in Minneapolis really starts with Runyon’s bar, but those wings were in a wet, barbeque sauce.
“In fact when I got in to the business in 1964, wings were free, the poultry houses had them in bags and would just give them to you,” he said.
Now the wings are among the most expensive cuts of chicken. Lots of other things have changed over the years too. Monte Carlo is now in one of the hottest neighborhoods for restaurants in Minneapolis, the North Loop.
But in 1964 “there were 70 restaurants in the twin cities. 70. Now there are over 7,000 food licenses in the Twin Cities,” Rimarcik said.
But Monte Carlo’s craveable, relatively simple food largely remains the same.
Until three years ago, Rimarcik was in the kitchen every day, too. Just don’t call him a chef.
“I serve the kinds of foods you think of when you wake up in the middle of the night. You’re thinking of a hamburger, eggs, bacon and ham. We serve that kind of every day food and still do,” he said.
Monte Carlo is one of the rare spots you can still get liver and onions.
“There’s a Minnesota liver and onion club, they come here to get liver,” Rimarcik said. “The liver’s a big deal.”
And the spicy green beans have been on the menu for decades.
“They should be too hot for most people to eat. Big item, big seller, people come just for that,” he said.
Rimarcik is 78 now, and has made keeping classic restaurants like Convention Grill and the Monte Carlo his life’s work.
“When I leave my house very day, I’m excited,” he said. “I love what I do. Just love it. It’s gotta be in your belly,” he said.
Monte Carlo Bar & Grill
213 3rd Ave N, Minneapolis