By David McCoy

ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) — These days, the “sports bar” business model is one of most prevalent in the restaurant industry, and it’s usually the places that pay attention to detail that come out on top.

This year marks the 30th year that Joe Senser’s Sports Bars have been in business, and WCCO viewers voted them the Best of Minnesota.

We all have our own cues that help us assess whether we like a bar or restaurant — maybe the trusted bartender or waitperson, your favorite dish or the beer selection.

But next time pay attention to how the owners are received by guests and staff. It can speak volumes.

Joe Senser was a quiet, unpretentious, virtual unknown when he came into the NFL in 1980, so he let his skill set do the talking.

And with his sure hands, his anonymity was short-lived. In the 1981 season, he was fifth in the league in catches and made the Pro Bowl in only his second year. But when a knee injury sidelined Joe and forced him to call a career audible, it was the same affable determination that led him to a 30-year career in the restaurant business.

joe sensers WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Sports Bar In Minnesota

(credit: CBS)

His secret to success?

“Mike!” Joe said.

Joe is referring to his long-time friend and business associate, Mike Hrudka.

“Well, that’s Joe for you,” Mike said.

joe and mike WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Sports Bar In Minnesota

Joe and Mike (credit: CBS)

Joe is a man of few words these days after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2016, but with the loving support of his wife, Amy, and lots of physical and speech therapy, he’s making a comeback.

We asked Joe what things were most important to him in life and business. The words are there, but sometimes they just don’t come out. So he put a pen to paper for one word: People.

“We try to hire people who are as outgoing as possible,” Mike said. “They bring a lot of consistency and fun to this place.”

Another interesting aspect about Senser’s is the ambiance.

“A few years ago, we changed the lighting so the light hit the tables and there wasn’t a bunch of ambient light, so it’s just like a movie theater,” Mike said.

That, and the 4-foot by 8-foot projection screens make it the perfect place to watch a game — thus the phrase, “sports theater.”

And of course once you get them in the door, you have to feed them.

“Food has always been first for us,” Mike said. “It has to be.”

Joe’s favorite?

“Chicken!” he said.

“The wood-roast chicken has been a unique product for us,” Mike explained. “We dry rub it, smoke it and slow roast it.”

And it is to die for. The burgers, wings and other menu items are right on par.

“We just try to let our actions speak for what we do,” Mike said.

And that’s evident by another word the Pro Bowler wrote down for us earlier: Humility.

Even though he owns the best sports bar in Minnesota and all of his other accolades, he prefers to be just a “regular Joe.”

Joe didn’t want to tip his hand too much, but mentioned that the Roseville location is going to get a little face lift this summer with some new amenities, so stay tuned.

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