By: Anthony Brousseau
Bloody marys are not what they used to be—and that's meant in the most flattering of ways. What once was a simple, savory drink to pair with your breakfast or brunch has evolved into a meal in and of itself, with some places offering chicken wings and even entire burgers as "garnishes" for your bloody.
It's no surprise, then, that a thriving bloody mary culture has emerged in the Twin Cities. In May, the Bloody Mary Liberation Party hosted the second annual Twin Cities Bloody Mary Festival at Union Depot in St. Paul, gathering bars and restaurants from the area to compete for a number of bloody awards. And despite the big name, big city talent on display—St. Paul's The Happy Gnome and Minneapolis' Red Stag Supper Club were just two of the 16 competitors—a relatively new restaurant in Waconia took home the prize for best traditional bloody mary.
Courtesy of Garage Bar & Bowl
Dan Madsen, who owns Garage Bar & Bowl with his wife Amy, was confident in their concoction heading into the contest.
“We’re new, we’re small, we’re independent and there’s a lot of really big names that do this,” he says. “But we decided, we’re proud of what we have, we’ll go share it and maybe people will like it.”
And like it they did—in addition to best traditional bloody, the Garage tied for best garnish and took home second place in the people’s choice awards.
Madsen says his team—five people total—put together a BLT bloody, garnished with dill-infused fresh bread from Chaska’s Red Bench Bakery, lettuce and tomato—plus horseradish sauce, a dill pickle and bloody mary flavored bacon, all made in-house.
“We make our own bacon in house, we brine it, cure it, smoke it, cut it, cook it,” Madsen says.
“We knew that we had a great garnish, but we were really honored to tie for best garnish out of all the bars that were there as well.”
Beyond the awards, Madsen says the festival crowd's response was proof enough they had a good product.
"It was just a constant stream of a line of 15 to 20 people waiting to try the bloody marys." he says.
"Busy, very busy. But fun, very fun."
Courtesy of Garage Bar & Bowl
Before they made the best bloody mary in the Twin Cities, the Garage Bar & Bowl team had to, well, open a bar. That was a process years in the making. Dan and Amy Madsen paid their way through college working in the restaurant industry, but always had their sights on something bigger.
“We always knew we wanted to open a bar and grill someday, but we were thinking it would be more towards retirement,” Madsen says. “And then we heard about the bowling alley in Waconia.”
Amy Madsen was born and raised in the city. The couple watched the site sit for sale for a few years, hesitant to actually make a move on it. Then they heard talks of demolition.
“So my wife and I decided that we’d try to jump in and save it, so the community would have a bowling alley, a spot for recreation,” Madsen says, “and then we thought we’d bring our interests in great food and a fun bar atmosphere and put it all together.”
The Garage Bar & Bowl opened August 2018, and so far, business is good, according to Madsen.
“Every day is an adventure, right, because it’s our first,” he says. “But we’re proud of our environment and proud of our food and having six bowling lanes kind of really helps round out a lot of different reasons to come see us.”
If you missed your shot to sample the Garage’s bloody at the festival, worry not—every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., they open their bloody Mary bar, with even more options than were available at the fest.
“We have your usual, chives, green peppers, pepperoni, cheese curds, but we also have bratwursts and chicken wings and deep-fried cheese curds,” Madsen says. And the house made bacon is there, too, of course.
But the Garage has more to offer than a killer bloody mary, Madsen says.
“One thing that we try to do at the Garage is make food as much as we can from scratch in house,” he says. “Our pizza, we import the flour from Italy, it’s totally scratch made. People really seem to like it. There’s a whole bunch of things we do that are really unique.”
He hopes the newfound bloody mary buzz, paired with everything else the Garage has to offer, will expand people’s sometimes narrow view of the Twin Cities food scene.
“There’s a lot of places outside the immediate Minneapolis-St. Paul area that are special,” he says. “I would hope that we would be considered in that company, but there’s a lot of other great places like ours that are independent.
“Hopefully people venture out our way into the southwest suburbs to explore some great, independent places.”