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The new deck area at the Rex Bar, located in the lower level of Fitgers Plaza, has one of the most beautiful views in the city and drink specials that will entice any thrifty visitor.
Maggie Bowman, a bartender at The Rex, was very inviting when I visited on Friday evening. She explained that they had just started to offer happy hour specials this past month and explained the new outdoor patio area.
“The patio area is an enclosed seating area with 180 degree views of Lake Superior as well as the Lakewalk,” Bowman said. “It’s the perfect place to sit and enjoy a cocktail and relax, especially when the weather is nice. I’m not exactly sure of the capacity out there, but I’m assuming somewhere around 50 people. There is also a covered area with a heater that is nice for our smokers in the winter.”
While sitting outside it was amazing to see a ship passing by, a train below, and sailboats out gliding on the lake. These warm days make sitting outside something to be enjoyed whenever available. The Rex’s outdoor area is amazing, and for the moment it is truly a hidden treasure.
“The happy hour is a two for one on any and all drinks in the bar that goes on 7 days a week from 4-8pm,” Bowman said. “Excluding Sunday, when it runs from 6-8pm because we open a little later. On Sundays we also do a free game of pool with the purchase of a drink. There are tons of games in the bar such as your standard pool and darts as well as several arcade games and foosball.”
When I was a kid my parents would take me to Chuck E. Cheese to play video games and skeeball. The hope of winning those cheap plastic trinkets, a squirt gun, or some other useless toy would drive me to spend all my tokens to win tickets. Bowman explained how perhaps my love of gaming might translate into better prizes at The Rex.
“One thing we have that not very many places can offer is Beer Ball,” Bowman said. “It is like Skeeball, where if your score is high enough you can win things like free beer, pizza and t-shirts.”
There are many events in the evenings at The Rex that will also entice the students as they return to the area. From welcome back parties to bladder busters there is a little some thing for everyone.
“Wednesday nights are probably our busiest night currently,” Bowman said. “We host a college night with a beer bladder bust from 9pm until the first person uses the bathroom. That usually lasts for 30-45 minutes. We also have $5 domestic pitchers and $3 vodka drinks. The Crunchy Bunch usually joins us for a DJ set and 102.5 KDWZ does flippy cup tournaments at 10 and 11pm. They give out all kinds of prizes like t-shirts, Husky tickets and a lot of different beer glasses. You must present a student ID to attend the bladder bust, but all are welcome when it’s over. This Friday the 9th we are also hosting the UMD welcome back week after party with free admission for those who attend and $3 - 24oz domestic beers on special.”
For many years the lowest level of Fitger’s has housed a college-aged friendly bar with bands and dancing on weekend evenings. My first review for the Reader was of a performance by a fairly unknown band called Cloud Cult with Trampled By Turtles as the opener back in 2004. Back in those good ole days when groups like The Dukes of Hubbard and Words To A Film Score played on a Saturday night the bar was known as The Tap Room. The stained glass behind the bar serves as a reminder of The Tap, but The Rex has new bands that have taken over.
“I would say that Big Wave Dave and The Ripples are drawing the biggest crowd.” Bowman explained. “They play Thursday nights around 10:30 and are a show you don’t want to miss. If I have Thursday night off you are guaranteed to see me in the crowd dancing. They have an awesome horn section and play all different kinds of soul, funk and rock and roll music. There are other bands we bring in every few months that are always guaranteed to draw a larger crowd, but Big Wave Dave is definitely bringing in some large volumes of people. They also like to bring in special guests on the horns as well as vocalists like Sarah Kreuger.”
Bowman talked about some of the other bands playing there and said there is usually a $3-5 cover.
“We bring in all kinds of acts from throughout the Midwest including bands/groups like Heatbox, The 4 on the Floor (Willie Nelson opener), Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, Pert Near Sandstone and in the past we have also had Trampled By Turtles. We just hosted the Willie Nelson after party with Erik Koskinen and he brought down TBT fiddle player Ryan Young, which was a really fun night.”
You can find out about upcoming events by becoming a friend of The Rex on Facebook or calling the bar at (218)733-3090. There are a few other places around the area that you need to know about or get to know again.
The Reef Bar has really changed on the inside. There also are posh couches and booths throughout the bar and several rooms full of pool tables, darts, and various games.
Sir Ben’s has a great outdoor area, but there is an intimate atmosphere inside that keeps people coming back. It also is a lower key venue to listen to many local musicians play acoustically. Enjoy the likes of Toby Churchill of The Alrights, folky songwriter Bill Isles, or Charity Huot and her peaceful songs. During a blizzard there is no sanctuary that feels quite as inviting and safe as Sir Ben’s.
Fitger’s Brewhouse and their beer battered fries here are addictive, and the beer brewed there is the best in Duluth. The bartenders are excellent, but the wait for a table and service can take some patience. Charlie Parr, The Boomchucks, and many other local folkies grace the stage nearly every night of the week. Parr is a “musician’s musician” and plays the most authentic music around. The Boomchucks are a duo that is infectious in its sound and energy.
Across the hall is the bar that almost doesn’t fit in Duluth, which might be exactly what a few of you large city-based (or those who wanna-be city-based) college students in Duluth need. DJs, high booths, and dark lighting make The Red Star a can’t miss for the uptown crowd. They also have a happy hour now and a great Woodford Reserve Cherry Whiskey that is the best in town. Have it on the rocks.