Best Caves in the Twin Ports: Rathskeller & Vinyl Cave
On Friday night at Tycoons the Rathskeller was full of brave newcomers and on Saturday the Vinyl Cave in Superior was overflowing with quiet record hounds.
While these two things seemingly have nothing in common, they actually reflect our areas culture and unique personality.
A few months ago Tycoons’ had its grand opening. My wife and I went to check out the food and the ambience of Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson’s latest venture. You could smell the fresh paint in the air and the wait staff was still ironing out a few opening week dramatics.
What surprisingly struck me was how classy the bathroom was with the walls covered in old stock certificates. The food was also excellent and along the lines of the Brewhouse. The biggest difference was that the fries were either larger or smaller than the ones at the Brewhouse. Our food came up quick and was tasty.
A few weeks ago The Reader Weekly held their website launch party upstairs in the room that was formerly the headquarters of the paper when I started there 7 years ago. It looks very different today and the signature creaks in the floor were even gone. There is some type painting on the wall that I thought was done to make to look like the old pictures were taken down. It didn’t have that old Reader smell, but the oeuvres were great.
On Friday my wife suggested we go to Tycoon’s to check out the opening of the Rathskeller. I assumed it would be a madhouse, but the crowd was just right at 7pm. We walked in through the front door on Superior Street and went straight to the back of the restaurant. There was a man standing by the elevator taking IDs and a group of five was in front of us in the line. They were growing upset because the door man had just told them that maximum capacity had been reached and there were only two more spots. The leader of the pack got upset, but my wife and I quickly bypassed them and told the doorman that we happened to be a group of two.
The doorman told my wife and me that we could go down, but he would need our driver’s licenses to hold on to. He took them and gave us numbers as he put them into a small case.
After giving up our IDs we headed into the elevator and were not quite sure which floor to push, so we pushed them all. First stop was a shelf right outside the door with cleaning products, so we knew we needed to head further down.
Once we hit bottom there was another doorman waiting for us that we showed our tickets to. Finally we got into the exclusive bar, grabbed a table, and checked out the menus.
There was an expensive cheese and cracker dish, but when I saw how large it was I understood. There also were some more exotic beer choices, but the heavily advertised wheat beer was all out for the night. I lived in Germany of a few months when I was 20 and was just in Munich a few summers ago, so I was bummed about not being able to try their hefeweizen.
My disappointment ended when I asked if they had Woodford Reserve soaked in cherries like The Red Star has, and they did. It is the best sipping drink around and is so good it’s dangerous.
The Rathskeller has an underground feeling, but was clean and smelled fresh. It was dark, totally refurbished, and did have an exclusive feel to it. It is a fun experience that I suggest everyone give a try. It has a fanciness about it, but no pretensions.
Across the bridge in Superior is another type of cave, but this one has no exclusivity to it. As a matter of fact, each time I have gone there I feel totally at home.
Recently I purchased a 1965 Seeburg Discotheque jukebox from a woman in Nowthen, Minnesota. Everything works and it was only $375 with a full arsenal of records.
My brother, sister, and future brother-in-law drove the jukebox up here just before all the snow fell and assisted me in rolling the 400 pound behemoth into my home. We had to rent a dolly and lay out plywood just to get it around to the backdoor, but after a lot of work it was in its new home.
When I first plugged it in and turned on the juke it didn’t work, which scared me to death. After waiting a few hours it slowly began to play the song I punched in, but it was going too slow and wasn’t really recognizable. After it finished I put on another song and opened up the top to see what was going on inside. I tapped the record player and soon it sped up to normal speed. Apparently the oil got cold from the jukebox sitting in my father’s garage for a week and the truck ride up here. Once it warmed up it was only time before we were all dancing away.
The jukebox must have been decommissioned in about 1980 or so. It was packed with many songs from the movie “Urban Cowboy” and others of the same era. While those songs were great the first few times we played them, they quickly grew old quickly.
Now this was partially remedied by the 12 newer Third Man 7 inch records that I own, but with a capacity of 80 records there were many in dire need of replacement. Take for example the song “Magic” by Olivia Newton John or “Woman in Love” by Barbra Streisand. They had to go right away.
While debating what songs to put in the jukebox an infomercial on television late one night by Time-Life gave me many new ideas. There were several great songs by The Platters, Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley in the ad. I quickly wrote them all down and headed to the Electric Fetus the next day. While they had a handful of 45rpm singles, with the exception of some Mark Lindquist local tunes, there wasn’t much there.
My next stop was where I usually fine obscure items, eBay. They had everything I wanted and most records were around $2.50 with an additional $2.50 to $3 for shipping costs. It worked well to bundle, but then I remembered that there was the Vinyl Cave in Superior.
I had first heard of the Cave from a news report a while back about The Trashmen celebrating a reunion there. Most people know of the Trashmen’s hit song, “Surfin’ Bird.” So I decided to check them out the next day.
The Vinyl Cave has the motherload of 45rpm singles. Boxes upon boxes to sort through lined the walls of the building and most were only $1. That price and selection allowed me to spend a bit of cash and fill the entire jukebox up with songs I wanted to listen to.
The Vinyl Cave also has thousands of full-length records too, and their prices are very reasonable. There are rare records on hand and anything an audiophile could dream of. The clerk behind the counter said that the store had over 300,000 seven inch records.
Jack White of the White Stripes, Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and now solo fame is keeping the 7 inch vinyl single alive through his Third Man Records. He sells limited editions of his music done in yellow, black, and white called tri-colors. Check out www.thirdmanrecords.com for more information. A “tri-colored” copy of Jack White’s first solo release on a 7 inch just sold today on eBay for nearly $300, so some records are already worth hundreds of dollars.
I ordered Jack White’s solo release “Love Interruption” about a month ago and took a video of it playing on the jukebox. That video has had over 1500 views within a few weeks on YouTube. While the sound of the old juke isn’t the greatest quality it does know how to liven’ up a party nicely.
After having the jukebox for a few weeks I threw just such a party. To fill the box I went back to the Vinyl Cave and bought more records. By this time I had already replaced 75% of what was originally in the jukebox.
At the party I noticed that people much older than me have a special place for jukeboxes and will break out dancing whenever a good song is played. On the other end of the spectrum is someone like my wife’s friend who commented after seeing my jukebox that it was like a large iPod. The nostalgic beauty of the old machine with all its lights and mechanic ambiance can be quickly lost on the young MP3 generation.
There is a big difference between an iPod and a jukebox. That difference also reflects the sentiments and overall attitude of the entire young generation today. An iPod is meant to be listened to alone with headphones and an iPhone allows one to text and hide behind a small device to be anti-social. The jukebox on the other hand brings people together. It is inclusive, much like the Vinyl Cave. The Rathskeller is exclusive and invites one to hide in the dark.
What more could you ask for from the caves in the Twin Ports? Go to www.thefountainheads.com to see the video of the jukebox.