Bar Review: The Red Dragon

Red Dragon Restaurant
2116 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405-3026

STEVE McPHERSON: TODAY IS THE START OF THE CHINESE NEW YEAR--year of the boar, of virility and fertility--but you'd hardly know it from the bar at the Red Dragon. All anybody cares about, it seems, is the finish of the Daytona 500. Apparently, money has been wagered and one somewhat soused individual is trying to convince the booth behind us that NASCAR is just, well, the shit. I can't quite catch what he's saying; all I hear is, "Imagine I'm the Chicago Bulls." I'm trying, Ringo; I'm trying real hard.

Red DragonYou don't come to the Red Dragon for the food-- or at least not for dinner-- but the appetizers are pretty solid, if uninspired. We get the cream cheese wontons, which come with some excellently spicy mustard and some "eh" sweet and sour sauce. I've had the pupu platter here before and trust me: you want to steer clear of the meat. I mean, the teriyaki beef is all right, but sweet Jesus do not get the rumaki. I think that's what it was called. Ugh.

Besides, you're really here for the insanely strong drinks. I'm a fan of the Red Dragon Special, which has Captain Morgan's, cranberry, and juice, plus a maraschino cherry. I'm not sure if that means cranberry juice plus fruit juice or what, but it's definitely red, and it's definitely special. It's a deceptively strong drinkin for being so durn tasty. You want to get messed up and leave sophistication at home? Get a couple of these bad boys. They're $5.75, but, to quote Dave Chappelle, "it'll get you drunk."

Calley got the Mai Tai, and was somewhat dismayed to find a fruit fly up in it. When we flagged the waitress down, she said, before we could even explain, "Did you find a fruit fly in the drink? Yeah, that happens a lot." Noted, but not appreciated. A clean Mai Tai was delivered and order was restored. Calley reports satisfaction with the beverage.

Maybe I'm sounding a bit negative about the whole Red Dragon experience, but this is really more of a place you go in spite of itself, rather than because of itself. They have a wealth of fruity drinks that are better than the ones at Psychosuzie's and cheaper than the ones at Azia, so you come here to get fruited and blitzed, plus eat greasy food. It's a humble joint that asks little and gives a lot. Happy Year of the Pig, y'all.

MAX SPARBER: In the meanwhile, I ordered the bar's most notorious signature drink, the Wondrous Punch, a fruity rum beverage that comes at the wondrous price of $7.50, but still seems a bargain, as it comes in a glass the size of a small fishbowl. The Red Dragon doesn't always do their tropical drinks well -- I've had zombies there that could peel paint, which is a crime, as a well-made zombie is shockingly good. But the Wondrous Punch is sweet without being sickly sweet, and quite refreshing, although, as you work your way down to the bottom of the glass, the taste becomes somewhat antiseptic. But, frankly, by then it doesn't matter.

The cocktail lounge itself is, to put it politely, bijou, just large enough for a few booths, a few tables, and a bar that can only fit one bartender. Notoriously, on weekends, it fills up; in past years, those who visited on weekends were often rebuffed by short-tempered waitresses, long waits, and an inattentive bartender. In all fairness, I have never had this experience, and our servers today were fast and skilled, the fruit fly incident notwithstanding.

The bar used to be famous for its jukebox, which featured such oddities as polkas, but they've replaced it with the same sort of CD jukebox you see in every bar, with the same selection. But the bar retains its cheerfully schmaltzy decor: everything seems to be made of cheap lacquer and faux Chinese lanterns, with black wallpaper showing gilded scenes of China. It's tacky, but gloriously so -- this is the way dive bars should look, and instead they tend to look like someone's tool shed. In Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet's crew of exhausted salesmen endlessly stream out of their low-rent office and across the street to a Chinese restaurant, which is never shown in the play. It looks like a rather reputable establishment in the film adaptation, and shouldn't have. It should have looked like the bar at the Red Dragon.

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