'Regulars' frequent area restaurants for deals, atmosphereThey know the owner and waitresses by name; they have a specific table, where their drinks are poured before they order; and, they have a “usual” — they’re regulars at the bar, and they come for the specials.
By: Jasmine Maki, Grand Forks Herald
They know the owner and waitresses by name; they have a specific table, where their drinks are poured before they order; and, they have a “usual” — they’re regulars at the bar, and they come for the specials.
Whether it’s 99-cent burgers at Parrot’s Cay Tavern and Grill on Mondays, 5-cent wings at TJ’s Sports Bar on Tuesdays, free burgers at Big D’s on Wednesdays or free tacos at Dreamer’s Lounge on Thursdays, every bar has its specials. Along with those specials come the regulars — those people dedicated to a certain bar because of the impeccable service, the chill atmosphere, the delicious cuisine or just simply the deals.
For Julie Solheim, of Grand Forks, and her crew of as many as 13, the Parrot’s Cay at 1149 36th Avenue South is the go-to bar.
The group is there at least four nights a week, and they always make it for $1 burgers on Mondays, Solheim said.
Customers can get a 99-cent cheeseburger with the purchase of a drink from 5 to 11 p.m. every Monday.
“I would rather eat here than anywhere else in town,” said Ken Carlson, of Grand Forks, also known as Doc. Carlson and his wife, Barb, have been going to Parrot’s Cay for more than 10 years and have watched the bar grow and change. “The real attraction is the wings on Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, customers can get an order of wings and a pitcher of beer for just $12.
Solheim said she tries to be at the doors right when the bar opens at 4:30 p.m. every day, so she can save “the kitchen table,” a large high-top table next to the kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Shortly after, others start to trickle into the bar. Some nights, as many as 13 or 14 friends gather. “We fill it up,” she said.
Some days, the group gets into heated discussions about politics. Other days, they laugh about sexual innuendos and dirty jokes. And, on game day, they go head-to-head cheering for rival teams. Solheim is a devoted Minnesota Viking’s fan and Dan Samson, of Grand Forks, is a Green Bay Packer’s super fan.
But, whether they’re chatting about politics, sex or sports, the table is always full of laughter. And, they often include bar owner Rob Drahovzal, and the waitresses, in on the jokes.
“A lot of laughs are had,” said Sandy Samson, Dan’s wife. “That’s what keeps us coming back.”
The fact that they are all known by the staff members is a big factor as well; that is, after all, what classifies them as regulars.
Sitting in TJ’s Sports Bar with her softball team, Amber Stegman, of Grand Forks, said being a regular is like the “Cheers” song. “Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came,” she sang.
Stegman and her co-ed softball team are bar regulars at TJ’s Sports Bar at 1210 South Washington Street, Grand Forks. After their Tuesday night softball games, eight to 13 team members head to TJ’s for 5-cent wings and a couple of drinks.
They started going to TJ’s three years ago, when bar owner Travis VanSickle, decided to co-sponsor their team with Hankey Law. Jennifer Christenson, of East Grand Forks, said, “It’s been tradition ever since.”
Whether or not they win their games, Christenson said they always celebrate at TJ’s.
“We leave it all on the field,” said Jamie Tupa, of Grand Forks.
Christenson added: “If we lose, we talk about it more, but the attitude is always the same. It’s pretty loud. Everyone on the team is so loud, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
She said the team goes to TJ’s because the bar is their sponsor, but they love it for the specials.
“You can get 10 wings and two sides for a dollar,” she said. “The only question is if you’re going to have 10 or 20. It’s such a great deal; you can’t pass it up.”
The team also enjoys the chill atmosphere of the bar and the friendly staff members who they often tease.
‘The melting pot of GF’
TJ’s softball team and the Parrot’s Cay crew may have come together for different reasons, but both groups agree that their nights spent laughing over drinks and dinner have brought them closer together.
Solheim, the Samsons and the Carlsons all agreed that they go to the Cay for the great deals and delicious food, but they stay for the laughs and conversation.
They consider Parrot’s Cay the “melting pot of Grand Forks” because the once-strangers all met at the bar, and now, they’re practically a family.
The Parrot’s Cay crew ranges in age from mid-30s to mid-70s, and their occupations include everything from a psychologist to a computer operator, to a secretary, to a construction worker. They see each other several nights a week at the Cay and often make plans to hang out outside of the bar.
The men get together to help each other with home improvement projects. Some of them meet at the fitness center to work out. And, they are all learning gardening skills from Sandy Samson, the expert. “We have gardening 101,” she said with a laugh.
The softball team may not be gardening together, but Christenson said enjoying specials at the bar has allowed her to get to know the team better.Even when new members join the team, Christenson said they always seem to be such a great fit.
Maki covers Arts & Entertainment and Life & Style for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1122, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or email@example.com.