Grumpy’s Bar & Grill, 2200 4th St. N.E., has been a low-key Northeast hangout for 20 years. Tony Zaccardi, Northeast resident, long-time bartender at Grumpy’s and bassist for Romantica, talks about Grumpy’s longevity in the neighborhood.
When did you start working at Grumpy’s?
I officially began at Grumpy’s NE in June of 2000, in my very early 20s. So if you do the math, that makes me old.
Northeast Minneapolis is known for having so many great bars. In your opinion, what makes Grumpy’s NE unique?
We do have an endless amount of bars, and with the addition of taprooms and distilleries, there are about 15-20 more places to drink in NE than there were five years ago! I think attention to customer service, providing fun experiences/events, incredible beer, and my favorite, the diversity among our clientele and staff. It makes for fun conversation. Our head honcho, Pat Dwyer, has made incredible efforts over the past 20 years to ensure that all who walk through the door are welcome.
Grumpy’s is known for having one of the best line-ups of musicians/artists during Art-a-Whirl. Can you name some of your favorite performances over the years?
We started this whole mess a long time ago. There have been so many! Our focus for so many years has been to primarily book bands and artists that hang at our place. Doing that, we’ve been pretty lucky! Babes in Toyland, Cactus Blossoms, Har Mar Superstar. Staff bands too, like Dillinger Four, Romantica, House of Large Sizes, Ear Candy. We are a very music-focused sort of place. Naturally.
As a bartender at Grumpy’s, you must have some great stories and met some interesting (even famous) people through the years. Can you share some?
Oh yes. So many stories. Many of which are long gone to time (and beer). I wasn’t there the night that Har Mar Superstar brought Macaulay Culkin in, but that’s sorta what can happen at any time. What makes me happy is when I see a Grammy award-winning musician hanging at the bar talking to an old timer and nobody is bothering him. We’re pretty cool that way. As far as funny stories, it’s probably best to put it this way: Being a bar on 4th Street in Northeast, you never know what’s gonna happen when the door opens. You have to be ready to deal with what comes your way.
What has stayed the same and what has changed over the years at Grumpy’s?
Community. So many of the same people I had beers with in 1998 when Grumpy’s opened are still around … maybe not daily, but they are still family. The old-timer softball team used to be the younger softball team. (Ha, ha). Peoples’ drinking choices have changed. At least at our place. Less Captain Cokes, more craft beer. Everyone still likes Jameson, though!
Below: Bartender Tony Zaccardi has heard and seen it all at Grumpy’s. (Photos by Mike Madison)