Perhaps it’s the lack of competition in the tiki bar space… or maybe it’s the admittedly beautiful patio. For some reason, Psycho Suzi’s’ popularity seems to be inversely related to the quality of their drinks.
Working in North Minneapolis, happy hour with coworkers tends to gravitate toward the same few local bars — typically places with cheap beer, a minimal commute, and — for extra points — a sunny patio. Meeting all these criteria, Psycho Suzi’s tends to be a top choice — yet it took me months to come to terms with the fact that I have not yet found a “drinkable” (by which I mean sufficiently strong, clean-tasting, and only moderately sweetened) cocktail at a place billed as a tiki bar.
Upon examination of Suzi’s drink menu, billed on their website as “Delightful, Delectable, Deplorable,” it’s clear to see where this one falls (hint: it’s not the first two). Each item’s description is more vague than the last, filled with evocative prose about headhunters and different colored tiki mugs — if you’re lucky, the description of your drink of choice mentions the inclusion of some rum or a cherry (as in the “Virgin Sacrifice,” quoted below).
“Everyday [sic] a disturbing spectacle of tyranny ensues. A gang of Elvis impersonators entices another virgin with fermented blue nectars, then throws her into the volcano… which is not very romantic. Served in a mean green tiki with the cherry intact.”
Given this (albeit amusing) description, what would you expect to be served? A virgin? A volcano? Elvis impersonators? As it turns out, the blue nectars are, in fact, relevant — as is the cherry — but a potentially blue-colored drink with a cherry on top (in a recent visit, the shriveled specimen below) tells little of its contents or flavor.
Typically, the frustration of an underwhelming menu can be mitigated by competent waitstaff. In the case of Psycho Suzi’s, each inquiry into the contents of a drink was met with a confused, “I don’t know, the stuff right there (pointing at the incredibly vague drink description).” Further questioning revealed that the waitresses we asked knew nothing of the drinks beyond a base-level assessment of sweet versus boozy – which, it seems, is more of a systemic problem than the fault of any waitress in particular, as one waitress confessed that she wasn’t allowed to watch the bartenders pour the drinks. While she did the due diligence to ensure that one member of our party could order a cocktail sans sour mix, the inconvenience of checking with three different sources could have easily been avoided with a more accurate menu.
The fact that only one drink (the aforementioned “Virgin Sacrifice”) was suggested to us to be sour-mix-free is already troubling. Beyond that, though, all of the drinks we’ve sampled (even those touting “bitter lime”) were far too sweet for those accustomed to anything short of a piña colada. The Virgin Sacrifice was sweet in a flat, synthetic, vaguely coconut-scented way, as was the Eruption in Paradise — which, despite the vaguely “tropical” taste was improved by the visual “wow” factor of its large volcano-shaped vessel (vaguely reminiscent of the antique ceramic Christmas tree my grandmother used to set out each December) emitting dry ice-induced “smoke,” bright-colored straws, and a few neon plastic monkeys clinging for their lives to the top of the peak.
The Miserable Bastard (dark rum and bitter lime? sounds promising…) proved to taste solely of dark rum, perhaps with a hint of cherry. The Crummy Scoundrel, another “strong” drink, tasted more of artificially sweetened fruit punch with a hint of liquor than the “blackberry, pomegranate, and banana” with which it was advertised. Each was adorned with a plastic swizzle stick curiously embossed with the words “Ma’s Fish House” (oddly enough, an establishment in Hawaii).
Despite the frustration with the drinks, Psycho Suzi’s can still be enjoyable if you go in with the right expectations. The patio offers a great view of the river and a good blend of sun and shade, and the varying theme rooms indoors offer a “painstakingly tacky” tiki-style atmosphere for a casual evening out. Suzi’s pizza is serviceable, with a pillowy white crust and sweet red sauce, and the beer list features a number of solid choices (Fulton, Surly, 21st Amendment, among others). Your best bet? Head to Suzi’s for a beer on the patio ($3 taps during happy hour) to enjoy the sun and the view of the water, then make the trip home and mix yourself a martini.
BEST BET: Stick to the beer list — if you’re craving a cocktail, make one at home later.
CHEF / OWNER: Leslie Bock
HOURS: Mon-Fri 11am-2am
DRINK PRICE: $7-18
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No