Poor man’s paradise

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge reinvents an old A&W as a South Seas getaway.

Here’s the set-up: after the incredibly long and depressing Louis Vuitton commercial that is the Sex and the City movie, our double-date headed over to Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge for some much-needed drinks to wipe away the god-awful memory of that film.

“I feel like I’m in another city,” said one of the double-daters during the car ride through Northeast. If you don’t make it up into the neighborhood often, a combination of things can make it feel different from the rest of Minneapolis: the gritty, old industrial buildings dotting the river and simple pre-1950s family homes, a lack of condo development and dingy hole-in-the-wall bars that look like they haven’t changed in a hundred years. These factors come together to give Northeast an oddly unique feel that other parts of the city just don’t have.

What Northeast is to Minneapolis, Suzi’s is to Northeast, a rare haven of humble sanctuary where authenticity means longtime Polish immigrants mingling with first-generation East Africans or a bubbling slice of American cheese pizza scalding the roof of your mouth and quickly being washed down by some concoction in a carved wooden mug.

In the shade of low-hanging broadleaves under a gray sky, Tiki torches and island kitsch surrounded us on that early Friday evening. Our fellow diners were mostly from the Northeast business crowd, fresh off work, still in dress shirts and sport coats.

Judging by the number of people on the patio during our visit, Psycho Suzi’s must be a key local summer hangout. We sat down and ordered a pitcher of the cheapest beer, following the advice of a big sign out front that boasts Suzi’s as being “Poor Man’s Paradise.”

What goes great with beer? Meat, and Suzi’s has a wide selection of meaty pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers. Once you’ve got a good buzz going, it’s always fun to play with fire, and that must be why the “Pu-Pu Dogs” are such a popular item.

On a tray that looks like a volcano, a sterno flame emits from the top. Surrounding the base of the ‘cano are mini wieners, buns, and the necessary toppings along with metal skewers for roasting. They also offer Plate O’ Bacon, (exactly what it sounds like) Trans-Am Tater Tots, (again what it sounds like, just tots) Red Rockets, (beer-battered mini wieners) and Fried Asparagus – wha-huh? As the menu states: “Almost healthy Ö but not really.”

For an appetizer, we decided on the artichoke and jalapeño dip, a chunky, cheesy, spicy dip served with warm pita. To make it, they put the dip in a wide shallow bowl and throw it in the oven, browning the top and getting it nice and hot. If you’ve got a little of it left over by the time the pizza arrives, try putting it on top to give a slice an extra kick.

Besides all the gimmicky decorations and beyond the colorful drinks, more than the snarky attitude printed into the menu, maybe the most important thing is the food is good, especially the pizza. We got the Suzi’s supreme and it was the right decision. Mind you, this is a knife and fork ordeal with sausage, pepperoni, onions, black olives, green peppers, mushrooms and extra mozzarella on a chewy hand-tossed crust slathered in a tangy red sauce. This pizza is 100 percent American, much in the style of Domino’s or Pizza Hut, but much better. If Suzi’s supreme was a girl, she’d be sassy with great fashion sense, a flirt that loves to talk, and nobody would care that she’s carrying a few extra pounds.

For a cheap introduction to various drinks and appetizers, try to go there during one of their many happy hours, when the true characters come out of the local woodwork and give authenticity to this “Poor Man’s Paradise.”