Off-campus boasts late-night dining

Some restaurants near the University satisfy cravings until the early morning.

Bryce Haugen

When Campus Pizza opened 16 years ago, “Perkins and pizza” were the only late-night food options available to University-area residents, manager Jim Rosvold said.

But since the 2003 Minnesota state law that extended bar times by an hour to 2 a.m., restaurants have sprouted up around Dinkytown and Stadium Village to meet the “drunk munchies” demand, said Rosvold, president of the Stadium Village Business Association.

“It just kind of slowly progressed over time,” he said. “We’re becoming more and more a 24-hour society.”

It’s not a trend unique to Minneapolis, said Tom Day, government affairs vice president for the Minnesota Restaurant Association. From Mankato to Duluth, university communities throughout the state boast late-night hangouts.

“The University community is a later crowd anyway,” said Day, whose group helped write the extended bar times law. “You throw in the 2 a.m. bar closing on top of that; you’re going to sustain a good amount of business after midnight.”

So far, even with several bars on the West Bank, few restaurants have extended their hours. Cedar-Riverside Business Association chairman Dan Prozinski said he’s not sure why.

But over the past few years, Pita Pit, Burrito Loco, Duffy’s Pizza and several others have joined the budding East Bank late-night market. Several stay open until 3 a.m. Many others close between 2 and 3 a.m.

Burger King, one of the original late-night restaurants on campus, is open 24-hours. And The Dinkytowner, which hosts a hip-hop night each Saturday, offers food until 4 a.m.

Julie Hasan, University alumna and co-owner of Manhattan Loft, a year-old restaurant on Washington Avenue Southeast, said the transformation of the neighborhoods began in the mid-1990s, when national chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King extended their hours. Her restaurant stays open until 2:30 a.m. Thursday night through Saturday night.

“McDonald’s is awesome,” shouted fifth-year University senior Steve Peterson on Saturday night at the restaurant. Peterson said he occasionally stops by the chain late at night when the food “actually tastes good.”

Items on the restaurant’s late-night menu cost more than during the day ” something a few patrons overlooked ” which 2003 University graduate Luke Haus said was “bush league.”

Around midnight, kitty-corner to McDonald’s at Erbert and Gerbert’s in Dinkytown, a few customers munched on sandwiches while Alicia Fabian, an English senior, worked the till.

Rosvold, of Campus Pizza, said that in the early ’90s he experimented with longer hours but had difficulty attracting employees. Fabian, who read a play for class during her downtime Saturday, said she can balance her late hours with school.

Several restaurants around campus offer food and a full bar, including Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown. Saturday night, some of the evening’s 200 patrons, who braved single-digit temperatures ” and got in the door by 11 p.m. ” ate well into the morning, intermittently dancing to salsa.

Manager Lynn Nyman said the crowd at the bar-restaurant differs from the Steak Knife and Blarney because they don’t offer drink specials.

“We’re not interested in people getting blitzed,” she said.

Blarney stops serving food at midnight, but Steak Knife in Dinkytown, which offers live music most nights, keeps the grills flared until its 3 a.m. close.

Dinkytown has transformed from a center of daytime activity to one bustling with nightlife, said Skott Johnson, owner of Autographics and president of the Dinkytown Business Association.

The gift shops and other retail options gradually faded away, leaving room for the restaurants and other services that now line the four-block neighborhood.

When Johnson studied at the University in the ’70s, there was only one real campus hangout ” The Valli, where Blarney stands today. Today’s students don’t have a problem with options, he said.

“It must be a good time to be open,” he said.

Rosvold said the biggest change in Stadium Village over the past decade is the emergence of chains.

“I think it’s kind of inevitable,” he said. “We like the small feel, but the chains have realized this is a viable area they want to enter. And they have.”