Will Benedetto is not from around here.
“Everyone is an alien somewhere. We are from all over the place. So when we set out to create this place, we asked ourselves – how do you make an alien feel comfortable?”
Fool Me Once, a new bar going into 3006 Lyndale Ave S, isn’t like anything that exists in the LynLake corridor, which continues to look like the most thriving part of the greater Uptown area. The neon backlit bar, which is set to a 90 minute timer that simulates an entire day in the life of a space cowboy (read that again), makes that clear upon entry. In a city that still hasn’t recovered all of the late night options that we had before the pandemic, the LynLake area is becoming a positive outlier, with weekend options including Up-Down, Iron Door, the Uptown VFW, and now Fool Me Once open until 2 a.m. and Wrecktangle Pizza and Iconos Gastro Cantina until 1 a.m.
“When we were working on the concept, we thought - what if David Lynch directed an Orville Peck music video?” Benedetto said, on a recent afternoon in-between meetings about lighting, glasses, permits, the menu, and a whole lot more. “We really love Orville Peck. Bringing country music back to where it needs to be. He’s telling real human love stories, and he’s this country music singer from South Africa. How cool is that?”
The bar came together after its predecessor, Sidechick, closed. When that happened, their neighbor, Up-Down Arcade, wanted to make sure the next concept would stick. Enter Benedetto, who has designed 31 different bars across the country before this one, and his team. His partner, Andrew Cook, plays the drums for the country pop band Dan + Shay. They previously worked together at The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club in Nashville. They played off some existing elements in the existing bar that hinted at a cowboy theme, then made it their own.
Benedetto, a science fiction writer in his downtime, and Cook really worked hard to create a one-of-a-kind space. The light-up “mural” behind the bar that was custom-designed for the space is the show-stopper. “We wanted to do a big light installation – and we really wanted it to tell a story,” Benedetto said.
Their aim was to add something to the area that didn’t already exist. Being positioned between two heavily-trafficked establishments in Up-Down and Wrecktangle Pizza, and across the street from Iron Door Pub, offered them the chance to try to fill in a gap that wasn’t already being served. That was the impetus behind their concept, which they call “a dive bar meets a cantina.”
“There is one beer on tap, and it's Hamms,” Benedetto said. “The cornerstone of our kitchen is our smash burger. We tried to play with the two pillars - dive bar classics, and cantina food. Cantina felt good because it let us run a little wild with the menu.” In addition to the Hamms, they’ll also offer taps of a seltzer and three cocktails. One of their signature drinks will be called a Yes Indeed, and will pair Indeed’s lemon sea salt lager with a grapefruit ice spear.
Benedetto adds that there’s a tendency for some dive bars to come off as unapproachable. He wanted to be sure to avoid that.”We’re not dirty, crass, mean, or exclusive. It’s all very intentional,” Benedetto said.
He moved to the city to open the bar last December. Winter was a bit of a surprise, because, well, how could it not be when the freezing temperatures stretch deep into April like they did this year. Originally, he said the idea of moving to Minneapolis isn’t something he would’ve even considered, but once he arrived, he came to appreciate the city and its inclusive politics.
“Minneapolis is special. The welcoming laws here bring people together. This is the first place I’ve owned, and I wanted to open it in a place like that. There are rainbows all over the bar for a reason,” Benedetto said.
One thing he didn’t appreciate about the city was how difficult they made it on opening up a new establishment. While he has lots of compliments for the inspector that he worked with, the city’s bureaucracy stood out in a negative way.
“When it comes to all of the liberal nature of this city, I’m all for it. But I think this city has bigger problems than people like me getting liquor licenses. If we want to have a more diverse set of people opening things like this, we need to lower the barriers to entry. I had access to capital that most people don’t have. We had to pay an extra five months of rent on this place that didn’t have to happen,” Benedetto said. The city even called up dive bars he worked at in the East Village in the mid-2010s to check on his background.
While he’s spent more time here waiting for them to open than he intended, Benedetto has love for his newly adopted home, which is clearly informed by their LynLake location.
“Minneapolis has changed my definition of what an American city is. A few years ago I would’ve said there are only two American cities, New York and Chicago. An American city has this music of change and a desire to improve itself. It has a walkability component that is all about moving from one place to another. Minneapolis has a gridlike, amorphic feel that gives you a totally different feel depending on which direction you walk. There are specific stores to fix shoes and places like Bill’s Imported Foods to buy the best grape leaves. It takes a certain level of grit to allow these things to happen.”
Fool Me Once will open their doors for good on August 3. Their goal is to be open 3 p.m. - 1 a.m. on Monday - Thursday, 3 p.m. - 2 a.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. - 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. They hope to add on a weekend brunch service on Saturday and Sunday, though that may not be available right at the start. They are located at 3006 Lyndale Ave. S.