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5 Things to Know About Fool Me Once, Lyn-Lake’s New ‘Cosmic Cantina’

"It is cool to have a shame-style food menu, where it's just like—it's 2 a.m., what's the sluttiest way we can make fries?"

12:39 PM CDT on July 17, 2023

Welcome back to "Five Things," Racket’s recurring (though, for the last year, somewhat dormant) rundown of new, new-to-us, or otherwise notable Twin Cities restaurants.

Today we're taking you inside Fool Me Once, the so-called "cosmic cantina" that's just about ready to open in the old Side Chick/Blue Door Pub/Country Bar building in Lyn-Lake. Fool Me Once comes from the trio of Will Benedetto (an industry veteran who's consulted on more than 30 bar openings), Andrew Cook (who co-owns The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club and Elegy Coffee in Nashville and plays drums for country duo Dan + Shay), and Josh Ivy (who co-owns the arcade bar chain Up-Down).

Sandwiched between Caffrey's and Wrecktangle, Fool Me Once's location is fitting—it's a mashup of old and new Minneapolis, with murals of cowboys and outer space, clever cocktails, fun food, and a come-as-you-are atmosphere. We stopped by last week ahead of Fool Me Once's August 4 opening to talk with Benedetto about this wholly original new late-night joint.

1. It's a little bit country (bar)...

You remember The Country Bar, don't ya pardner? Well, though the popular dive that occupied 3006 Lyndale Ave. S. rode off into the sunset years ago, flourishes from its heyday remain. Horse heads adorn the brass rail along the bar where you kick up your boots, there's still a spur on the door of the bathroom—and, when Benedetto tore out the "awful fake tin" ceiling, he found that even the cowboy-in-the-mountains mural remained. And they're keeping it all.

"We had the copper bar top restored—that bar top was intended to go into Country Bar but never actually did," Benedetto says. Even the antler chandeliers are making a comeback.

2. ...and a little bit rock and roll.

Fool Me Once isn't just Country Bar 2.0, it's more like... Country Bar if it did peyote on Mars. As Benedetto, a compulsive reader and sci fi writer, told Southwest Voices last week, the concept here is, "What if David Lynch directed an Orville Peck video?"

So, you know, yes the antler chandeliers are back, but they're sporting red light bulbs this time around. There's a lot of neon. And the pièce de résistance here is the trippy back bar—a light-up mural made of of independently controlled CNC cut pieces that takes you through the day on an alien planet with changes in color and light. You'll probably have to see it to get it? But trust us: It's very cool.

3. There's only one beer on tap: Hamm's.

Fool Me Once has five taps, but only one draft beer—and it's the beer refreshing, the one that comes from the land of sky blue waters. It's a practical decision, Benedetto says: draft beer just doesn't sell like it used to. (Also, Hamm's rules.)

Three of the other four taplines will be occupied by Fool Me Once's batch cocktails, including a beer cocktail flavored with a piece of ice made from grapefruit juice, which Benedetto says is "completely refreshing and delicious." They'll also have one seltzer on tap, and don't worry—there's plenty of other beer in bottles and cans, along with THC drinks.

4. Get ready for a "shame-style food menu."

Benedetto says the name "Fool Me Once" just kind of came out of his business partner Andrew Cook's mouth as they were planning, and it stuck. "Part of the reason we like it so much is it just starts a story," he says. "When people say, 'Well, what does it mean?' it's like… I don't really want to tell you that. Because I'd like for you to figure out what it means to you."

Of course, the one thing everyone knows about "fool me once" is its postcedent, "shame on you." And while Benedetto doesn't want the vibe to skew negative, "It is cool to have a shame-style food menu, where it's just like—it's 2 a.m., what's the sluttiest way we can make fries?" he grins.

"On the food menu, the cornerstone is smash burgers, and otherwise we're kind of ripping off a Taco Bell menu," he continues. Also in the works, eventually: brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

5. It's a dive bar for aliens.

John Gardner, author of The Art of Fiction, once famously said there are only two kinds of stories in the world: “a person goes on an adventure” and “a stranger comes to town.” Benedetto chuckles that in much the same way, there are really only a few kinds of bars.

"So this is a dive bar," he says, "in that it's incredibly approachable." Fool Me Once's driving mantra is "everyone's an alien somewhere," and Benedetto says one question has informed their process: "If everyone's an alien somewhere, how do you make an alien comfortable?"

Fool Me Once is also not like a dive bar in a few key ways. For one, it's a kind and welcoming place; the neon rainbows everywhere aren't just a fun thematic piece, they're also a not-subtle indicator that this bar is for everyone. It's also a lot more stylized and intentional than your average dive—you'd have to be, to make something as high-concept as an intergalactic cowboy watering hole work.

As we chatted last week, for example, Benedetto and Fool Me Once's head bartender were scheming up the recipe for their "Fernet Bronco," a citrus-y, foam-topped Fernet and Coke cocktail. There's also the Cactus Juice, a vodka drink that uses gin as a modifier, involves pickle juice and citric and malic acid (and maybe aloe), and arrives in a cactus glass. In other words... it's not exactly the Schooner.

"But yeah," Benedetto quips, "we have one beer on tap, and it's Hamm's, and it's $3."

Fool Me Once
3006 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Opens August 4
Tentative Hours: Monday - Thursday: 3 p.m. - 1 a.m., Friday: 3 p.m. - 2 a.m., Saturday + Sunday: 10 a.m. - 2 a.m.

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