[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. Pizza Lucé opened its Duluth location in 2001 and quickly caught the attention of the Sultan of Sot, who penned his review for the Jan. 9, 2002 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. The restaurant has undergone several renovations in the past two decades, so we note here that the U-shaped semi-unisex restroom is no longer as it was. Also, the early morning openings are no longer a thing.]
As the old fashioned Duluth rum dog, I want to hate Pizza Lucé. When a Twin Cites business expands to Duluth and moves into a nice, clean new building, I pretty much go into automatic hate mode. But not this time. Pizza Lucé is a friend of the alcohol class.
First of all, there’s a decent happy hour seven days a week. Plus there’s the extended hours – you can go there and get drunk at 7am (they actually have a cocktail list in the morning. for those who want to do just that), you can listen to live music in the evenings or you can go there for some booze after the bar closes.
They might be trying to be all hip and trendy on the surface, and maybe it flies in Minneapolis, but in Twin Ports, we all know that “plugged in and plugged in” equates to “torn and tottering.” Tell me this – who else but the drunkard would order a pizza with garlic mashed potatoes? Yes, I went to Pizza Lucé, and I’m ashamed to say that I found a reason to come back. Many times.
So I walk into Duluth Technology Village – and oh, how I like to write these words – from the First Street parking ramp, and I’m amazed at how helpful all of these businessmen in suits are. They are all smiling and for some reason they keep asking, “Can I help you?” And “Help you find something?” And the simplest, “What are you looking for?” I assure them that I know exactly where I am going, which is more than I can say for them. I make my way to the Superior Street level, where they’ve placed a security guard to keep the thugs, bastards, alkies, and junkies out of this immaculate, silent building. I give him a little wave as I walk past him in Pizza Lucé.
Me, I like going to Lucé’s for the buzz of the day, like around noon when the place is packed with lunch break jobs. It just gives me hope that you will take a brief, disturbing rest from your endless and agonizing toil. I also love to see the look in your eyes as the waiter places a large cold drink in front of me as you try to stop thinking about your mortgage payment long enough to digest your linguine.
You want that drink, don’t you? But, oh, no, you have to go back to work. And here, colleagues surround you. If they saw you drinking during the day… shudder at the idea.
It all makes me want to laugh like crazy. Call me a sadist, but you made your bed, and so on. Besides, you know you’ll be back for happy hour anyway.
I ignore the extensive cocktail menu, a little too girly for me. However, I admit that sometimes I enjoy the Bloody Lucé, which looks like a Bloody Mary, except it tastes really good and you don’t feel like some idiot tried to make a salad. in my glass. The Bloody Lucé is quite tangy, made with Absolut Pepper Vodka, and the glass is edged with some sort of Cajun spice. The only plant accessory is a pickle, discreetly drowned in ice.
Today the waiter – a friendly guy with dreadlocks and a mild case of ADHD – places a Newcastle Brown Ale in front of me, which I chose not only because it looks like a beer that most types of ties. would covet, but because, for some strange reason, Newcastle tastes better when the sun is shining.
Not that the sun is shining a lot here. There are windows all around, but the light inside is quite subdued and the sun outside stays in place. This is another point I would like to make: a lot of thought has actually gone into the layout of the place, and it is tasteful and comfortable inside. I easily spend the whole afternoon here in total comfort. You, on the other hand, probably don’t even notice it when you cook your meal and go back to your screaming supervisor.
On entering the restroom I meet this woman and her boyfriend… wait, let me step back and explain something about the Pizza Lucé restroom. It is a semi-unisex toilet composed of a single U-shaped piece. Each arm of the U is designated as male or female, and the middle part is a common space where hand washing, adjustment of clothing and nasal inspection.
Anyway, I meet this woman and her boyfriend, who I noticed earlier, because they looked pretty cool and irresistible, and because they seemed to just be ordering drinks. They both come out of one of the stalls on the women’s side, looking a little crumpled, and the woman just starts talking to me.
“Not to be weird or anything,” she said, “but you might be tempted to fuck someone in one of those booths.
“There is a lot of echo,” explains the guy. “More than you think. “