Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Home, Home on the Range: Where the Beer and the Pizzas Flow

Urban cowpokes will soon have another place to rest their boots soon enough. Cowboy Slim's, the new cowboy-themed restaurant set to open soon in the former Campiello space (1320 W. Lake), is designed to be a "saloon" kind of place, complete with very manly, cowboy grub like steaks, sloppy joes, and fire-oven pizzas - because no self-respecting urban cowboy would hit the range without his very own pizza oven.

I'm a cowboy who never saw a cow
Never roped a steer 'cause I don't know how
And I sure ain't fixin' to start in now*

According to The After Midnight Group, the company behind Cowboy Slim's, the saloon's target demographic is 25 and older and includes families. I have no doubt that the people over at The After Midnight Group know what they're doing - their other venues include Minneapolis establishments such as The Cabooze, Sally's Salon & Eatery, and The Joint Bar. It's just that the concept sounds, well, a little tame. Uptown cowboy saloons should come in two varieties: authentic or campy. A place where the patrons wear real boots or spangled cowboy hats. Or, better yet, both. Instead, I'm envisioning a sanitized, Disney-style "saloon" lacking the edge of the authentic and the entertainment value of the kitsch.

I'm thrilled that there is a company willing to invest in putting in a new business at the Campiello location. The last thing Uptown needs is an empty storefront or building. It does bother me, though, that Cowboy Slim's is nearly identical to its planned sister (brother? pardner?) saloon, Cowboy Jack's, scheduled to open soon in a former T.G.I. Friday's space in Plymouth. True, there are supposedly some differences - suburban cowboys get to eat pizza - but there's something disconcerting about the idea of a themed "saloon" that works equally well in Plymouth as it does in Uptown.

I know all the songs that the cowboys know
'bout the big corral where the dogies go
'cause I learned them on the rad-ee-oh*
I wish Cowboy Slim's good luck. I just hope that their cowboy theme is not yet another mass-produced, suburban-style theme restaurant shoehorned into a neighborhood that values the unique. Time will tell. In the meantime, yippie ki-yay and happy trails and all that. Uptowners, go dust off those hats and go get some onion rings.
(*These lyrics, for you non-cowboy or non-cowboy-wannabe types, are from the song I'm an Old Cowhand From the Rio Grande.)

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