The name said it all. "Hmm ... decky," commented Research Assistant Casey after we ascended a plethora of stairs and emerged two stories later, bypassing John's quiet first floor and rec-roomlike second level. The large wooden deck afforded a great view of downtown's northern edge as well as the Commerce Bank building to the east -- the windows of which reflected the setting sun, making the stark white building glow with peachy zeal.
Sadly, we missed the happy hour specials (50 cents off all drinks except premiums and extra premiums), which are offered only from 4 to 6 p.m. We ordered margaritas anyway, which owner Jimmy Monaco says are made from a secret recipe that tasted to us like sweet-and-sour mix. Our waitress -- the one with the preternaturally tanned stomach -- served them in small, thin plastic cups. "I didn't think you could get these cups off planes," Casey remarked. To make things even more disappointing, no one offered us any salt.
We went back the next week, and though we had to stick to beer for logistical driving purposes, we noticed that the Friday margs came in heavy plastic cups complete with salt-encrusted rims. On that night, the deck was packed with the just-off-work crowd, consisting of guys in khakis and crisp oxford shirts (mmm ... preptastic) as well as those who looked as if they should be on MTV's Fraternity or Sorority Life. "Downstairs is great; upstairs is lame," we overheard one Alton Brown look-alike say as he wove through the masses.
In the end, though, we decided that we preferred the sparse Thursday-night crowd. We were able not only to find chairs but also briefly hang out with a quartet of guys in their forties who were arm wrestling in the corner. "Oh, we're from Minnesota," said one of the guys. "Arm wrestling is a big thing in Bemidji."
"We're so fucking bored, we gotta play on each other," said "Jumpin'" Jeremy, who proudly sported a mullite.
They were in town for a weatherization conference. "We plug holes," said Bill, which elicited guffaws from the rest of the group. They discovered John's because it's near the convention center, but they'd also been patronizing another nearby bar, the name of which they couldn't remember.
"Oh, yeah, we enjoy the shit out of this bar," roared "Daredevil" Dale. "It's close to the hotel." A sentiment we could relate to. After getting an early start on drinking in the sun, we're definitely in favor of being within stumbling distance of a bed.