In South Minni, locals are still a little salty about South Philly

MINNEAPOLIS — At Matt’s Bar, a place that hasn’t changed in 50 years except for maybe the amount of grease buildup bulging from the joints of the rooftop vent, the South Minni locals are struggling.

Sure, they’ll pause and tell you about their famous Jucy (no “i”) Lucy, how the orange American cheese becomes molten and oozes out at the first bite, bubbly-like, how it commingles with the grease from the two (never frozen) patties that surround the piece of folded cheese, so that by the time you bite into the medium-well finished product, the cheese is more whitish.

“Chemistry,” explains Chad Juettner, 42.

How at Matt’s, it’s better than the rival meat-and-cheese-on-a-roll-concoction joint down the street, though people argue about it, like a veritable Ninth and Passyunk, Minnesota style. You even get to choose with or without onions.

Go ahead, say “wit,” and see the blank stare.

But their struggle is not whether to choose Matt’s or 5-8 Club, home of the Juicy Lucy (with an “i”) — obviously the answer here is Matt’s; any argument ends when you point out the other place offers a blue cheese option, and come on, that’s like Swiss on a cheesesteak.

These locals are deflated, palpably so, by their Vikings’ trouncing in Philly, their fans famously manhandled by, as one put it, the “peacocking” of Eagles fans, their disappointment at not being able to root for the home team at the Super Bowl, and the humiliation of having to welcome their victor’s fans, warn them of the dangers of eating the Lucy too fast while the cheese is too hot, blah blah blah.

They’re sitting at a bar, drinking Grain Belts, trying to figure out which stage of grief they’re in.

Some are still nursing their wounds from South Philly. Others are tuning the whole thing out.

“I’m not going to watch the game, ” said Dell Hurt, 74, a lifelong Vikings fan (four Super Bowl appearances, no ring) standing in line for a Jucy at Matt’s. “To lose so badly, you know.”

Some are plowing their seasonal disappointment into insults. They can give it back, yes they can.

“We’re not mean,” Juettner said. “But if you ask us for directions, we’re going to give you accurate but suboptimal directions.”

Suboptimal this, pal. Is that all you got?

Juettner added that a local radio station had asked for evidence of anybody in Philly treating Minnesota fans with respect — and received none. “The data proves it,” he said. “The sample size is small and incredibly douchey,” he said, using a word more commonly found in Philadelphia fan entourages than Minnesota’s. But there you go. Not so nice, eh.

Camera icon JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Chad Juettner and Tammy Greenfield at Matt’s Bar in south Minneapolis.

This week at Joke Joint, a comedy club in Minneapolis, Kevin Farley (Chris’ brother) was urging on the locals, recalled David Maruska, another regular at Matt’s. “He said, ‘I hope there’s a Minnesota fan that kicks the s– out of an Eagles fan. I’d like to see that on national TV.’ ”

Some tried to understand the ringer they’d just been through. Eric Halverson, a native who now lives in Dallas, said he was maybe better prepared because one of his best friends is from Philly.

“I know how he is,” Halverson said. “They’re just like him, tough little Irish guy from Philly, still gets in fights.”

Juettner will watch, but between the now-hated Eagles and the always-hated Patriots, he’s at a loss.

“I’m rooting,” he said, “for the apocalypse.”

As a local Minneapolis institution made famous by visits from foodies and former President Barack Obama, Matt’s is seeing some brisk business this week at the humble corner of 35th Street and Cedar Avenue.

“South Minni is just a lot of neighborhood,” Matt’s general manager, Amy Feriancek, said by way of explanation.

Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe stopped in this week to order a Jucy Lucy to go. The media have ducked in and out. The usuals and once-in-a-whiles lined up Wednesday for a seat.

Camera icon Matt
Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe stopped in to Matt’s Bar to order a Jucy Lucy to go.

But something is missing.

At one end of the bar Wednesday night sat Connor Joyce, 23, of Downingtown, an Eagles fan who’s working for the NFL this week. He believes Vikings fans have not been able to pivot out of their shock at their Minnesota miracle being cut down in its prime in the wilds of South Philly.

“The energy’s been drained after the city was so ready to be here,” Joyce said. “It’s almost like they don’t care. The whole atmosphere has been totally drained.”

Outside, Ludy Webster was keeping his wife, Libia, company as she sold Matt’s merch until it started snowing. “It’s pretty much like an assault, isn’t it?” he said, referring to what happened to Vikings fans, not the team.

Brooks Bailey, 60, a regular at Matt’s for decades, said, “I’d prefer to stick a fork in my eye” than root for the Eagles. He said other things, too, none of them printable, none of them nice at all.

He’d rather tell the legend of Matt’s, how the sign guy forgot the “i” in juicy, so they went with it, and claimed only a Jucy Lucy without an “i” is the true deal. How another guy took off with one of the three metal geese on the wall, and the bartender knew immediately who it was and went back and said, “Give me my goose back,” and he did. How the little metal “In memory of Jimmy Gunderson” actually predates Matt’s to when the bar was “Nib’s,” before 1954.

What was Nib’s like?

“Just like this,” says Pete Schmit, who’s cooking the Lucys, 7½ minutes a side, until the poker produces a glimpse of cheese, each one the same, plus or minus onions, then wrapped in waxed paper, not to be eaten too fast, take a small bite, watch out for the molten ooze.

“Exactly the same.”