I have many fond memories of the Block E Applebee’s, but not for the reasons you’d probably expect — you know, like the food being decent.
Hanging there after attending Timberwolves games at the nearby Target Center was always a trip. The employee turnover was incredible — it seemed like there was a completely new staff almost every time — so you never knew what sort of service you’d get, but chances were it would be entertainingly terrible.
See also: Timberwolves Drafts: Top Five Depressing Moments
On one occasion, a server, perhaps overwhelmed by a post-Timberwolves game rush, could be seen crying as she punched order information into a kiosk. I’d often want to do the same when served ‘Bees’s trademark fossilized boneless wings or still-half-frozen mozzarella sticks.
Another time, we witnessed a server who had been unaccountably MIA from our table kill time and avoid working by pretending to enter information at that same kiosk. More than once managers came to our table to apologize for what we had to endure for the sake of half-price apps and cheap domestic beer.
So why did we keep coming back? Perhaps the biggest reason was because the post-Wolves people-watching from ‘Bee’s “sidewalk patio” was amazing, as the joint (along with the skyway that led to the nearby Graves hotel) was a regular postgame destination for players, coaches, and referees.
The top of this post features a photo of me, my brother Chris, and our friend Brett at ‘Bee’s with Andre Miller, who was chillaxing at the bar after a game in seemingly complete anonymity.
On another occasion we ran into Kurt Rambis, then the Wolves’ coach, who was almost as much of a regular at the Block E ‘Bee’s as we were:
And here’s Chris and Brett with Shelden Williams and Bobby Brown (the NBA journeyman, not that Bobby Brown):
There were other encounters we unfortunately weren’t able to capture with photos. One time, a referee — I want to say it was Joey Crawford but I can’t remember for sure — said “choke on your beer” to me after I yelled “The fix is in!” while he walked past ‘Bee’s patio following a game where the Wolves were victimized by controversial calls. And a handful of times we watched Darko “manna from heaven” Milicic wander around Block E with his wife and young child on a quest for postgame sweets from Mrs. Field’s cookies or Cold Stone.
But the good times came to an abrupt end in March 2011 when ‘Bee’s closed as part of the gradual mercy killing of Block E. Since then, Wolves postgame hangs just haven’t been the same — you’re not going to run into the likes Flip Saunders at The Depot, nor will you be subjected to service that’s so bad it’s actually kinda masochistically enjoyable.
More than four years later, Block E is now Mayo Clinic Square:
Applebee’s, meanwhile, is in the midst of a brand tweak intended to make the place more appealing to people in my demographic, so perhaps someday my friends and I can say we were regulars there before it was cool.
Speaking of cool, a half-decade after our Block E encounter, 39-year-old Andre Miller is now a Timberwolf. Unfortunately, the Applebee’s that once brought us together has long since been swept into the dustbin of history, but maybe “The Professor” will take a liking to the fare at another nearby spot like O’Donovan’s or Kieran’s.
After all, it’s almost impossible for it not to be tastier than what we were used to during those Block E days.