Nothing goes better with a cold beer than some hot food. And they have the heat in spades at The Parrot’s Cay in south Grand Forks. Nestled in next to the Valley Dairy on 36th Ave. S., the building is a bit off-putting on the outside.
But when you step inside out of the cold, you’re transported to the tropics, with bright colors, tacky decorations and battered wood booths. The Cay, as it’s affectionately known, qualifies as a dive bar, but it’s that dive-y-ness that gives it charm. There’s writing on all of the ceiling tiles and on the booths. It definitely has history.
You could sit and read all of the inscriptions if your dinner companion is lacking in the conversation department.
The service is friendly and great. Having people around who’ve been there forever helps that. And they treat you like you’re a regular even if you aren’t.
The Cay features 34 beers on tap and more bottles. You can also get wine and sake (surprisingly), but no mixed drinks or hard liquor so be aware of that if you want a rum and Coke.
But what a friend and I were more interested in was the food. When you eat at a bar, the bar for food is already set pretty low. It’s usual to find a crappy frozen pizza or some other sub par offering.
At Parrot’s Cay, however, the food is great. It’s the only place in town (to my knowledge) that has alligator and crawfish. You can get 10 “crawdads” served with melted butter for $10. The “Gator Pit Platter” comes with alligator legs, breaded nuggets and sausage for $11.99. Or if you’re feeling particularly peckish, get the “Parrot Boil,” with a pound of crawdads, a 1/2 pound of andouille sausage, 14 shrimp, new potatoes and your choice of side for $19.99.
Ask anyone what to get at The Cay and they will emphatically tell you about the wings, which are “the best damn hot wings in town,” according to the menu.
It being a Tuesday night, the po’ boys were half off. And all beers were $2.75. You can’t get much better than that. I’m a huge fan of Newcastle, and at Buffalo Wild Wings, I’d be paying $5 a pop for one. That can quickly add up.
There are quite a few specials and they’re all great. On Mondays, get a cheeseburger for only $.99 with a drink order. On Wednesday, an order of wings and a full pitcher of beer is $12. Same on Thursday.
So we sidled in and were quickly greeted and had our drink orders taken. We checked out the menu, but I had already checked it out online and knew I had to have a po’ boy. The traditional southern sandwich normally comes with shrimp, lettuce and tomato tucked inside fluffy bread. But you can basically put anything on it. I got the BBQ Pork version “dressed” with lettuce, tomato and pickles.
The sandwich was good, with the pork having a slight bit of kick. The bread was crunchy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside, as it should be. Accompanying it were “frips,” which are deep-fried potato chips that were alright, but pretty salty. And all of the dishes come on sturdy paper plates. Have I mentioned it’s a dive? For some reason I like the place even more because of it.
My friend got the wings with “shark sauce,” which was a different take on barbecue sauce, with a hit of (I think) cumin. The wings were perfectly fried, with a bit of crunchy exterior and wonderfully tender meat on the inside. The Cay has a heat scale from 3 to 15. These wings were a 5 which provided for just a bit of heat.
We also ordered a side of “pot of gold,” which is a heaping portion of deep-fried cheese curds. If I were following a rainbow hoping for actual gold at the end, I wouldn’t be too disappointed to find these curds in its place. They were good.
By the time we had nearly finished, I was stuffed.
You can also get a variety of burgers, sandwiches, pastas and more. There’s enough to explore on the menu for years.
While some might be put off by the look of the place, I couldn’t love it more. I just want to hang out there every day. And they have some of the best bar food I’ve ever encountered. Stop in and try some wings if you haven’t already.
What’s your favorite thing at The Cay? Or is there another place you go for good bar food?