Even before seeing the masked wrestler portraits adorning the walls of Bar Luchador, one would immediately recognize the Mexican street food joint as an oddity in Stadium Village. After all, it’s in a neighborhood of chain restaurants, Chinese food and cheap eats, not wrestling-themed bars.
“It’s lonely, dude,” co-owner Angelo Pennacchio said.
Despite Bar Luchador facing the expected troubles as the new kid on campus, the team behind it is no stranger to the area. Pennacchio worked for eight years at campus landmark Stub & Herb’s, where he met manager Regan Haffele and owner Josh Zavadil. They opened Bar Luchador as a three-way split early this August.
“We’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously,” Pennacchio said. “[We’re] just trying to be a little different.”
Pennacchio came from a dive bar background, but much of his staff came from institutions like Burch, Bar La Grassa and Butcher and the Boar. Together they take what
Pennacchio calls a “fine-dining approach to a dive bar.” For example, the veggie taco builds upon roasted cauliflower and pumpkin seeds, and the fried rice features grilled pineapple. There’s even horchata-spiced popcorn.
The house drinks are equally playful. Pennacchio makes horchata fresh every three days for the Rum-Horchata on the Rocks. On tap is the Bob Marley cocktail, featuring
steeped hibiscus flowers with peppercorns and ginger mixed with three kinds of rum.
“It’s kind of like between a Mai Tai and Jungle Juice,” Pennacchio said.
Pennacchio drew inspiration from the West coast, which is perhaps why there is nothing quite like Bar Luchador in Minneapolis.
“It’s not like we are Buffalo Wild Wings seeing ESPN on 70 TVs,” Pennacchio said. “At night, we put on ‘Ancient Aliens,’ and we laugh at how absurd they are for thinking the Egyptians were aliens.”
Clearly proud of his creation, Pennacchio bounces around tables asking people how they like the food. “How is the fish taco?” he asked a table. “Isn’t it awesome?”
However, Pennacchio recognizes that it is not for everyone.
“I just think that we are trying to fill another niche.” he said. “You know what I mean?”
Bar Luchador occupies the space of the late Campus Pizza, and on one of the Viking’s preseason games a party sat down expecting the comfort food of old and not the elevated Mexican street fare.
Pennacchio described the scene: “We are like, ‘Welcome to Bar Luchador. Sorry it is not Campus Pizza, but we think you will like it.’ They stayed, racked up a pretty high bill, wrote a Yelp review and were like, ‘This place rules.’ ”
In fact, for most of those who visit, the response has been positive. Since opening, the bar and restaurant has racked up numerous five star reviews on Yelp and Facebook.
In the two months spent getting the restaurant up and running, Pennacchio worked 14 to 17 hours every day of the week. On his first night off, he went to see RAW at the Target Center.
“I am a not-so-secret 32-year-old wrestling fan,” Pennacchio said, grinning.