Anoka Perkins... Boothrotting No More!

The Perkins Family Restaurant in Anoka, MN, closed it’s doors permanently on October 20, 2019. 

Less than a year of what would have been it’s 50th birthday. The Anoka Perkins opened in 1971.


No time was wasted in removing the sign...

Neither did I. Not even two weeks after the last Mammoth Muffin was pulled from its glass case, I was here to photograph what Anoka Perkins left behind.


For starters, an empty parking lot! With no patrons. To not eat the food that is no longer served here.

Perkins has been an institution in my family. Many meals were eaten here, at the old Perkins on Coon Rapids Blvd. and out in Blaine, at the one demolished in 2007. For some reason, the chain simply resonated strong in my parents' appetites.


Perkins located near Orlando, Florida. Photographed during a family vacation. April, 1983.


This section of parking is reserved for Senior Citizens…


See!


Who could pick up that day’s paper on their way to morning coffee and acrimony.


Walkway to the entrance.

Really hadn’t changed much over the years, other than some rock being filled in.


After the State of Minnesota banned a legal activity on private property, us smokers were regulated to stand outside the doors to enjoy our nicotine.


As modeled elegantly by a waitress the good Doktor had a mad crush on, back in January, 2009. Cold of winter never stopped us from smoking! Other than my currently being smoked cigarette that was extinguished next to these other stragglers. Others stayed behind as a memorial to what once was.

And will no longer be…


As noted by this sign affixed to the glass door.

But let’s go back to the days of an open Perkins. 

And the endless cups of coffee enjoyed over the years by myself and others. 

It’s April 22, 2008, and I would really like a refill! 


I want my coffee now! Give it to me now! This instant! And Now!

My personal allegiance to Perkins was mainly the Coon Rapids Perkins. I did a bulk of my Perkins boothrotting at that location, where I also worked in 1991-92. As the 1990’s progressed, many of my friends chose the Anoka location for late night boothrotting. That scene was quite hopping those days. Unfortunately for me, I rarely got to partake. I was busy manning the graveyard shift at 99 Spillihp in Crapids.


Even 15 years later, I’m still tickled the subject of boothrotting was mentioned in several episodes of South Park.

In 2004, I decided to tackle the subject of boothrotting for an issue of Wasted Quarter.


For well over 2 years, I would go to restaurants late at night, drink tons of coffee, chain smoke cigarettes and write in my notebooks. Quickly growing to love doing this, the habit stopped only because Colorado also decided to make a legal activity illegal on private property.

Yes, I’m still angry about that.

That Wasted Quarter included a hand drawn diagram of my ideal boothrotting table setup:


Sugar and creamer packets, ashtray, coffee, water, cell phone, cigarettes and a napkin stick, all surrounding my notepad and notebook. (Still unhappy with how that water glass drawing turned out…) Once everything is properly arranged, I’m all ready for an evening of extra caffeinated writing fun.

In the middle of my “research” phase of writing for that issue, I moved from Crapids, back to Englewood, Colorado. So all of the writing was done between two states.


Most of the Crapids boothrotting stories were written inside the Riverdale IHOP.


And most of the rest were written inside the Englewood, Colorado, Denny’s. 

The following is an excerpt from Wasted Quarter issue 59. Written at Denny's in Englewood, Colorado, specifically about the Perkins in Anoka, Minnesota:

Greenhaven

My car break was extended too long, now I can’t concentrate. I’ll just fire out topics at random as they pop into my head. In the mid 1990's, the former Freelance Dan boothrotted for an extended period of time at Anoka Perkins. During those years (before moving to Colorado in 1996), I was working the overnight shift at 99 Spillihp. He would stop by on his way home, joining the hanging out fun times with all who had gathered. Crapids Perkins boothrotting died in the mid-nineties, when they no longer stayed open 24-7. Most boothrotters had moved to Anoka Perkins anyways. Dan wrote about boothrotting there in his zine: Tales From The Five Boroughs, back in 1997. It’s a good read if you have seen a copy. 

In August 1997, the good Doktor called to tell me that he looked into breaking the world record for boothrotting. He looked up the Guiness record for spending the longest amount of time in a 24 hour restaurant booth. Wish I could remember what the number he told me was... He said he was trying to line it up with Anoka Perkins, because the manager of Crapids was a "cunt". For reasons I can no longer remember, and since I wasn’t able to get a hold of him to ask, I cannot complete this story other than stating: the good Doktor does not hold the Guiness world record for boothrotting. Would have been really cool if he did. I could have interviewed him... 


Affixed to the men's room door of the Englewood, Colorado, Denny's. 

That restroom was really bad. though it sometimes had fun graffiti written on the stall walls. Years ago, someone had written "Eat Pussy" on the wall. I had a Sharpie on me, and added "Instead of Denny's" underneath.

Perkins was used rarely for boothrotting. By the mid-2000’s, they all but disappeared from Colorado. Denny's was close and 24 hours. The Crapids IHOP was also rather close to 99 Spillihp and my folk’s house, when I was living there.

The issue of Wasted Quarter written at these restaurants consisted mostly of eavesdropping on other tables conversations, and writing about them. You can overhear some really hilarious stuff while listening to other people talk while, waiting for food and eating!


Looking inside one of the few uncovered windows of Anoka Perkins, I saw the tables and chairs had already been removed. After Perkins closes a restaurant, these table parts are shipped to older Perkins to replace worn tables. I just thought it was funny that after not even two weeks, the tables and chairs were all gone.

In February, 1995, Military Mike was coming through Coon Rapids. On leave after finishing a deployment to Haiti, I hadn't seen him since shortly after we graduated high school, a year and a half earlier. It was late at night and Anoka Perkins was his go-to destination. We ate pancakes and talked about how life had gone in the near year and a half since we’d last seen each other. The booth we sat in, was directly inside this window.


While sitting there, he scribbled this out on a napkin. It was left behind on the table when we were done. He didn’t want it, so I grabbed it as we left. Thinking it may be used in something I wrote someday. Well, 25 years later, here’s that napkin!


And here's another excerpt from Wasted Quarter issue 59:

Mid-Cup Refills

The biggest difference in my boothrotting options once moving to Denver boils down to their respective coffee policies. IHOP gives you your own personal table pot, while Denny’s makes you wait for a server to come and re-fill your cup. In Minnesota, I chose IHOP for this reason, Denny’s wasn’t that much further away. Out here, only Denny’s is open 24 hours. Rarely does my boothrotting even start before 11pm, so I’m completely out of choices. Well, there is Waffle House... Like I said, with Denny’s you only get more coffee at the whim of your server. Or whoever else happens to see that your cup is nearing the quarter-full level. Dwindling rapidly below that level for the last twenty minutes, because they just got set up with three parties of five or more, and are understaffed for the late rush. 

Now, I’m one of those people that enjoys my coffee with one sugar and one creamer packet, per full cup. The perfect balance of the three can usually be enjoyed only for the first cup of the night. Since your cup is rarely bone dry when it gets filled to the top again. Here is your dilemma; You now have more coffee in your cup that your previously mixed formula. Throwing off what your optimal creamer, sugar, coffee ratio would allow. Do you then add another packet of creamer and sugar? Do you leave it as is? Or do you go with a partial creamer/sugar serving to counteract the additional coffee? In times like this, I use the overall liquid brownness scale as my guide. I most prefer a dark shade of coffee khaki, but will err on the side of a brighter drink. Additionally, even though I mentioned using half portions of the coffee condiments, this is a practice that I never follow. If you cannot commit to a full creamer and sugar, than your coffee will be good enough without anything additional. Halfing Half and Half does not make you look more sophisticated, it’s just petty. Either way, your second, third, forth (and so on...) cups will never taste quite the same as your first. 

This is not to say that I cannot enjoy my coffee black. I can and do. But given the choice, I prefer being an un-pure coffee devotee. Judging from my pile of empty packets at the end of the night, I average around 12 cups per three hour boothrotting evening. Struggling to maintain the balance all night.


Me, reading the Star Tribune while boothrotting at Anoka Perkins. April, 2008.

Oh hell, another excerpt from Wasted Quarter issue 59:

Establishing Regularhood

It takes a few boothrotting sessions before you can be firmly established as a regular. Number one. A minimum of 90% of the front staff should recognize you upon entering. Greeting is of course depended on your past boothrotting relationship with them, plus any prejudices they may carry against your outward appearance and boothrotting habits. When you are recognized upon entry, it usually gets you better treatment. For most of the last eight months, I’ve been boothrotting at Denny’s at least two nights of my three day weekend. Most of the weekend staff now knows my routine. Show up anywhere from 11pm to 2am, and write, smoke and suck down coffee for about three hours. Longer if I have lots I want to write about. Now I’m treated very well by the staff, and sometimes they give me interesting stories about what’s been going on there. Hell, I’ve even gotten to the point where I’m no longer told that they can’t believe how small I write...

Starting to boothrot at the Englewood Denny’s, I had an advantage going in. Knowing Walt, via Bob, from back in the Pizza Hut delivery days. Took me a bit longer at the Maple Rapids IHOP in Minnesota. No one knew who I was when I started frequenting, plus their staff was always changing. I typically got the same waitress no more than a week tops. Then it would be all new people -including managers- when I came in next. It takes time to establish a rapport with those who provide the coffee. From the moment you walk in, do they know you well enough to recognize you have zero need for a menu? The likelihood of you actually placing an order for something besides coffee is scarcely above your need for the menu itself. Besides, if you did actually want to buy food, you’ve memorized the damn thing back to front months ago. 

The good servers know to keep the coffee flowing, and that you don't need anything other than that. I generally wont ask for much and you don't have to don the suggestive selling helmet for me. I’m very low maintenance as far as restaurant customers go. Just keep my cup filled. That’s all I ask. Do this and my $1.50 coffee will be paid for with a $5 that I require no change for. Even more if I like you. Once you’re known as an okay guy to let linger, you will undoubtedly get pretty good service, and sometimes they will come over and tell you good stories or alert you to situations of interest. I always appreciate it when Walt will sit hot chicks in front of me. Sometimes their shitty boyfriends are more fun to watch though.


At some point this Perkins underwent major renovations to the exterior. Back in the 1970's and early 80's, they had one large arched window in the entryway, with crossing wood frames insite. This was one of their signature architectural features. Used to take up a lot more space than this off-centered window that replaced it, probably close to 35 years ago.


Gone was the brown and yellow San Diego Padres color scheme. Replaced by the green and khaki, Celtic professional look. Glimpses of the old roof can be seen hiding behind the newer rockpile accents. Unfortunately, whoever was the last to exit, also closed all of the interior blinds. I was hoping to catch glimpses inside from all angles. But this wasn't possible.


Looking down the highway 10 frontage road, past the ex-Pizza Hut and Taco Bell next door.


“Hey Honkass, pretend you’re taking my picture, but get the chick behind me in it…”


During a January 2009 visit to Minnesota, I found myself hanging out at the Anoka Perkins several late nights. Since I was staying at the folks house while in town, I'd set up boothrotting times with friends so we could hang out on neutral ground. At the time, Anoka Perkins had a statue of Frosty the Snowman, skiing on the bakery case. I was told to take a picture of it. So I did.


Frosty’s got some ass on him!

Towards the restrooms that were behind the bakery case, stood a rack of small vending machines and a skill crane. I’ve always been a sucker for the foil and vinyl stickers that come out of those for 50 cents each. The come packaged in a thin cardboard folder. If I see one of these when I'm at a store or whatever, and I have quarters on me, I'll buy a sticker. If it's pleasingly ironic enough, it'll find a home on my notebook.


One half of the cardboard sticker holding folder was turned into a mouth cut-out mask that John played with for most of the night. Wish I remembered what sticker it was. I know I was disappointed by it, so it never made the notebook. I could always check the transcripts, but I've got deadlines!

The other half of the folder had the phrase “Ya-Boon!” written on it. That was one of many Negativland references he and I would pound into the ground, since I played them for him about 7 years earlier. Much to the dismay of my ex-girlfriend, and anyone else that happened to be around us that week we were in town.


Ya-Boon is how Negativland member David “The Weatherman” Wills pronounces the brand of coffee called Yuban, on the album: The Weatherman’s Dumb Stupid Come Out Line. John and I have referenced the shit out of that album over the last 20 years...

After all those years of making hundreds of various random Negativland and Weatherman references to anyone around us, as often as we could, the Good Doktor and I were honored with personalized thank you notes, directly from Negativland. Autographed by the Weatherman himself!


Not really… 

These certificates were bonus items for pre-ordering their new album.

But I’d rather look at them under the first scenario I presented.


Still, this ranks VERY high on my list of autographs I have in my collection.

I used to drink Yuban coffee while living in Denver. It was pretty good.

(Unless someone put some of that Musk Oil in it…)


The Atrium windows on the east side of the building are also a newer addition to the Anoka Perkins (late 1980's?). The angled roof used to hang down three sides of the building, but was cut off for the expansion of the seating area during renovations.


That new seating area of the restaurant was extended about 10 feet, to allow for more customer tables. But every time I ate at the Anoka Perkins, this seating area was closed off due to lack of customers. These renovations were part of a chain wide updating of their restaurants, about 30-some years ago.

Under new ownership, Perkins wanted to escape their "Cake and Steak" reputation they had as a chain, since their beginning as Perkins Pancake Houses. I guess IHOP had cornered the market on overpriced pancakes. So instead of promoting their breakfast menu, the identity was changed to Perkins Restaurant and Bakery.


Cases of muffins and pies replaced the traditional counter top seating. Views into the kitchen and pantry areas now blocked by walls. Floor space once set aside for the Salad Bar and High Chairs was simply made into larger booths. This remodel took place chain wide. Which at the time, numbered around 500 restaurants in 32 states.

Wonder if those framed P logos were left behind when the restaurant closed?


In January 2009, the Doktor and myself were again at Anoka Perkins, in the middle of the night with a couple of other people. He and I discovered the vending machines by the restrooms had capsules of miniature fake rubber food available for 25 cents each. Once going through all the quarters in our pockets, we then hit up everyone at the table with us. Then asking the waitress to exchange our dollar bills for more quarters, to buy more capsules of miniature fake rubber food!

Some of them are still around my office today. I found Gracie kicking one of them across the carpet the other night.

It was a hot dog!


While I'm not sure the amount of money we spent on these stupid things...

It was more than we spent on actual Perkins food that night!


Looking out over the vast and empty Anoka Perkins parking lot.

I'm betting those light poles date back to the restaurant's original construction in 1971.


The dumpster house in the far northwest corner of the lot.

A small part of the Greenhaven Golf Course can be seen across the street.


On a westbound Highway 10 drive in September, 2012, I snapped this picture of Anoka Perkins. On the right side of the photo, the new HealthPartners Riverway Urgent Care building is under construction.


No loitering?

Oh sign, you so miss the point of this place!


Across the lot is the former Pizza Hut, which is now Royale Crown Construction. 

Which still looks like a Pizza Hut. Albeit a blue one...


It was a Pizza Hut still in July of 1998, when this picture was taken. I had breakfast with some friends on my way back to Denver. We took this picture intentionally to include the Hut, since I was working for the one in Englewood, Colorado, at the time.

Well, the term "work" doesn't really apply to the super fun party that giving rides to pizza was at that location...


Where I would partake in such wacky antics as stealing the corporate memo on preventing employee theft!


The Anoka Perkins sign with highway 10 behind it. July, 1998.


The north side of the seating area of Anoka Perkins, November 2, 2019. 

Behind those windows used to be the smoking section, before that was outlawed. Coincidentally, that section was typically the most hopping among late night boothrotters. When mixed with the rowdiness of the nightly post bar close rush, anything could happen! I worked 5pm to 3am at the Coon Rapids Perkins in 1991 and 92, midnight to 2am was always entertaining!

April 26, 2008. I was once again in town, on vacation from Denver with my ex-girlfriend. We had been out with a couple of her friends, then met up with a couple mine. After they did some drinking the the Old Chicago by Northtown (now a golfing place), we finished the night with some extended boothrotting at the Anoka Perkins.


The good Doktor and I. Once the clock struck midnight, it was the good Doktor's birfday. I'm leaning on my notebook, which would soon come into play. In front of the notebook, you can see a small stick microphone, which was connected to a tape recorder. From April, 2000 to January, 2011, I was periodically recording conversations when I was around friends. This night at Anoka Perkins provided some interesting material.


The purpose of these tapes was to provide base material for a project I called: "The Big Audio Mess." Finding inspiration from audio collage pioneers, Negativland, I wanted to create my own audio collages. Tracks based on recorded conversations, chopped apart and remixed with samples of music, television, video games and whatever other media deemed appropriate. Then shuffled around in a confusing edit. I had grand ideas for this idea.

Vacations were a great opportunity to collect new material, then edit it down to what I wanted to use once I returned home. I'd break the 45 minute tapes down to small minute or so long pieces, then make note of possible samples to pull from those pieces.


This page (dated May 3, 2010) includes many phrases and sentences I wanted to use in the audio collage that I wanted to make from tonight. Basically condensing 2+ hours of material into less than five minutes. The subject of this particular track? The sounds of Anoka Perkins, combined with passive aggressive zaniness from Crazy Carl, blended into stories of strange medical issues told while the good Doktor and I annoy everyone with Negativland quotes and coerce Shannon Whatshername into drawing pictures. 

Alas, The Big Audio Mess never came to fruition. Which is a shame, because the mass public may have enjoyed listening to audio collages based up the stories I recorded over a decade plus’ worth of time. Guess no one will ever hear my unreleased greatest hits, such as: We Just Puked Your Phone!, Carl’s Jug Band, The Longest Ambush Ever, A Small Jazz Accident, Don’t Eat the Art Meat or I Just Want to be a Professional Weirdo.

Society’s loss…


But here's Shannon Whatshername's cute puppy drawing, with a completely inappropriate caption!


A horror show of a bunny, with an even more offensive caption!


You should have seen it coming Shannon...

Wasted Quarter warned you the type of minds you were dealing with, just a few hours prior!


Because it's all hearts and cubes down at the abortion clinic!


Despite the Big Audio Mess completely falling apart, one nugget of creative gold came from this night at the Anoka Perkins. Crazy Carl ordered the Tremendous Twelve breakfast, but said it in Perkins server lingo. "I'll have the T-12 Scrambled." he told the waitress. She knew exactly what that was about. We were all puzzled. Someone else at the table made a Terminator joke.

So guess what pops into my head...


Less than a year later, the T-12 Scrambled shows up in a Bob the Duck Cartoon in Wasted Quarter issue 66.


Less than tremendous 12 years later, Anoka Perkins is permanently closed.

I wrapped up my photo tour around back. The roof access ladder and loading area. From my days at the Crapids Perkins, I remember how gross the room behind this door could be. It was where the trash was stored before getting dragged to the dumpster. This would include spoiled food and lots of grease. And let your imagination run wild...


Stop! Because it's just too disgusting to look at (or smell)!


So they can be ignored by the front-end help, who are all too busy hiding in back on their cell phones to help anyone. At least that seemed to be the complaint most prevalent on Yelp, according to reviews from the last several years.


Heheheheheh... That's the ashtray that used to sit by the front door. Apparently it didn't hold enough butts as it had been moved to just outside the back door. I didn't realize that ashtray out front was so much bigger until I found the old one. Maybe this was the employee ashtray?


And there's the dumpster house again. With a used grease dumpster next door.

You guys have been good in keeping up with me, so here's yet another excerpt from Wasted Quarter issue 59:

The Napkin Stick

A longtime staple of restaurants, from the upscale all the way down to the family variety. Place knife, fork (or two, depending on how upscale the joint is) and spoon in a tightly rolled napkin. This could be of the paper or cloth variety. But if your chosen restaurant has cloth napkins, get the hell out of there. You are not allowed to boothrot in those types of places! A properly rolled napkin stick will not fall apart when picked up, some are held together with a paper strip, but those are pointless if you know how to roll... Silverware that is. Once you have carefully extracted the coffee stirring spoon, the closed and paper padded end of the Napkin Stick is a great tool for cleaning up small scale water and coffee drips. For larger ones you would still want to unwrap and use the full napkin. However if you are lucky enough to be seated at a table with multiple Napkin Sticks, you can keep one unwrapped and one in stick form for liquid spill emergencies. Anything to prevent your valued notebook from getting wet and ink smeary.

Part of every server’s post shift side work is to roll a set number of these. Usually around 100 Napkin Sticks in addition to the expected cleaning and stocking. Back in my Perkins employment days, I rolled many of these both after and during my shift. Most of the nights I was bussing tables from 5pm-3am, a few of the servers and I would sit back in a booth after our shifts, rolling three or four full tubs of Napkin Sticks, while drinking coffee, and bullshitting about the night. In appreciation for my help, I used to get some tips from them for helping. A lot of those nights, Kim would give me $10 to do all her silverware so she could go home or out with some guy. Rolling all of the silverware sets we had in the store was expected of the 3am crew every night. 

Breakfast rush starts at 6am, and there wasn’t time at that point to get everything together. Since I was never tired at that time of night, I’d often hang out until just before six in the morning, leaving before the managers would come in for the day. Doing whatever was needed for the store, hanging out with my co-workers and bouncing around the typical crew of overnight boothrotters that loitered. 

(And there was a lot back then...) 


On July 5th, 2018, I made my last appearance inside Anoka Perkins. I had moved back to Crapids a month earlier, and received a text from Danno that night. He'd just finished up hosting a bar trivia game in the area, and wanted to meet up at the old haunt for coffee and a Mammoth Muffin. After some parking lot loitering, we went in and waited quite a while before someone brought us to our booth.


Perkins had shrunk the coffee pots! These new ones hold three cups at most. So after we filled our mugs once, there wasn't even enough coffee left in the pot for either he or I to get a second cup. Our waitress never returned either.

Kind of hard to boothrot on 1 1/2 cups of coffee apiece...


Goodbye Anoka Perkins. At least the back side of the building has the original style Perkins roof!


One can still imagine the original brown and yellow sign out front...

As the days of boothrotting become more and more a distant memory...

And the places we did such things disappear from the landscape...

It becomes apparent the vast importance of what would seem to be simply really stupid!


Places like these provide some of the best memories.

And diarrhea...


You took the Supreme Burger off the menu!

That is why your restaurant FAILED!!!

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