Weekly Top 5: Things We'll Miss About Paradise Park
Wow. The weekend we all seem to have been both dreading and anxiously awaiting...is finally upon us. It’s Friday, July 27th and Paradise Park will officially close its doors tomorrow, Saturday, July 28 (ok, well...Sunday in the very wee morning hours). It’s bizarre to think about, because in all of my 7 years working at Strategic Hospitality, Paradise Park has always been the downtown go-to for my SH colleagues and me - whether in my early years serving at Merchants or later in my time with the company, spent at our main office right next door. Paradise Park was always that one place (apart from Robert’s, of course) we risked venturing to. It’s where we were willing to share our late, boozy nights with tourists...and where we knew we would always be welcomed with literal open arms by Paradise’s General Manager Mike Dinwiddie. I was lucky enough to get a first-hand glance of Paradise Park behind-the-scenes when I decided I wanted to take a two-week adventure to Vietnam in the winter of 2016 and realized I needed a little extra cash to make it happen. Eight months before my trip, I worked at Paradise for one night every weekend as a way to save money...and then I continued to bartend there every weekend until just a few months ago. I didn’t take long for me to realize, from either a guest’s perspective or that of an employee, that Paradise Park is a particularly special place, and a special place we’re all going to dearly miss.
As a personal (not-so-personal) ode to Paradise Park, this week’s WTF will focus on the five biggest things I personally will miss most about the honky tonk on the “wrong side” of Broadway.
1. Wear Your Gear, Get a Beer.
It’s as simple as that. Anyone who knows me, knows I love the Preds — and Paradise Park always really got that. Way back before it was considered cool to be a Preds fan, PPARK gave us hockey fans a safe haven, offering up an ice cold Bud Light *for free* before each and every home game. You could almost say it was Paradise Park that fueled the Seventh man (that’s what the Predators call the fine folks of Smashville) to cheer our boys on to become Western Conference Champions in 2016/2017...almost.
2. The Incredible Staff
The Kitchen. The Bands. The Bartenders. The Cooks. The Sound Engineer. The Managers. Everyone working at Paradise Park. Someway, somehow Paradise Park has a staff known to be a very special lot. It has always seemed to be the “land of first chances” with a reputation of hiring people because of their attitude and their personality — not their resume. And people stick around. Paradise has a staff with many who have worked there since the doors opened in 2007. You can feel it when you walk in — they really care, and they really mean something to one another. We’re sad to see it end, but relationships were made and life-long friendships were formed. To come away from a job with those kind of memories and connections is pretty damn cool.
3. The Tater Tots
...and the grilled cheese. I swear to all that is holy in this world - Paradise Park’s Grilled Cheese and Tater Tot combo is life-altering. When complimented by the best ranch you’ve ever had in your life, you’re in for a real treat. Really, all of the food. To find made-from-scratch chicken tenders, hand-pattied burgers, and corn dogs dipped to order...on Broadway (or anywhere!) is a rarity to say the least.
P.S. - Don’t fret - if you don’t have time to stop by this weekend we hear there will be a few more chances to have the delectable combo Grilled Cheese / Tater Tot combo in the near future.
4. Hot Chicken and Jorts
The party of all parties. The party where you could truly, unabashedly, let your Redneck freak flag fly. I’ve seen this party evolve over the years, growing into more of a hilarious spectacle each and every time, and it’s been unforgettable to watch people show up and support a great cause year after year. Alongside the infamous Big Al, Randy Jubilee and his crew of rednecks became the unspoken mascots of Paradise Park — complete with daisy duke’s that rose higher and higher every year (we’re actually probably pretty lucky we just wrapped our final year - I’m not sure how much shorter those denim shorts could get…). After a total of 10 parties, the fundraiser raised nearly $100,000 for the Oasis Center. That is an incredible, jaw-dropping feat and the perfect way to close the chapter on Hot Chicken and Jorts at Paradise Park.
5. Every Single One of You Who Loved PPark, Too.
Whether you came for the $6 pitchers, the Pop-A-Shot, the tater tots, or the bartenders...whether it was your once-a-year stop for Fan Fair or you’re a local who can’t resist a good burger...or whether you found yourself married to a stranger on Valentine’s Day by Online Ordained Minister Max Goldberg or met your lifelong partner by the light of the neon at 411 Broadway...all of you who came to Paradise Park, who ventured across the street, who bought into the crazy idea of a trailer park bar on Broadway. You’re the folks who made it so. damn. fun. for all of us...day in and day out. From an ex-Paradise Park bartender, a Strategic Hospitality employee, and a fellow fan, thank you for having so much fun with us for these past 11 years.