Ben Earhart is the self-proclaimed best bartender in Memphis, the "crazy Tennessean" who mans the bar at Kooky Canuck and serves as the gatekeeper of the best happy hour Downtown. We headed to Kooky Canuck to watch the draft and talk Canada with Earhart and owner Shawn Danko. It seemed only fitting that we talk basketball with Danko — who relocated to Memphis from Toronto — and get the opinions of Memphis' second-most famous Canadian now that our most famous Canadian is NBA champ Marc Gasol.
Kooky Canuck is known for its big menu items, most notably their various "Challenges," including the Kookamonga, King Kookamonga, and Humonga Kookamonga, a $99.99, 25-pound meal to be consumed between no more than four people in under 60 minutes. Those who claim victory over the burger earn a spot on the wall of fame and a free meal. The burger challenges might've made them famous, but there's more to this place than the food. When it comes to all things bar-related, Kooky Canuck does it big and cheap.
- Justin Fox Burks
- Ben Earhart
Happy hour is from 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and features a house wine, well mixed drink, or domestic beer for $2.50. A 34-ounce Molson Canadian sets you back a mere $5 at any time. Ten dollars will get you a craft beer of the same size. Interested in a 34-ounce cocktail? It's $9.99 all day every day, pal. And a 12-ounce pour of a house wine, literally a pour to the brim of the standard wine glass, is $6.99. With these deals, you, too, can be drunk enough to nearly fall off a bus during a parade in your honor.
Speaking of Gasol's now-legendary drinking antics after earning a ring with the Toronto Raptors, what would owner Danko's poison of choice be if he needed to tie one on while bussing through the streets of Toronto? "Canadian whiskey, absolutely," he says. He prefers Forty Creek, but clutched in his hands is a bottle of Wayne Gretzky's proprietary booze that he's giving a shot. Canadian whiskeys are normally blends and, in Canada, they're often referred to as ryes, despite the absence of rye in almost all of them, Danko says. Earhart reappears with Forty Creek Copper Pot, a Canadian whiskey with a maple finish that he asks us to try. Maybe it's the effect of the 34-ounce beer I'm enjoying, but the maple-y Copper Pot is almost as delightful as my beloved Jameson.
Danko is quick to point out Memphis-Canada connections, including Canadian politeness' similarity to Southern hospitality. The Memphis Grizzlies now have two Canadians with the addition of Brandon Clarke (the other being Dillon Brooks). Danko also shares that Kyle Lowry's first meal, upon moving to Memphis, was at Kooky Canuck. His favorite memory of Gasol came a few years ago at the Grizz Gala in Tunica. As he posed for a picture with Gasol, Danko accidentally grabbed his ass (we've all wanted to do it, so shout-out to Danko for getting the job done) and then, as is custom for our polite Northern neighbors, apologized profusely.
Kooky Canuck's drink specials are the shining star of this place, but its most prominent feature is the décor. The inside is full of deer, moose, and caribou heads. Where does one acquire this substantial collection? "Bachelors getting married," Danko deadpans. While I might be here for the booze and taxidermy, it's worth noting that Kooky Canuck also has a substantial menu and a kitchen that stays open late. On weeknights, the kitchen is open until 1 a.m. and the bar until 3 a.m. On weekend nights, the kitchen is open until 2 a.m. At the Cordova location, it's open until 2 a.m. every night of the week to accommodate those unfortunate suburbanites who don't have a plethora of late-night dining options.
Interested in finding out how many $9.99 34-ounce cocktails you can consume under the watchful eyes of a dead moose? Head to Kooky Canuck and vie for a coveted seat at Earhart's bar. You might end up in the warm embrace of your new favorite Canadian whiskey and with that much more in common with your recently departed Memphian-turned-Canadian.