By Richard White, January 31, 2014
You would think Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa would have the best Canadiana Pub in the world, maybe even St. John’s or Halifax. But no, it may well be in one of the most unlikely places - Memphis, Tennessee.
Yes across the street from the iconic Peabody Hotel (famous for their resident ducks who spend the day in the lobby fountain) is Kooky Canuck. We were introduced to this Canadian gem when attending the Polar Bar Jam, part of the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, January 21 to 25, 2014.
Polar Bear Jam
The place was packed (I don’t think they have fire code laws in Memphis, it is amazing how many people they can pack into their bars) for the Polar Bear Jam – it was like a Maritime kitchen party, with Canadians from across the country partying up a storm and it was only 11 a.m.
As soon as we arrived, a beer was handed to us. It wasn’t just any beer; it was a Don De Dieu (the name of Samuel de Champlain’s ship, which translates in English to “gift of god”) from Chambly, Quebec’s Unibroue brewery. Our Western Canadian travel companions thought it was too sweet, which meant more for us given the first 200 people got a free beer. The wait staff were warning patrons it had more alcohol than American beer, but nobody told them it was 9%, times the light beer alcohol served up in the 34 oz. jumbo mugs.
But I digress. What makes the Kooky Canuck a great Canadian pub is the décor. When you walk in, you are immediately confronted by a long log cabin-like wall where not one, not two, not three, but a series of mounted horned animal heads including buffalo, elk, caribou, deer and a bighorn ram– I couldn’t identify them all. I think the only thing missing was a musk ox.
Down the middle of the room is what everyone referred to as “the forest”. In reality, it was a jail-like wall of birch tree limbs that created a nice separation between the bar and restaurant. The back room truly was like a log cabin with more mounted animals, birds and fish including an iconic Canada Goose. Overall, the décor oozed of Canada’s great outdoors.
The Logo / The Characters
The logo is a cartoon of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police like officer carrying a large burger with the words “Big Food! Big Fun!” underneath. You can’t get much more Canadian than the RCMP. The addition of the beard or is it a goatee makes it even more hip.
Kooky Canuck attracts at wonderful cast of characters from across Canada and beyond. It is a great people watching place.
Kooky Canuck is also infamous for its Kookamonga (sounds Australian to me) Challenge. The challenge is to eat the Kookamonga burger in less than 60 minutes.
What is a Kookamonga burger? It is four pounds of fresh ground chuck inside a two- pound bun and 1.5 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and cheese. Seven and a half pounds of fun! Fries are optional. FYI - that is a whopping 12,000
Eat the burger in 60 minutes and it’s free (if you don’t eat it in an hour it is $32.99 US), plus you get your picture in the Hall of Fame. Eighteen people have eaten the Kookamonga burger all by themselves in the required time, some more than once. Matt Stoney has the record for fastest consumption - 4 minutes and 45 seconds – how is that possible? As of December 29, 2013, 3,950 attempts have been made and 18 people have been successful.
Only in Canada eh!
Yes there are larger bars, pubs and lounges that have a Canadian theme. Yes there are places that serve more types of Canadian beers and better Canadian microbrewery pubs. Fro me, Canadian cities are filled with too many Irish or English pubs and not enough that celebrate their local sense of place. Too many of our sports bars are full of American sports memorabilia. When it comes to capturing Canada’s sense of place I think Kooky Canuck nails it.
If you find yourself in Memphis, be sure to check out Kooky Canuck and see if you agree that it is best Canadiana pub in the world is not actually in Canada. Only in Canada would you find our signature pub in another country!
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