Jenning’s Café Circa 1954

In its heyday, Jenning’s Café hosted reunions like this one in 1954.

Say hello to St. Louis Park High’s class of 1940, on the occasion of a class reunion in the summer of 1954. They’re at Jenning’s Café, one of the hot spots on Excelsior Boulevard during the heyday of its bars and gas stations era. The café was located on the north side of Excelsior Boulevard west of Monterey.

Jenning’s opened in 1933, just as taverns (no longer saloons) popped up all along the boulevard. In fact, Harriet Jennings had the first liquor license after Prohibition ended. Mike Jennings was your genial host at his log-cabin-themed night spot, complete with snowshoes on the wall, a two-story fireplace and Mr. Moose watching the proceedings on the dance floor. This photo marked the end of one era for the nightclub, as new owners took control that following September.

After several years of various uses, the building opened again in 1964 as Jenning’s Red Coach Inn. It had been totally redone, inside and out—no longer a cozy log cabin but a sleek eatery. Mike Jennings’ son Jim came up with the name Red Coach Inn, based on a restaurant he fancied in Florida.

Like the class of 1940, Jenning’s today is mostly gone. The restaurant was demolished about 15 years ago for the Excelsior and Grand development, and few of the old buildings remain to remind us of those halcyon days. Jim Jennings still has a liquor store across the street, and he owns JJ’s Clubhouse on Wayzata Boulevard in Golden Valley. But those heady days of dining and dancing on Excelsior Boulevard only exist in memory and in photos like these.

Jeanne Andersen is secretary of the board of the St. Louis Park Historical Society.