This is the grunge kid of the taprooms: all funky lighting, mismatched furnishings, psychedelic artwork and an eclectic roster of local musicians in a warehouse setting. There’s seating outside in the summer, too. Belgium ale, lager, pilsner, dunkelweizen, dubbel, IPA...There are six or so their brews on tap, and they rotate in and out so check the website for current pulls.
And oh yeah, a rotating schedule of gastrotrucks parked outside for eats to go with your pints.
The only dangerous thing about our favorite of the local taprooms is trying to get in the door: it is busy. And it's busy because the beer is very good, and the room is the antithesis of your average drinking establishment: lined with big sunny windows, music at chat-over level, and a corner equipped with children’s puzzles and games.
Wait….a space for kids? In a TAPROOM?
You bet. Rob Miller (aka Dangerous Man) designed his pub as a friendly neighborhood gathering spot and has a selection of hand-crafted sodas for youngsters and tee-totalers along with his small-batch taps. And to go along with your pint he’s got a stack of menus for ordering take-out from nearby restaurants, or you can even bring along a picnic from home.
Of course you’ll mostly be lifting an arm with other craft-beer enthusiasts. There will be 4-6 brews on tap at any given point and they may include Belgium golden strong, cream ale, chocolate milk stout, Nordeast common, IPA, Kölsch, amber wheat ale, Baltic porter, rye pale ale or Belgian Dubbel or any number of other recipes Rob is cooking up.
The taproom is just some 4 blocks north of the Plymouth Ave Bridge so if you’re doing my recommended riverfront walk it’s a nice add-on.
Indeed Brewing Company and 612 Brew are roughly a mile to the east, Psycho Suzi’s tiki bar is about 5-6 blocks north, and the Sample Room is just another 2 blocks beyond that so it’s easy to make a day of it - as long as you have a designated driver to get you home again!
See the website for hours, directions and other info:
Patio bars are virtually non-existent in Minnesota from November - April but here’s an exception. Eden, in the Le Méridien Chambers hotel courtyard, stretches the outdoor cocktail season with a bar built of 12,000 pounds of ice and an open fire pit kept blazing on dark winter nights. Fur-hatted maidens will cheerfully whip you up a bracing Grey Goose vodka libation from a list of half a dozen or so on the menu ($8 - $10), and there’s obviously no problem keeping them nicely chilled until the last drop has been sucked down - although you can order up some flavored vodka shots in ice glasses if you’re worried.
The hotel’s website is maddeningly ambiguous about the hours but figure roughly 7:00 - 11:00 on Thursday - Sunday nights: I’d call ahead just to be sure. And if temps are in the stupid-below-zero range or a blizzard is beating the crap out of downtown, even hearty Minneapolites aren’t (usually) crazy enough to tip martinis outside so don’t assume they’re crazy enough to be shaking them up.
The bar usually opens sometime in December and closes sometime in March.
Dress Code: Parka, UGGs, mittens, scarf
(See my review on the W’s other bar, Prohibition, on the 27th floor, and a little history about the tower.)
Living Room is the W Minneapolis hotel’s hip, spacious lobby-level bar; popular early in the evening with after-business and before-event groups, and couples who like to chat without screaming over the din in some other downtown bars. I haven’t been here later at night when the DJ starts in with decibel-annoying techno and the place is packed with slinky, mate-seeking singles: not my thing. No, this is a nice spot for a warm-up martini before heading out for the evening, and scatterings of comfortable seating areas accommodate traveling suits with free wifi for catching up with work over a cocktail. Nice fireplace, too.
Best bet: kick back in one of the big chairs for Happy Hour (5:00 - 7:00) reduced drink and appetizers specials. It's quieter, more relaxed, and you’ll do a lot less damage to the plastic.
Dress Code: No dress code but the later the hour the more spiffed up you'll want to be.
(See my review on the W's other bar, Living Room, on the lobby level.)
This is the Minneapolis' most iconic landmark with a seedy little bit of history besides. Wilbur Foshay built his art-deco tribute to the Washington Monument in 1929 and it was the tallest building in the city until 1971. Old Willy had made himself a tidy little fortune in utilities business and spared no expense outfitting his 32-story tower in rare woods, gold-plated doorknobs and fancy imported marble. When it was all finished he threw a huge 3-day, all-expense-paid bash for 25,000 people and even hired the March King, John Philip Sousa, to compose and perform a smart little number for the affair. Everyone was very impressed and Mr. Foshay was about as smug as a Midwesterner is allowed to be...for about six weeks. His empire came crashing down with the stock market, the 20-grand check to Mr. Sousa bounced, and Wilbur ended up in Leavenworth for some interesting accounting he couldn’t, er, exactly account for.
The Foshay is now the W Minneapolis hotel and you can have a cocktail in what was Wilbur’s private office and posh apartment on the 27th floor. While Prohibition, named for the era of speakeasies and bootlegging in which the tower was built, is a not-exactly-harmonious mix of dignified mahogany, art deco detailing, hot pink lighting and “atmospheric" music (What, no 1920’s jazz?) the 360-degree views are impressive, and cozy seating arrangements make for comfortable, intimate imbibing. Best time to go is at the opening hour on a winter afternoon: grab a table by one of the windows to watch dusk fall and the lights come on in the city. This is also the best time to take advantage of daily happy-hour drink and appetizer specials (5:00 - 7:00) as both are upscale-bar pricey otherwise.
Entry is via the gorgeous, original nickel and brass-plated elevators near the reception desk in the W’s lobby. One word of caution: most of the individual lounge areas that ring the space are very dimly lit so vision problems could make navigating around them a bit of a challenge.
Footnote: the march Mr. Sousa penned for the tower's dedication was mothballed until that rubber check was finally paid; 60 years later.
Dress Code: No dress code but folks tend to be more slicked up than not for this one.
This bar sells the highest volume of Jameson Irish Whisky in the world. Really.
The Local is one of Kieran Folliard's four Twin Cities Irish pubs and I love them all for different reasons. What Kieran does best is make you comfortable and this spot provides a lot of snug little corners to curl up in with a pint of Guiness and good company. Check out the website for better photos than mine:
This is a beautifully crafted pub with two different bar rooms, a poolroom upstairs, a club-like Whiskey Lounge, outdoor seating in the summer and separate spaces for groups and events. There's even a room for canoodling with your sweet colleen. Oh, and they have very good food that's a step up from normal "pub grub." Appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads and main courses create a well-rounded menu that's a tad pricier than other local pubs but this is a nicer place, too.
There's international sport on the tellys but most people come here just to hang out and enjoy the ambiance. It's very popular (and packed!) at the 5:00 hour, and great fun on St. Patrick's Day when the Jameson is flowing!
Happy hours Monday - Friday, 11 - 6:00.
Open 7 days a week: see website for hours.
Dress Code: Anything but really grubby clothes. Neat and clean and you'll be fine.
This was the very first of the craft-brew taprooms to open in Minneapolis and it's going great guns. Started by 4 thirsty guys cooking up 10-gallon batches in a South Minneapolis garage, they moved on to contract brewing in 2009, and finally opened their own operation in 2012. Yep, it’s still in a garage but one of warehouse proportions with the taproom off to one side.
The “decor” (if you can call it that) is minimal keg-and-concrete but no one cares: it’s all about the beer, folks. They don't mess around with food either but any one of the Twin Cities' fabulous gastrotrucks are parked outside on a rotating schedule, or you can order in from some of the nearby restaurants: ask for menus at the counter. Pints run $5, and 1/2 gallon, take-home growlers run about $13 (deposit required) at time of this writing.
Lonely Blonde (light/fizzy) and Sweet Child of Vine (IPA: a favorite of The Husband’s) are on tap all year but others rotate seasonally so the taps with Libertine Imperial Red and Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout on them right now (March) will change over in the spring. They also serve up a few weeks here and there of “Garage Series” limited edition batches.
Fulton is located just a couple blocks north of Target Field and they’re open Thursdays and Fridays from 3-10, Saturdays from noon -10, and before the game when the Twins play in town: see the schedule on the website. No outdoor patio yet but we’re hoping to be able to lift an arm on the loading dock this summer. Tours available, and get yourself some gear to take home.
Dress Code: Shirt, shoes, ID...
Historically significant if nothing else, the Brass Rail represents what used to be the norm in gay bars: a dark, cozy establishment in a relatively seedy urban neighborhood with an older clientele that seems to leer at all "fresh meat" that enters. A lot of gay folk miss this kind of place, because it represents a kind of "authenticity" and cross-class camraderie that seems to be missing in the in "Guppified" trendy bars of the new beautiful set. This completely NOT a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" plastic!
(I understand that there are relatively new owners who have "cleaned up" the place a lot. I'll have to come back for a re-review on a future visit to the Cities.)
The 19 Bar is said to be Minneapolis's oldest surviving gay establishment. Rather small, without a dance floor, and windowless, the 19 Bar nevertheless has struck me as cheerful and pleasant on the several occasions that I've visited. It's without pretentions, and yet is still clean and friendly.
Dress Code: Just be nice
Crave is a popular rooftop bar in downtown Minneapolis, not far from the baseball stadium.
I thought that it was perfectly adequate and really quite pleasant without being particularly distinctive in any way. It is pretty much your standard rooftop bar: a good way to be outdoors. This is Minneapolis, after all, and you want to be outdoors as much as possible in the summertime.
It was a little crowded and a little noisy, but I received good service at the bar, and the waitstaff here expect there to be a crush, especially right after 5 pm on a Friday.
I gather that this "CRAVE" is actually part of a chain of bars, which explains why it feels a little "corporate" - like the "Red Lobster" of bars. That's okay, I guess, as long as you aren't really expecting a genuinely local experience. (Which admittedly I prefer.)
Dress Code: not slouchy, nice enough so that your mother would not be ashamed of you
The Local is a good looking Irish pub on Nicolett Mall. The interior is expansive and mostly built by using dark wood - just like the 'real' pubs in Europe.
I went there on a Saturday afternoon and the place is empty; but I heard it is a very popular hangout for after-work crowd and I can imagine the place cozily packed on a weeknight.
The bartender was very knowledgeable about the local spots - the price is on the expensive side ($5.5 for a pint of Miller Light). I didn't eat but they've got a rather large menu. Visit their website for more pictures and virtual tour.
For a good listing of most of the bars/club in the twin cities check out:
They sort the bars by geographic area. The listings will give info about the bars and usually will list any happy hours or specials they have.
The Lodge Bar in downtown is a fun place to dance and have a few drinks with friends. A live band is typically the entertainment for the night. The building is created to give you a ‘lodgy’ feeling with comfy couches, a fireplace and high ceilings.
You can not smoke in here, which you can not smoke in many bars in MSP. It typically brings in the 'undergraduate' age people, but my friends and I still go and we have all graduated from college.
Dress Code: Comfort Casual - jeans are fine
This bar is a great place to either dance the night away to a live band or just sit and get envoloped by the nice leather couches. Nothing like a bar that is covering with deer and moose heads and other decorations that make this into a true looking Lodge!
There is a cover charge to get in.
If you like alternative rock, these are the 3 best places to see it...
This place is more mainstream rock...
This place is a complete dive (not dangerous but a great dive feel) and has great bands...
Dress Code: No worries.