Minneapolis Bars and Clubs
Music, music, music, there are so many music venues in Minneapolis, that there are not enough venues for all the musicians that flock here. When you meet someone here, there’s a good chance they play in a band, have played in a band, or are thinking about starting a band.
Note: most bars/clubs with music have a cover charge $5-$15 usually. Bars in Minnesota close at 1:00am every day of the week.
Liquor store hours:
Mon-Thur open until 8:00pm
Fri-Sat open until 10:00pm
Wisconsin liquor stores are open on Sundays. A 45 min drive.
In the Uptown area you can find music at The Uptown Bar and Cafe (3018 Hennepin Ave, 612-823-4719). The Uptown Bar has really had its ups and downs. They used to be one of the most intimate and progressive music venues around, especially in the uptown area. Then their booking agent left. The Uptown struggled to get new bands and eventually quit having music altogether. In 1998 they started having bands again, mostly local. Still an intimate venue.
Hennepin runs the gamut as far as bars are concerned, there are the standard Minnesota chain restaurants, and also the independents like Lyle’s Bar and Restaurant (2021 Hennepin Ave, 612-870-8183). Lyle’s has three Happy Hours. An early one from 10am-1pm, a late one from 9pm-10pm, and the most crowded one from 3pm-6pm. The reason behind all the people is the free chicken wings, cheese and crackers and herring they bring out at 6:00pm. This is no orderly crowd, especially after HH. If you can fan 3 paper plates full of chicken wings in your hand, you will look like a regular.
On the chain end there is Old Chicago (2841 Hennepin Ave, 612-870-1918). There are Old Chicago’s all over Minnesota, not to mention most of the country. They are a pizza joint that features 110 different beers, 20 on tap! The Uptown location has Karaoke on Tuesday nights.
In Calhoun Square (Lake St. and Hennepin Ave) is Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que (3001 Hennepin, 612-822-9900). If asked, I’m sure Famous Dave’s would want me to tell you about their great BarBQ. But I won’t. If you like blues or country this place has music every night. Sunday night is amateur night, they don’t seem like amateurs to me.
Heading east on Lake Street brings you to Dulono’s Pizza (607 West Lake St, 612-827-1726) It’s really just an old school pizza parlor and cop hang out, they strangely enough host Blue Grass bands.
Bryant Lake Bowl (810 West Lake St, 612-825-3737) is a place that has so many faces I don’t know where to start. How about the obvious, there are exactly eight lanes of bowling at Bryant Lake Bowl and you need to keep score yourself. There is also a beer and wine bar and a full service kitchen. The food is not cheap and they serve fluffy food like Brie. But the food is excellent. Deeper in still lies a theatre. Used for music (folk-type), cabaret, plays, comedy and a variety of other acts.
At the top of Lyndale Ave in Uptown is Mortimer’s (Lyndale and Franklin). My personal favorite. It’s an old timer’s bar most of the day and at night it’s a free for all for every walk of life. The best part about Morti’s is the fact that there are two other bars under the same roof. One called Oliver’s, which is a hole in the wall, literally. Then at the far end by the parking lot is Gringo’s, only open Thursday through Saturday from 9:00pm-1:00am. There is an air hockey table and if you are really, really lucky, Lyle the resident bartender will kick your ass in a game. The jukebox plays mostly metal. Or maybe it’s just the people choosing the music.
Enter The Red Dragon (2116 Lyndale, 612-874-8877) at your own risk. They have an evil potion called “wondrous punch”. Oh yes, it looks inviting, a beautiful sunset poured into a fish bowl. It’s really five different liquors and some juice poured into the biggest brandy snifter ever. You will see others drinking this punch, then later you will see them defy gravity and a lot of other forces. Go only with your closest of friends and leave with them and only them.
Herkimer (2922 Lyndale Ave, 612-821-0101) This is a brand new brew pub. The shiny casks are visible from the window. They have soft, chewy, homemade pretzels. Happy Hour is 3pm-6pm.
The Country Western Bar aka Shorty and Wags (Lake Street and Lyndale) is truly a neighborhood relic. The decor is somewhat country western, but that’s about it. It doesn’t matter who you are here, no one will look twice.
A little farther southeast, in the more residential area lies Kenny’s Chatterbox Pub (2229 E 35th St., 612-728-9871) For those who have a competitive personalities, the multitude of games here will satisfy your need to win. There are board games, dart boards, pool for $5 and hour and new and old school (Atari) video games including Pacman. You can rent two video games for a $1. There are several areas set up living room style. Soft couches and chairs surrounding a television for your own private game or viewing of Monday night football.
Downtown on the the weekends can be wild and hectic, depending on your point of view. It is swarming with college coeds and others who just won’t give it up. But this is also where the bulk of the live music goes on. The Fine Line Music Cafe (318 1st Ave N, 612-338-8100) A relatively small, bar-like atmosphere hosting a wide range of musical acts.
Blues Alley (15 Glenwood Ave N, 612-333-1327) is a fun hole-in-the-wall place. I’ve seen good music here and seen bad, but have always had a good time.
The Quest (110 N. 5th St, 612-338-3383) is a great venue to see live music. There are two levels and numerous bars, but the view is great from anywhere. Soft comfy couches upstairs, mostly standing room downstairs. This place used to be called Glam Slam and was owned by Prince.
1st Avenue and the 7th Street Entry (701 1st Ave N, Music Line: 612-332-1775)
First, the facts. Probably THE best place in Minneapolis to see live music. Not only does 1st Ave host great and legendary bands, they have a few different dance nights including Salsa Inferno on Monday nights. I’ve heard the place throbs. Two for ones on Tuesday after 9:00pm. The 7th St. Entry is training camp for the main stage (1st Ave). You never know who you might see, Nirvana held the stage way back when. Painted black inside and out, except for the white stars touting the legendary bands that have graced the main stage. Your best bet for fashion is to wear all black, combat boots included. If fashion is not your concern, go as you are. One of the best things about 1st Ave is the uniqueness of its customers.
Lee’s Lounge and Liquor Bar (101 Glenwood Ave N, 612-338-9491) has a variety of music including Country Western and Swing. Cool bar that is elevated on one side so you have the ultimate view of everything.
Downtown is filled with many different kinds of bars, cigar bars, strip bars, and college bars among others. A long standing establishment that has even endured a fire is Gluek’s Bar and Restaurant (16 N 6th St, 612-338-6621). This is a true college boy bar, but a beautiful old bar. Beers the size of a bucket.
A little farther North and a little to the West lies the Warehouse District. Bunker’s Music Bar and Grille (761 Washington Ave N, 612-338-8188) hosts mostly blues/jazz acts, but that is not the rule. Every Monday “the legendary Combo” take the stage. Actually called Dr. Mombo’s Combo, its a collaboration of musicians from different bands. They occasionally have special guest appearances that have included Johnny Lang, and Prince.
Over on the East side is the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, you will find the 5 Corners Saloon (501 Cedar Ave, 612-338-8188). An excellent place to see music. A small venue that has seen many local and national acts come through. Try the cherry bombs (Cherries soaked in 151).
The Cabooze, Whiskey Junction (612-338-9550), and The Joint are all located at 900 Cedar Avenue. These three bars come as a package. Sure, there’s three different signs and more than three different doors, but all three are tucked away in a corner by themselves. Not to mention the endless row of Harley Davidson’s and their owners out front. Of the three The Joint is the one that does not have music. In the summer they have big biker parties in the parking lot between them.
The Red Sea (320 Cedar Ave, 612-333-1644) has a wide variety of music such as Reggae, Alternative Rock and World Beat. Interesting clientele.
Lying somewhere in between is the Blue Nile (2027 Franklin Ave E, 612-338-3000). This is a good place to hear music from the islands. Including drum groups, Reggae, and Calypso. Serves great Ethiopian dishes. Happy Hour 4pm-7pm.
“Across the River” is a place known as Riverplace. Set on the banks of the Mississippi River, this beautiful location seems cursed. When it originally opened in the early eighties it was a high end shopping mall filled with brand names and expensive restaurants. In the late eighties, early nineties, all this fluff closed and it became Mississippi Live, a place anyone underage seeking a beer would come and surely find one. Too much controversy and and not enough money shut this place down. Since then it seems like a ghost town. There are still a few restaurants, but the rest is used by dot-commers as office space.
On the North side of Hennepin (across the river), there is a boom going on, old establishments are turning new. Warehouses are being refurbished into lakeside condos. Funky bars and restaurants are popping up everywhere.
A notable one is Boom/Oddfellows (401 E. Hennepin, 612-378-3188). Boom is definitely the hippest place for the GLBT crowd. But it’s obvious why. This is the most beautiful bar I have ever been in. Flat screen TVs, bare brick walls mixed with hard wood walls, an amazing sound system and a shiny stainless steel bar. If you like to sing along to show tunes, Sunday nights here is a a blast. If you get hungry while you’re here, Oddfellows (the adjoining restaurant) serves delicious food.
A little farther down Hennepin lies The Times/Jitters (205 E. Hennepin Ave, 612-617-1111) This is a very incestuous twosome. They were both located on Nicollet mall, with no affiliation, when the city decided to tear the building down. They both moved across the river, and now Jitters is in the basement of the Times. Anyway, the Times has great live big band music. They also serve fondue. Jitters used to be a coffee bar, but is now a bar with good coffee. Both places have great food.
For the dressed in black dance crowd there is Ground Zero/The Front (15 NE 4th St, 612-378-5115). A 20-something crowd fits this place to a T. They are a dance club/music club. Wednesday features music from Prince, Thursday is the Trans Euro Express (europop), and Friday and Saturday feature local and national DJ’s.
It took me 12 years to get here, and I’m wondering why it took me so long. The Turf Club at University and Snelling (651-647-0486) is a small, relaxed music bar. The St. Paul Music Club has adopted this place as a venue to showcase their talent. The Turf Club opened it’s doors in the 1940’s and was a hot spot for two-stepping before two-stepping was hot. Downstairs is a smaller bar with a few booths known as the Clown Lounge. To me it looks like a good place to hang out and not be seen. The #16 bus will take you there in a flash, pick the bus up on the Southwestern Corner of 4th and Nicollet downtown.