The Bar Guide 2013: Downtown Minneapolis

Updated 4/10/2013

From the North Loop to the Warehouses to the Theater District, downtown is Teeming with cocktail palaces.

Kick up your feet at the Living Room at The W Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

Parlour

740 Washington Av. N., Mpls. • 612-354-3135 • www.boroughmpls.com

When nearby Marvel Bar opened its chic den of Hawthorne strainers, housemade ginger syrup and hand-cut ice, it was difficult to imagine anybody coming close to that level of class. But then came Parlour, the speakeasy-style cocktail den, accessed by using Borough restaurant’s rear staircase (there’s just something thrilling and forbidden-feeling about going in the back way). The poured concrete, exposed ductwork and candlelit lounge gets a wee bit of surprising natural light from the gauze-curtained windows. But not too much. Not so much that you’ll ever want to budge from a high-backed chair and go out into the harsh reality of the icky old real world. Because in this subterranea, bartender Jesse Held is your personal Willy Wonka of grown-up liquid candy. And if you please, brioche doughnuts with chocolate-covered bacon for dessert. Mecca Bos

Union/ Marquee

731 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-455-6690 • www.unionmpls.com

If the largest all-glass retractable roof in the state isn’t enough draw for your jadedness, then what about a drink list by cocktail godfather Johnny Michaels, doughnut holes with bacon, and buffalo oysters? There’s no prettier indoor/outdoor place to partake in all the land. Trees grow within the very space, even when snow falls in fat, twinkling flakes upon the translucent roof. Trees! With leaves! And snow! All at once! And it isn’t just because you’ve had one too many that you gaze upon this visage. Beyond the magic of it all, it’s truly contemporary and chic in that big-city way. Throw on a blindfold, ply yourself with a couple of Persian Pussycats (pomegranate gin, orange, vanilla, rose) spin in a couple of circles, and bang! You’re in New York. No, you’re in Minneapolis, on the top-top of the world. M.B. 

Butcher & The Boar

1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-238-8888 • www.butcherandtheboar.com

Yes, it’s the finest place for manna-from-heaven BBQ and handmade sausages that the Twin Cities has ever seen. The curls of smoke permeate the neighborhood, inspiring skyscraper dwellers to bolt downstairs to fill themselves with meats. But the Butcher is also home to the finest, most comprehensive bourbon selection, with things like the impossible-to-find Pappy Van Winkle’s (in season) and their own private label of Buffalo Trace small-batch. And if that ain’t your cup of whiskey, then you can have all the beer any one man could swill, like 30 taps of the stuff, local and otherwise. And hey! A really solid wine list, too. Remember wine? They’ve got it. A playlist with a sound system that allows you to hear every lyric, yet every word escaping from your date’s mouth, too, and footlong hot dogs. M.B.

Marvel Bar

50 2nd Av. N., Mpls. • 612-206-3929 • www.marvelbar.com

If a bar were a supermodel (stunning) like Heidi Klum (classically, timelessly gorgeous), wearing a frock from the Gap (fetching, but not pretentious) while telling an Ole & Lena joke (charmingly Minnesotan) then that supermodel would be this bar. You get my drift? No? Well, let me try again: If someone had described it before it came into being, it would sound unlikely. The governor’s sons open a purple-doored speakeasy at the very back end of the North Loop, where the finest Prohibition-era craft cocktails mash up with cans of Miller Lite and Cheetos? Ikea-esque blue and white and pink wallpaper becomes a bedfellow with a marble-topped bar in the kind of confluence that makes you say, “Oh, I’d really like to drink here. All the time. And bring my supermodel girlfriend. And maybe my Norwegian grandma. We’ll get dressed up. But not too much so. This is Minnesota.” M.B.

The Living Room/Prohibition

825 Marquette Av. S., Mpls. • 612-597-2413 • www.thelivingroom-prohibition.com

The W Minneapolis’ main lobby is really the Living Room, a mod take on the spacious ground-floor meeting areas typical of hotels. Replete with a fireplace, clever use of mirrors and high ceilings to feature an array of booze, the Living Room has a pre- and post-clubbing aura, a place where a classy gent can prop up his feet with a swank cocktail while planning the next things to move and shake. When one tires of street-level drinking, simply take a ride up 27 floors to Prohibition —a citadel lounge worthy of the Rockefellers. When the elevator doors open, you are confronted by a small bar serving patrons who can take their libations to one of the many leather chairs scattered across the entire floor and its corresponding loft. Featuring the same menu as the downstairs facility, Prohibition provides a comfortable aerie with 360-degree views of downtown. Spencer Doar

Clubhouse JÄger

923 Washington Av. N., Mpls. • 612-332-2686 • www.clubjager.com

The North Loop may be blowing up with newcomers Borough/Parlour and Smack Shack, but hipsters young and old have long flocked to this popular pub. Positioned far enough away from the bustle of downtown’s douche alley, Club Jäger is centrally located without the Warehouse District headache. In the summer, a sweeping back-yard patio serves as a beer-swilling oasis in a particularly concrete cranny of the city, while inside the wooden bartop feels familiar whether bellying up for the first or 400th time. While most downtown bars are sleepy on non-event weeknights, the treasured tavern stays hot on Wednesdays with Jake Rudh’s Transmission — one of the Twin Cities’ top dance nights. Stop in for a Jägerlager (two for one during happy hour), which the bar has specially brewed by Wisconsin’s Sprecher Brewing Co. Michael Rietmulder

Bar 508

508 1st Av. N., Mpls. • 612-339-0036 • www.bar508.com

508 has a little bit of everything (except a creative name): a $3 happy hour, sporting deals, restaurant seating, dance space and 24 rotating taps that give it an above-average beer selection. It’s a great place to go with a ticket stub in your pocket. You want to be there when the downstairs is open and jumping — that’s what makes the self-applied “party bar” moniker apropos. When the men’s bathroom line starts to wind around the entrance door, that’s when 508 embodies typical Minneapolis nightlife. S.D.

Barrio

925 Nicollet Mall, Mpls. • 612-333-9953 • www.barriotequila.com

One of three in the Twin Cities, Barrio features Mexican cuisine rather than Mexican food. However, Barrio’s real focus is on the scores of tequila varieties it stocks. It’s the type of place where ordering something other than that particular libation makes you feel bad — like the unfortunate vegetarian who has to order pasta at a steakhouse. So while beers are present, it is first and foremost a shrine to that dastardly headache-inducing agave nectar. S.D.

The Belmore/New Skyway Lounge

25 N. 4th St., Mpls. • 239-300-6975

This diner/music venue doesn’t care much for self-promotion (too punk for a website? it is on Facebook). But since creeping into the old City Billiards space last fall, the Belmore has quietly given the Warehouse District a rare neighborhood cafe that opens early and closes late. Its minimal decor matches its advertising ethos, but as a rock club, it has a homier vibe than most others. M.R.

Bradstreeet Craftshouse

601 1st Av. N., Mpls. • 612-312-1821 • www.bradstreetcraftshouse.com

Dark, modern, slick. Bradstreet’s boutique hotel bar brought craft cocktails to Minneapolis before anyone knew what the heck those were. Hand-chipped ice, fresh-pressed juice, housemade bitters and all the rest. Little precious jewels of cocktails, lovingly fussed over by mixologists, concentrating as though their next creation may be a medicinal elixir for the ages, which of course, it is. M.B.

Brit’s Pub

1110 Nicollet Mall, Mpls. • 612-332-3908 • www.britspub.com

This is where the Queen, lawn bowling, Yorkies, high tea and Boddingtons reign supreme. But more than this, Brit’s is where young executives and khaki-clad Targies come to loosen ties, cut loose, roll some balls and knock back a few. In summer, the crush of crowds can be massive, as there’s no prettier place to be than the verdant rooftop lawns occupied by ruddy-faced hotties on the make. M.B.

Cafe Lurcat

1624 Harmon Place, Mpls. • 612-486-5500 • www.cafelurcat.com

Every city needs a bar that isn’t just a bar. It needs a place that isn’t come-as-you-are. It needs a put-on-your-most-designer-jeans and tallest-Louboutins kind of place, where you can drop a cool twenty on a single frosty flute of champagne, and watch your bling sparkle off the Riedel and celebrate the fact that you are living the good life. M.B.

Cafe Maude at Loring

1612 Harmon Pl. Mpls. • 612-767-9080 • www.cafemaudeatloring.com

Owner Kevin Sheehy is a bon vivant with a yen for travel, especially to the exotic Middle East. He’s a proponent of “civilized leisure,” the notion that relaxed chat over good food and a fine cocktail is a human right. Cocktail guru Johnny Michaels designs the drinks. Expect French fundamentals applied to American classics with Turkish influences, keeping things mysterious and fresh. M.B.

Cowboy Jack’s

126 N. 5th St., Mpls. • 612-224-9950 • www.theaftermidnightgroup.com

The Cowboy Jack’s fleet has circled its wagons around the metro’s periphery, but the chain planted a flagstaff in the party-bar heartland. This Warehouse District cowboy-bar donkey kicked its way into the rooftop patio scene last summer with its prime Target Field-proximate real estate. A cap should be tipped to the beer-slinging buckaroos for offering home-game specials so close to the ballpark. M.R.

Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant

1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls. • 612-332-1010 • www.dakotacooks.com

For an elegant night on the town, you won’t do better than the venerable Dakota, where the music is world-class (it’s where Prince recently did six surprise gigs), the steaks are well marbled and the martinis are icy and big. This 20-year institution brings jazz from Havana, blues from New Orleans and vocal stylings from heaven. M.B.

Depot Tavern

17 N. 7th St., Mpls. • 612-338-1828 • www.thedepottavern.com

When First Avenue flung open the garage doors to its Depot side bar in 2010, it immediately became a pre-show fave. With TVs tuned to the Mainroom and 7th Street Entry stages, fans can stay seated and sipping right up till showtime. In the summer, the bar’s open-air feel makes it a comfortable cool-down site after the sweatiest of shows. M.R.

Devil’s Advocate

89 S. 10th St., Mpls. • 612-843-2260 • www.devilsadvocatebar.com

Downtown largely doesn’t dazzle beer fiends. But Devil’s Advocate tempts tipplers with 40 taps of multifarious microbrews. This narrow beer bar is a quaint alternative to some nearby mega-pubs. Should hunger strike, made-to-order meatballs are this tavern’s forte. M.R.

Eli’s Food & Cocktails

1225 Hennepin Av. S. Mpls. • 612-332-9997 • www.elisfoodandcocktails.com

Things aren’t that crazy at this tiny hallway of a canteen. It’s classy in that understated, casual way. It’s as though the aura of the neighboring coffee shop spills over. Eli’s has the shushed appeal perfect for those days when eating some good food and having a drink with a date is exactly what’s on tap. S.D.

Gluek’s

16 N. 6th St., Mpls. • 612-338-6621 • www.glueks.com

Gluek’s is an old haunt. It’s been knocked out of commission twice, once by Prohibition and once by a fire, only to come roaring back again and again. It has the perfect low-vaulted ceiling of a beer hall, and stained glass peppers the aged bar, a mesmerizing kaleidoscope after a few tipples. German-American fare is the theme, while the draft selection is ample enough to vindicate its rich beer-heritage vibe. S.D.

Grumpy’s Bar

1111 Washington Av. S., Mpls. • 612-340-9738 • www.grumpys-bar.com

Given that Grumpy’s owners once ran influential noise-rock label Amphetamine Reptile, it’s no shocker this downtown watering hole has one of the best jukeboxes in town. It’s been years since Tom Hazelmyer and Pat Dwyer traded 12-inch pressings for 16-ounce taps, but the duo still books local talent at this punk-leaning pub. M.R.

Hell’s Kitchen

80 S. 9th St., Mpls. • 612-332-4700 • www.hellskitcheninc.com

A Ralph Steadman piece come to life, Hell’s Kitchen tries to be all the things its moniker suggests, and sometimes succeeds. Black, red, underground and sometimes spooky, the total package is really tongue-in-cheek fun. With a massive something-for-everything menu, plenty of dark corners for doing dark deeds, and two separate bar areas, you can go ahead and be devilish. M.B.

Ike’s Food & Cocktails

50 S. 6th St., Mpls. • 612-746-4537 • www.ilikeikes.com

Designed in a throwback style to when men wore fedoras and ladies didn’t pay the bill, Ike’s feels like a bar first, even though you’re free to dine on prime rib or barbecue shrimp if you so choose. Belly up to the massive bar and order, say, a classic martini from a white-shirted barman. Listen to the buttery strains of Frank Sinatra. Order another. They’ve got you covered with their famous loaded bloodies, so hangovers be damned. M.B. 

The Imperial Room

417 1st Av. N., Mpls. • 612-376-7676 • www.imperialroom.com,

The Imperial Room is a funny place. Come 9 p.m., a dress code comes into full force as DJs and bottle service take over. During the day it’s not a bad place to grab a 22-ounce pour of Surly for $4 or average American apps for half-off. S.D.

Jackson’s Hole

106 N. 3rd St., Mpls. • 612-343-5930 • www.jacksonsholempls.com

The watering-hole vibe here is well manifested in a faux-rustic wood decorum — seemingly all savaged from a whitewashed dairy barn. Midday is an interesting mix of regulars in a laid-back loungey atmosphere. The second floor points to the change come evening: It’s a wide-open dance floor with a second bar, games, scattered seating and a stripper pole. Drinks are nothing out of the ordinary, with a decent 3-7 p.m. happy hour featuring $3 specials. S.D.

Jetset

115 N. 1st St., Mpls. • 612-339-3933 • www.jetsetbar.com

Gay clubs have long been a haven for straight girls to get their groove on without fear of being fondled, and this North Loop dance bar is a favorite regardless of orientation. The stark room would feel like a hushed gallery space if it weren’t for the hordes of sweaty bodies pulsing along with the DJ on weekend nights. There isn’t much for comfortable seating, but that’s not why you came. M.R.

Kieran’s Irish Pub

Block E, 601 1st Av. N., Mpls. • 612-339-4499 • www.kierans.com

Kieran’s is an Irish bar. That’s about all you need to know. A sprawling place, noise in Kieran’s carries in tidal waves, because the large, high-ceilinged main room is divided into cubicle-esque booths that only go shoulder-high. A close relationship with 2 Gingers has that brand of whiskey ever-present on bar shelves. Happy hour isn’t much of a deal, but Kieran’s knows it will remain busy in the middle of the day regardless — no lure is needed. S.D.

Mackenzie

918 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-333-7268 • www.mackenziepub.com

It might be a Scottish bar, but Mackenzie prides itself on its American beer roster. The Theatre District pub boasts 24 craft taps, keeping a steady balance of local and national faves and harder-to-come-by brews. A steady but not swarming Twins crowd, accessible dartboards and a low-key patio make it a desirable pregame destination. M.R.

Monte Carlo

219 3rd Av. N., Mpls. • 612-333-5900 • www.montecarlomn.com

Before there were mustachioed hipsters in porkpie hats and natty suspenders armed with ice chippers and eyedroppers, there was Monte Carlo. If you really want to go retro in a sincere and unironic way, belly up to the mirrored bar, where a man’s drink can be had, with sidecar. At this century-old landmark, the waitresses are still in starched black dresses with white aprons and orthopedic sneakers. Think brown liquor. M.B.

The News Room

990 Nicollet Mall, Mpls. • 612-343-0073 • www.thenewsroommpls.com

Surprise, surprise, the News Room has newspapers everywhere on the walls — classic “Nixon Resigns” headlines mixing with selections from the Onion. Yet, the coolest part of the News Room is a central bar with liquor shelves replaced by a large-model replica of a 19th-century clipper. Some topgallant sail whiskey, anyone? It’s a slightly upscale spot, but the prices draw the suit-wearing after-work crowd. Their bathrooms showcase one of the more unfortunate practices of late: The mirrors are two-way, allowing the sexes to view each other’s post relief rituals. Weird. S.D.

O’Donovan’s

700 1st Av. N., Mpls. • 612-317-8896 • www.odonovans.com

Like many an Irish pub, O’Donovan’s music selection is a rotation of Celtic classics, U2 and Dropkick Murphys — that is, when they don’t have live bands or karaoke. We love “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Whiskey in the Jar” covers as much as anyone, but the Target Center/Target Field/First Avenue-adjacent bar’s real draw is its 20-ounce taps (recommended with a sipping shot of Powers) and boisterous event-day atmosphere. M.R.

Pourhouse

10 S. 5th St., Mpls. • 612-843-2555 • www.thepourhousempls.com

The Pourhouse’s punny name isn’t as amusing as the odd appearance of the establishment itself. It’s as though a Greco-Roman amphitheater was the initial use of this Prohibition-themed space. The center of attention is a stage featuring a huge screen projector. A second-floor balcony rings the room, with an overhang decked with televisions. Decent beer selection accompanies extensive pub fare. S.D.

Seven Sushi ULtralounge & Skybar

700 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-238-7770 • www.7mpls.com

It’s a possibility that steak and sushi aren’t really the point at Seven. Both are serviceable, and even good, but really you’ve come to see and be seen. You’ve come for the beautiful babes, the “skybar” views, the servers who’ve been hired for their assets. No mere bar, it’s a three-level “destination” with scene, with style. It’s a nightclub, it’s a lounge, it’s bottle service. It’s a lifestyle. M.B.

Solera

900 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. •612-338-0062 • www.solera-restaurant.com

This tapas joint’s rooftop might be outsized by other open-air sanctuaries on Hennepin Avenue, but Solera’s is a relaxed perch perfect for sipping sangria on a warm midsummer evening (especially during its movie nights). However, in any season the ground-level dining room offers an effortlessly elegant experience, whether you’re nibbling, feasting or cocktailing before a show at the neighboring Orpheum Theatre. M.R.

Toast Wine Bar

415 N. 1st St., Mpls. • 612-333-4305 • www.toastwinebarandcafe.com

When you’ve got wine on your mind, head to this hidden Warehouse District den of fine vinos and smart snackers for pairing. The duo behind this charming underground hideout are serious connoisseurs of the grape, so this is no throwaway list. You’ll find true gems and thoughtfully curated listings to please any oenophile’s sophisticated palate. Cheese, salumi, flatbreads and olives make up light bites allowing for just one more glass. M.B.