The Best Bars in Minneapolis, MN
A bar, as a social gathering place, serves many functions: For entertainment, for commiseration, for relaxation, for escape. And the drinks served there, whether an ice cold beer, craft cocktail, glass of wine, or simple [your favorite spirit] on ice, reflect the place itself.
And, lest we forget to mention/honor our hardworking industry professionals, it’s the bartender that truly makes the bar.
But this isn’t just a list of standalone bars in which the only thing to do is drink. Those are certainly found here as well, but the bars at places like Martina that supplement an excellent food program – many restaurants are not only complemented by their bar program, they are completed by it – cannot be left from the conversation.
Maybe we should call this simply our guide to the best places to get a drink in Minneapolis, no matter what style, setting, time of day, or anything else, and just leave it at that.
We come for the food, often, but could be just as content to come for a cocktail, tucked away in the wooden-splashed corner where nothing matters but the sensory experience that is the pear-sweet Moon Mama, the bitter and addicting Gancia Batido, or the Naked Ballerina #2 for when we’re in the mood for tequila, in front of us.
Take your pick: The dark and cozy back bar that reminds of pictures from your dad’s 70’s bedroom – retro wallpaper, record player, dim mood lighting – or the bustling restaurant bar that makes industrial chic feel like something new every time you sit down. This is one of the most popular places in Minneapolis though, so be prepared to wait – though the bartenders are always excellent if you do find a place to sit down.
People seem to either love it or hate it – though certainly more people fall into the love side while relaxing here with a drink. We don’t find ourselves here often (we actually hang out more at the Bachelor Farmer upstairs), but when we do, we’re always reminded that it is one of the best places in the city to get an expertly-crafted, and incredibly creative (we’ve tasted things here that we haven’t tasted anywhere else in the city) cocktail.
Another place where food is thought of first and foremost. But drinking while waiting is important – and they do it so well that we’ve found ourselves coming back again and again just for drinks. And sometimes some of their way-too-good homemade bread shows up with a little whipped butter anyway. And, at that point, we’re pretty f#cking happy.
We placed the Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar as two separate entries – they are distinctly two different places, unlike the back bar at Young Joni that feels like a (necessary) extension of the front. Bachelor Farmer offers a brighter experience, with its own cocktail program and tap beer list, and is the best option if you’re looking for a glass of wine in the area. Plus, you can dine while you drink if you stay upstairs.
Something of a staple in Minneapolis – one of the early places that put North Loop on the now-bustling map as a cultural destination neighborhood. But the quality of the drinks hasn’t changed, and neither has the cozy, comfortable lounge in which to enjoy them, even as their empire continues to expand.
It’s dark. It’s sexy. It’s great drinks. So great, apparently, the rest of the country took notice – New York City’s Death’s Door was in town recently, for example, and these collaborative projects keep the Constantine cocktail program as fresh as anywhere you’ll find in the Midwest. At the end of the night, the small menu of cocktail-oriented bites, and the awesome cheeseburger, add an important piece to the experience.
Even if the kitsch “speakeasy” thing is a little played out, Volstead’s role as back alley bar designed after the most intimate, and secretive of ways to get a drink is both charming and enjoyable. The space reminds us why this way to drink was fun in the first place – full of whimsical details and Harry Potter-esque touches. The drinks are more serious than the decor.
Esker Grove matches the Walker’s modern aesthetic as a dynamic, forward-thinking drinking and dining experience. As with art, some people’s tastes for a good cocktail run more traditional, and some more contemporary. The cocktail list is designed thus, with the classics done the classic way on one page, and a mirror image of their contemporary counterpart, done the Esker Grove way for those looking for something new, on the opposite.
If you’ve been looking for Japanese whisky in the Twin Cities, this intimate, hard-to-get-into bar upstairs from Kado No Mise is all for you. It’s tiny, so small they can only seat like 20 people at once, but it’s worth trying to get a spot to enjoy atmosphere alone; a small taste of Tokyo right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They have a well-curated selection of sake as well.
It’s a dive. Perhaps the most surprising piece of Bull’s Horn is that it did, with such fine-dining pedigree behind it in award-winning chef Doug Flicker, manage to be a successfully low-key and simple dive – and that’s to embrace the notion that a simple dive is, indeed, a beautiful thing: nachos and deviled eggs and Heggie’s pizza and cold, yellow beer. And, to complete the experience, pull tabs galore.
It has history. It has battle scars. It has pool and darts and a smoker’s paradise patio. It’s still the same welcoming, everyman watering hole it ever was, even if, technically, it’s owned by the frou-frou French Meadow next door. It’s hard not to be happy here, and it’s even harder not to get swept up in the array of smoked-and-soaked faces that still call CC Club home.
The neighborhood might gentrifying rapidly around it (though that gave us Hai Hai, so we can’t be too upset), but Grumpy’s remains a classic dive as a classic dive should be. The whiskey is cheap, the beer is also cheap, and cold, and you’re sure to run into a few familiar faces if you sit back and relax at the bar, or in one of the well-worn booths more than once.
No food in this spit-and-sawdust dive just outside of downtown. Strong drinks and music. Some call it “retro,” generously, and it does have a vibe of years long gone. But we’re just here to grab a drink and clap our hands, stomp our feet, sing along with the lively band onstage.
Whiskey heaven? You have to be alive to take the tour. It has the impressive “whiskey bible” for you to thumb through, so if drinking is a Christian act you are certainly blessed, my child. Or you can just put yourself in the hands of the bartender and let them provide you the ultimate whiskey/drinking experience. Or you can just drink whatever the hell you want, because that’s what you’re there to do.
Kind of a “last man standing” place in the ever-changing North Loop. I guess that’s why we like it. It’s nothing more than what it is; standing out in its ability to not stand out – a true dive, with the dollar walls and daily comfort food deals to prove it, in the middle of Minneapolis’ most on-trend neighborhood.
Palmer’s is, in a word, good. Simply good. Good vibe, good music, good (okay, maybe great) bartenders, good prices, good time. Their lineup of music is ever-changing and always interesting, and, added bonus: It’s easy to get to from both the Green Line and Blue Line LRT.
Even with the addition of a Smack Shack kitchen, which means, somewhat oddly, that you can enjoy lobster with your Jameson and karaoke, 1029 remains the pretense-free, casual and laid-back bar it always was in Northeast. The decorations here are distinctive – undergarments from ladies’ nights long past, bullet-riddle cop car doors, etc – and the patio is perhaps the liveliest place in the neighborhood.
Pool tables, neon signage, a juke box, and Heggie’s Pizza seem like two fairly suitable prerequisites for a good dive. A lack of 15-minutes-to-make craft cocktails probably as well. And the fact that it’s a gay bar means that maybe we can have nice things in this world – though be warned, the sign that says “Sarcasm now served all day” wasn’t just put up for the fun of it.
The drink specials alone make the Knight Cap a worthy spot for a night of boozing. Better yet, a night of boozing where no one will judge you for it. Throw in a few dart boards and pinball machines, some live music, and the all-important (at least for a classic Minnesota dive) meat raffle, and free hot dogs and chili for Vikings games, and you’ve got a neighborhood joint deserving of patronage.
Home of the original Jucy Lucy (famously), and now a large number of people who have heard of it and want to try it for themselves. After President Obama stopped by, their celebrity rose through the roof. But the cool part is that they didn’t let that change anything about the experience: If you liked Matt’s Bar before (the Jucy Lucy is pretty epic) you’ll like Matt’s now – even if it’s a little bit harder to get a table.
Normally we stick to St. Paul for good Vietnamese food – there’s nowhere better than Little Mekong. Then Hai Hai opened and completely changed the game. Happy hour eats like water fern cakes and crepes overflowing with mushrooms go well with awesome cocktails that remind of warm weather no matter the season. And the lemongrass/ginger/citrus-infused Indeed “Bia” Side Pils, brewed special just for them, is the perfect beer whether you’re hot or cold as well.
The arepa, a delicious meat-and-cheese-and-more-filled cornmeal cake, is what put them on the map when they were still a food truck. Little did we know that they would make even better cocktails when they opened their stationary space in South Minneapolis. The patio is the perfect place for a rum-based drink in the summer, and, come winter, their horchata egg nog warms up and makes the cold weather worth it.
A gastropub that knows some of the best meals are the ones eaten late: Nightingale serves until the end of the night, and isn’t shy about offering happy hour twice a day as well to make sure you can do so, and grab a drink as well, without stressing about the bill. A fantastic joint for those in the industry getting off late who still want something better than diner or drive-through, with a creative beer and wine list to boot.
It’s in Dinkytown – but that doesn’t mean that Dinkytown is in the Kitty Kat Club. It’s not a place for nonstop shots and vomit on the windowsill; it’s laid back and relaxed, with surprisingly good live music programming, and one of the best views of the city from their patio. It does get busy on the weekend, though you can usually still carve out a place for yourself to kick back.
Music accompanies creative cocktails. It gets busy – really busy – some nights, but the bartenders are still happy to see you. Icehouse represents everything that makes a bar/restaurant/music venue good hybrid good.
Pat’s Tap sets itself apart by sticking to a simple ethos: Homemade is better, and moms really are cool. Some of them anyway – and Pat, for whom the bar is named, appears to be the coolest of them all. Whether you just want to belly up (Pat’s could almost qualify for the dive bar category in that regard), or sit down and stay a while with an amazing selection of cheese and cheese-based dishes.
French food and drink is often association solely with fine dining in America – the often stuffy standards set forth by the Michelin guide. Barbette reminds that good (great) food can come in settings sans white tablecloth, and, while the quality is certainly up to par, it manages to remain casual enough to keep you there relaxed all afternoon with oysters, champagne, and a fantastic selection of cheeses (from local and abroad) to please your palate.
The food is good – Southern-inspired classics with a Minnesota twist, but drinks are where Dalton & Wade really shines. You’ll quickly forget what time it is, or how many drinks you’ve had, in this cowboy bar named for the characters of 80’s (cult) classic Roadhouse. Come for happy hour. Stay late. It’s a chill place for any occasion.
While Alma, the restaurant, would certainly have to fall into the Upscale category, the connected cafe & bar is one of our favorite places to unwind. They recently added happy hour – cheaper drinks and a few things to eat for one hour between 4:30 and 5:30 – and while it certainly gets busy, it remains always a great place just to kick back and chill and enjoy some of the city’s finest cocktails and small bites.
The bartenders wear vests. The leather seats are the smell of old money. It’s about as inward-looking a place as you’ll find in Minneapolis – maybe a few of those downtown steakhouses might compare – making it the perfect place for a martini in winter. But even with all these old-world-luxury touches, it’s still a relaxed, welcoming, hang-up-your-coat-and-stay-awhile kind of place that makes time tick just a little bit slower off the clock.
Yes – every drink we’ve discussed so far came by way of fermentation. But Gyst is in a league all its own, dedicated to the art of fermentation across eats, treats, drinks, and education. If you don’t have an idea about the importance of fermentation and flavor this is the place to learn all about it: The food and drink are designed to coexist; to blend and balance in ways most bars wish they understood. The flavors are vibrant, joining together to touch all five taste modalities in beautifully-realized ways. Bonus: the long list of N/A options means non-drinkers will feel right at home as well, and will have just as good of a time.
We like our wine bars low-key, accessible, and with, of course, with a nice wine selection. Troubadour also has music onstage every night that their open, and manages to be a wine bar and neighborhood gathering spot simultaneously. Maybe we don’t need much, some people might need more, but Troubadour makes us happy every time we visit.
It’s at once both elegant, and quite simple. Brick walls, wide windows, high ceilings. The sort of place that comes to mind when you think of when someone says they’re taking you to a wine bar, but it’s without trying to do too much – it’s a place for drinking wine, after all, and that’s what it’s all about. There is a small menu of small plates to supplement your bottle of choice as well.
The wines of Italy often take a backseat to the wines of France, or, here in the US at least, even the wines of the West Coast. But that’s usually because there aren’t any good Italian wines to be found – or a whole lot of guidance on how to drink them. Terzo is the place to change that, offering a wide variety and an impressive selection of vino from Italy’s very best vineyards. They’re focused on changing (or maybe just expanding?) the conversation, and reminding us why Italy deserves to be a part of it.
The Fair State Pils is our favorite pilsner in Minneapolis. They have a pretty decent sour as well with their Roselle – fast becoming the sour of choice on beer menus across the Twin Cities. Really, they don’t make too many bad beers here, and their street-facing taproom in Northeast is an always-reliable good time as well.
This might be our favorite taproom in the Twin Cities. Natural sunlight streams through windows, the patio lights aglow after dark, and the beer, from the Sky-Glide IPA to the Schwandtoberfest, always good. They also have Deathball which, if you haven’t played yet, is one of our favorite arcade games ever made.
Full transparency, we love Bauhaus so much they are now one of our partners: Drinking cold beer in a canned world: An evening at Bauhaus Brew Labs
We went to Indeed before we knew that craft beer was going to become a defining piece of the Minneapolis drinking landscape. Back then, artists were painting upstairs, and some party was making the floor shake in the event space. But no matter what we were there for, we always finished with a beer at Indeed. And we’ve been going ever since. Now, with Popol Vuh/Centro open across the street, we’ll probably stop by more often than before.
It’s a brewery for beer drinkers. That may seem like an obvious statement – all breweries open for the people who want to enjoy their product – but Dangerous Man was all about making solid beer from the start. Nothing to do with the craft beer boom, nothing to do with catering to people who just want to jump on the bandwagon for bandwagon’s sake. Try the… and the…
Surly has become something of the big dog on the street. They pioneered, they fought, the brewed, the hustled. And then they got their enormous “destination brewery” and multi-state distribution. But it’s still good, solid beer. And while we were certainly sad to see Brewer’s Table go, which redefined what food at a brewery could be, we’re not opposed to the pizza place that replaced it.
Lawless opened, seemingly out of nowhere in 2017, to become one of the Twin Cities’ premier cocktail rooms/distilleries. You might miss it from the outside, tucked away in the midst of industrial buildings, gray and nondescript. But inside is a warm, welcoming and probably the most comfortable of all the cocktail rooms on our distilleries list. Plus, and this is probably more important, the spirits are all top-notch.
A spacious taproom that still manages to keep you close to your companions. The patio spills out a bit in the summer. It’s a focused experience, intent on challenging preconceived notions of what local spirits can, and should, be. We’d be even happier if they brought their kitchen back, but ordering from afar, and supporting other establishments in the neighborhood, will do for now. If you’re curious about the space and practice, belly up to the bar: the mixologists are always happy to chat.
Probably the friendliest distillery in Minneapolis. They also place an emphasis on programming and events – whether it’s a distillery tour to give drinkers a glimpse of the internal workings, or dinners like the upcoming Supper Club Show with Jeremy Messersmith, they make sure the night out is a social one. You’re never supposed to drink alone, after all.
Tattersall views what they do – in distilling some of the Twin Cities’ best gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, brandy, aquavit, pommeau – a fusion of art and science. Well, “Part science. All art.” But with that comes a true commitment to the craft, and an enthusiasm about sharing it with the world: Classes and events are available to share knowledge and expand the practice, and they’ve even built a recipe app available for download. But really, we just come here to drink.
It’s like every birthday party the cool kids had in elementary school: free reign arcade games, skeeball, pinball, and pizza – though, as Mountain Dew was not a fountain of youth, a wide selection of tap beers has replaced the cooler of soda pop. We used to eat dill pickle chips with our Mountain Dew (the good old days). The N64 Super Smash Bros. tournaments get pretty heated here, just like they did when we were 8 years old at the neighborhood sleepover. We admit we don’t get here as often as we’d like, but we’re always happy when we do.
Pinball is anarchy – pure and simple: You can play a hell of a game, nail every boost, double, triple your score. Light up the joint with sound of points on the pixelated screen in front of you. And then, because the universe needs balance, your final ball will shoot a bullet straight through the middle of your flippers without a thing you can do to stop it. And that’s that. No rhyme or reason. And we love every minute of it – especially if we have a beer or strong drink nearby to wash down the saltiness we taste every time we lose.
We know, as always, that we didn’t list every one of your favorites. And we know that makes you livid. Let us know what we missed at firstname.lastname@example.org, and make your case for why it’s the best, and we’ll publish your thoughts in our user’s edition of the city’s best bar next – full credit.
For more places to visit in the Twin Cities, read this next: The best restaurants in the Twin Cities suburbs