Best Neighborhood Bar (St. Paul) - 2012
Skinner's Pub & Eatery
919 Randolph Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Some neighborhoods feature bars you drive for miles to get to because they're a citywide attraction. But the classic neighborhood bar, one that passersby overlook because it seems too "divey" — or not divey enough — is its own entity, less concerned with pulling in people from across town than with making people from a few blocks away feel at home. Skinner's Pub and Eatery sits on a stretch of Randolph Avenue that doesn't lack watering holes, but it stakes its claim with a welcoming sincerity. Its decor isn't some faux-divey contrivance but a natural accumulation of genuine community. There's some funky local-pride gusto in its bar-space wall mural of local pro wrestling legend "Mad Dog" Vachon, while its wood-paneled dining room sports classic-rock album covers and kids' coloring book pages. The cheap but tasty fare means that stopping in for a beer is merely a good start: Along with offering traditional appetizers and a wide selection of sandwiches from Reubens to walleye, Skinner's is renowned for its lunchtime all-you-can-eat pizza buffets. And even if a generous happy hour makes it a good place to get a low-budget buzz, it's still the kind of place that welcomes all ages, from free Sunday-evening kids' menu specials to Thursday bingo nights. Trendiness and friendliness aren't mutually exclusive, but Skinner's has earned its place by focusing on the latter.