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Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Tony Nelson

It's a given that Minnesota-based music lovers will eventually see a live show at one of the best venues in the country, First Avenue. The hundreds of silver stars on the gritty black walls of the club provide but a small sampling of the legendary bands passing through, and Prince assuredly put the club on the music world's radar when he filmed Purple Rain there in the early '80s. Over the years, it has earned a rep as a great place to see a concert in the bustling heart of Minneapolis

Whether you are a local music scene veteran or you're heading down to the venerable club for the very first time, there's often a window of time to fill before the night's big event. If you are looking to meet up with some friends ahead of time, here are the 10 best places to have a drink before catching a show at First Avenue.

See Also:
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First Avenue's 20 best concerts

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

10. Gluek's Restaurant & Bar
16 N. Sixth St., Minneapolis

There is a definite old-school vibe to this charming bar and restaurant, the oldest in downtown Minneapolis. The Gluek's brewery itself hasn't been around for a while, but the bar still pours some choice Gluek's pints -- one of the few places in the state that still does -- as well as a long selection of other beers from around the state and the world. And they have a terrific bar and dinner menu which is heavy on traditional German fare and seafood but has a bit of something to suit every taste. The warm, intimate feel of the bar has a definite European beer-hall ambiance, providing the perfect atmosphere for downing a few pints with your friends before walking to a show at First Ave, which is just two blocks away.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

9. Eli's Food and Cocktails
1225 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

This intimate, welcoming bar and restaurant has a nice vintage vibe to it that is perfectly suited for grabbing a few stiff drinks before heading to First Ave for a show. The beer choices are smaller than at larger bars, but the brews are well chosen for their discerning clientele, and the knowledgeable bartenders know how to mix the perfect drink. The menu is top-notch as well, with even hot dogs given a bit of a gourmet (but still highly affordable) twist. Eli's is five blocks from First Ave, so even if you do happen to load up on martinis and mac & cheese, the brisk walk will allow you to work off the calories as well as clear your head a bit before the gig.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

8. 112 Eatery
112 N. Third St., Minneapolis

While the fantastic food at the refined 112 Eatery deservedly gets most of the attention, the quaint bar area here is the perfect place to have some philosophical discussions with old friends before a big show at the Ave. The wine list is impeccable, the mixed drinks are consistently perfect, and the list of beers is impressive for such a small place. If you do have the time to sample their delectable menu that will surely only add to your overall experience and appreciation of the place. But the drinks themselves, and the cozy atmosphere of the space, will definitely be enough to put you in the perfect frame of mind to head on over to First Avenue, located just five blocks away.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

7. The Chambers Hotel
901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

While the steep price of the rooms at the Chambers Hotel might intimidate some First Avenue patrons, the unique bars and the original works of art located throughout the establishment are well worth checking out. Whether you're drinking indoors surrounded by edgy modern art pieces from Ralph Burnet's private collection, or at the ground level outdoor bar which can adapt to any type of weather -- with a fire pit and a cool ice bar to help fend off the elements in the heart of winter, and intimate private bungalows in the warmer months -- the place simply exudes class. If you can get past the pretentiousness of some of its clientele, there are plenty of eye-catching aspects of the Chambers to get lost in before taking the two-block walk to First Avenue.

 

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue

6. Bradstreet Craftshouse
601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

This intimate cocktail bar is located on the first floor of the posh Graves Hotel, and is the perfect destination for those well-heeled and well-dressed music fans who want to sample some hand-crafted specialty drinks in a sleek, modern environment before the big show. The private Parlour Room in the back is reminiscent of a modern-day speakeasy hidden behind a velvet curtain, while the main bar is a delight for all of the senses, with talented mixologists ready to make whatever your palate desires. No matter what, or how much, you choose to imbibe, Bradstreet is conveniently located just a half-block away from First Avenue, so you can easily carry your buzz with you straight into the club.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

5. O'Donovan's Irish Pub
700 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

Chances are, if you've come down to a show at First Avenue before, you've probably already discovered the charms of O'Donovan's. The homey Irish pub is conveniently located directly across the street from First Ave, and the free-flowing taps and robust whiskey selection are enough to keep any music fan satisfied before (or after) a big gig next door. In the warmer months, there is plenty of outdoor seating to soak in the heat and energy coming from the city, but when it's cold the dark woodwork and spacious bar area gives concertgoers a welcoming environment to down a few pints, shots, or a shepherd's pie before heading across the street in time for the show.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

4. Butcher & the Boar
1121 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

While Butcher & the Boar has been selected by a few media outlets as well-deserved restaurant of the year, this new downtown locale is a great location for drinks as well. In addition to the sprawling beer garden located behind the restaurant (which is a spacious rarity in the closely cramped downtown dining scene), Butcher & the Boar also boasts a top-notch bourbon list, an impressive array of tap beers to chase them with, and an expansive wine list to suit any budget. Of course, the sweet smell of the house-made sausages that permeates the place will most likely cause you to sample the stellar menu, but even if you've just got time for drinks before the show B&tB has got you covered, both inside and outside, at one of the new jewels in fine dining and drinking in Minneapolis.

 

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

3. Kieran's Irish Pub
601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

With most everything else in Block E closing up shop, Kieran's has thrived in its new location since moving from the old haunt on Second Avenue. Not only is the bar one of the most spacious in downtown, with plenty of seating both inside and out, there are always plenty of gems on tap, and their bottled beer is bound to give even the most astute hop-head a few welcome surprises. They also boast one of the best happy "hours" in town, with specials running from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week. Their Irish pub-fare menu is wonderful (and affordable), and numerous TVs are always tuned into the big game, but it is the exhaustive beer list, specialty cocktails, and bountiful whiskey selection -- and that half-block walk -- that'll bring 'em here before First Avenue shows well into the future.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

2. Mackenzie
918 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis

Mackenzie boasts one of the best selections of craft beers in downtown Minneapolis, and their taps are far from the traditional pours of most bars in the area. In addition to the adventurous (and constantly rotating) selection of brews, they also have one of the best outdoor decks in Minneapolis, providing a pleasant drinking environment when the weather gets nice. They have a surprisingly decent bar menu especially given how small their kitchen is, and their TVs always have the game on. The small neighborhood bar ambiance draws you in and keeps you coming back. It's just a three-block walk from First Avenue, and provides the perfect relaxed environment to hoist back a few choice pints before heading to the show.

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

1. The Depot Tavern
17 7th Street N., Minneapolis

The Depot has the unfair advantage of being connected to (and affiliated with) First Avenue and the 7th St. Entry, but even without the prime location this is far and away the best place to have a drink before a show next door. Not only do they have small closed-circuit TVs tuned in directly to what is happening on stage at both First Ave and the Entry -- so you know exactly when a band starts to play -- but even more screens are dedicated to our struggling local teams. Their tap list is top-notch with plenty of seasonal Surlys and other local beers on offer, and the menu boasts the best cheese curds this side of the State Fair, tasty steak tacos, and burgers that can help soak up all of the drinks you'll consume. (Note: More often than not the band you will see that evening is grabbing some drinks and dinner at a neighboring table before their show.)

Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Photo by Erik Hess

The Depot is also adorned with plenty of striking photographs throughout the bar and restaurant featuring some of the bands that made First Ave famous in the first place. The Depot has become so synonymous with shows at First Ave that you are left wondering what exactly we all did before the place was built.


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