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Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Steve Cohen

We all know where the go-to spots are for a heavy-handed, no-nonsense rail drink, or for standard curds and tots at a table your mother wouldn't want to eat off of. In fact, sometimes it seems like there are all too many overcrowded watering holes for the hipper set. Say you're in the mood for a beverage, or perhaps a bite to eat, and maybe you don't want to run into the same dozen people you always see at the same bar -- but you don't want to compromise your aesthetic, either.

Here, Gimme Noise has a list of 15 of the Twin Cities' finest under-the-radar spots. You'll either love us for tracking them down, or hate us for exposing them to everyone else.

See Also:
Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Top 10 dive bars in the Twin Cities
Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

15. Driftwood Char Bar

4415 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis

The Driftwood Char Bar isn't fancy, but that's hardly the point. This south Minneapolis dive is host to a number of different characters at any hour of the day, but it's far from crowded, ever. You can always count on an empty barstool and an open pool table. The menu isn't extensive, but it's a solid showcase of bar food favorites, from jalapeño cream cheese poppers to sweet potato fries. It's not a big place, and the whole feel of it is on the cramped and dirty side -- exactly what you'd hope for in a dive bar. Apparently, they have sake -- no one really knows why. Bonus: Live music every day on their tiny stage.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

14. Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro
1510 Como Ave. SE, Minneapolis

If you're looking for drinks and authentic sushi without the high prices and the oversaturated crowd, Obento-Ya is the place you have been looking for. Hidden away in a quiet neighborhood, Obento-Ya is an unlikely Japanese grill and sushi joint. Its interior is clean and minimal with an open kitchen and counter seating, and its menu is composed of affordable traditional Japanese dishes, from a wide selection of noodles to Bento lunch boxes. With sake flights as an option, and a daily happy hour from 5-6 p.m. featuring sushi and robata on the cheap, Obento-Ya is a no-brainer.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

13. Tracy's Saloon
2207 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis

Tracy's is a fascinating place. With a menu that's half pub food, half upscale entrees, Tracy's has made a name for itself among the neighborhood locals as the place to hang for your weeknight drink. There's hardly a time of day when Tracy's doesn't have a special going on -- everything from a Tuesday-night 40-cent wing special to $3.50 bloodys and mimosas at Saturday and Sunday brunch. If you want to delve into the more experimental on their menu, go for the fried prosciutto-wrapped gouda or, even better, the totchos -- tater-tot nachos. Genius, we say.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

12. Elsie's Restaurant, Bar, & Bowling Center
729 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis

Of all the bowling joints throughout the Twin Cities, Elsie's may be the one you think of last. It's a trusted spot for league bowling, but other than that, the lanes are rarely too booked for you to walk in and snag one. Even if they are all taken, Elsie's bar isn't exactly dry, if you follow our drift, and the breaded portabella mushrooms might actually knock your undying love for cheese curds down a peg. Elsie's is the perfect place to rediscover your love for bowling without the pressure of trying to keep your ball out of the gutter. Around 10 p.m. every night, when league bowling is over, Elsie's converts its lanes into Cosmic Bowling, casting the place is sexy psychedelic neon lights -- a great opportunity to get your groove on and pretend you could've gone pro. Bonus: Elsie's might have the most underrated daily breakfast ever. (Chicken fried steak!)

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

11. Cardinal Tavern
2920 E. 38th St., Minneapolis

South Minneapolis has its share of underrated pubs and dives, but the Cardinal makes the list for its outward sketchiness and inward charisma. The brick-red awning and frequently empty parking lot don't promise much, but once inside, the Cardinal offers all the usual comforts. There's the lingering smell of stale fryer oil and cheap beer, daily drink specials, and a hit-or-miss staff that has better things to do than validate their guests. There's a multitude of diversions for you and any pals you bring along, from pool to trivia to karaoke... and let's not forget about the Wednesday Night Meat Raffle. Ah, Cardinal Tavern, you win hearts everywhere with your graceless charm, pitchers of beer, and jukebox tunes.

 

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

10. Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit
300 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis

So, Gasthof's is a German-inspired restaurant and bar with cowboy-boot beer glasses that somehow, they manage to keep stocked. There are two levels to Gasthof's: the upstairs dining area, with two rooms and lots of space for large parties, and the downstairs dance hall with live music and a second bar. Slinking down the steps to the basement-level danceteria can feel like stepping into a whole other world on a Friday night, when the booze flows freely and the tunes find some sort of strangely happy medium between dance beats and polka, but that's the beauty of this joint.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

9. Erté/Peacock Lounge
323 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis

Who knows why this place isn't always on the tip of the tongue when the inevitable "Where should we go for happy hour/drinks/snacks/fancy schmancy dinner tonight?" comes up. The restaurant Erté and its attached Peacock Lounge look and sound classy enough to be a supper club (its menu is rounded out by some very generous steaks and lamb chops), but the NE Arts District diamond in the rough is far from ostentatious. The Monday-Saturday happy hour rivals all its neighbors, lasting from 4-7 p.m. and featuring $2 off cocktails, beers, and appetizers and $1 off wine. If you want to feel classy without spending the money, this is the place for you. Plus, last time we checked, they had a complimentary lollipop dish at the door.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

8. Toast Wine Bar & Café
415 N. First St., Minneapolis

Toast is so thoroughly tucked away in Minneapolis's North Loop that you might miss it the first few times you drive past it. The cozy little wine bar is located underneath the Heritage Landing Building, and in the summertime, it features a little sliver of a patio that is positively Parisian in its charm. The menu keeps it café-style menu simple, focusing on a wide selection of charcuterie, crostini, cheeses, and flatbread pizzas, with an affordable wine list showcasing interesting selections from around the globe. This is a hush-hush neighborhood favorite for its reasonable prices and effortless class -- the sort of place you can practice wine and cheese snobbery without embarrassing yourself.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

7. Glockenspiel Restaurant
605 W. Seventh St., St Paul

Arguably, pretty much any spot in St. Paul could constitute an underrated hipster hangout. One of its very undiscovered spots is a little traditional German joint called Glockenspiel, which qualifies for this list based on its name alone. Aside from that, though, Glockenspiel offers a delightfully adventurous menu that's as fun to say as it is delicious, from the Frikadellen -- a traditional German hamburger -- to a broiled haddock dinner. The beer list would excite any brew snob, featuring an extensive selection of dark, amber, and blonde beers from Germany, Belgium, and even a couple from Russia. The Friday Night All-You-Can-Eat Fish Fry is no joke, either. From the outside, Glockenspiel looks a lot smaller than it really is: the stained-glass double doors open up to a spacious restaurant with high tin ceilings and Germanic folklore murals painted on the walls, complete with dark wood paneling and warm brass chandeliers. It's a taxidermied moose head and a bear skin rug short of being the beer hall that lives in your imagination, but that doesn't make it any less wonderful.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

6. Moscow on the Hill
371 Selby Ave., St. Paul

It may never occur to you to crave borscht, but we bet that after one trip to Moscow on the Hill, you'll probably need to make it a regular entry into your diet. This authentic Russian restaurant and bar is a delightful break in the norm, and if you happen to like vodka, you won't be disappointed. Moscow on the Hill's signature martinis range categorically from "dry" to "fruity" to "spicy" to "self-indulgent," and their selection of imported vodkas and house-infused vodkas will make you want to weep with Slavic joy. The bar is a cozy little box of a thing, with warm covered lanterns dangling from the ceiling and each red-clothed table getting its own little lamp as well. The dinner menu may bewilder you, with offerings like blini with caviar, escargot, and babushka stew, but after a Russian Concussion martini or three, you probably won't notice what you're eating, anyway.

 

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

5. Nye's Polonaise
12 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

The decor at Nye's is straight out of a hipster heaven catalog: glitter-gold booths, plush red carpeting, and dark wood-panel walls that recall the late '60s without remorse. The no-nonsense bartenders, dressed in crisp white shirts and black ties, carry a look like they've been with the place since it opened -- and a couple of them nearly have. Nye's Polonaise Room and Piano Bar has been a Northeast staple since 1950. It makes this list because aside from it being the place you can go on a Monday night for piano karaoke or for dependable polka music on Friday and Saturday (courtesy of the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band), Nye's may be the quintessence of classic cocktailing in Minneapolis. Don't trust anyone else in town to make a cosmo the way Nye's does -- and while you're at it, sample a bit of the traditional Polish fare on the dinner menu.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

4. Sporty's Pub & Grill
2124 Como Ave. SE, Minneapolis

On its website, Sporty's brands itself as the Twin Cities' Original Dive Bar. While the decor is certainly nothing special, we're not commenting either way on Sporty's claim of originality -- but we will admit that the burgers at Sporty's are decidedly not your average burger. There are a whopping 17 different burgers to choose from, among them the noteworthy Surf-n-Turfer (beef patty topped with fried cod and tartar sauce) and the Nutty Buddy (bacon, pepper jack cheese, and peanut butter). Aside from the unbeatable burger list, Sporty's is home to a well-worn pool table and a few staple arcade games and a dart board, as well as karaoke on Wednesday and Friday nights. This never-crowded bar is an easy choice if you're looking for a well-rounded local draft selection and solid pub food. When you go, ask about the Sporty's Koozie Club -- it's a real thing.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

3. Dusty's Bar
1319 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis

Dusty's may not look like much from the outside, but this Northeast neighborhood dive is a treasure trove of unique delights. The simple red-on-white signage outside advertises two things: dagos and liquor, both of which Dusty's carries in abundance. A dago, for those of you not in on the Italian tradition, is sandwich with peppers, mozzarella cheese, tomato, and (Dusty's house-made) spiced sausage in a simple white roll. It's as delicious as it is pure and simple, and if you want to wash it down with a pint of something unpretentious (like, say, a 16-ounce "Razzy" for a sly $4.50), well, power to you. Dusty's also features live music Thursday-Friday, along with nightly drink specials and a happy hour every day except Saturday. The quaint outdoor patio is always open, weather be damned.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

2. Black Forest Inn
1 E. 26th St., Minneapolis

Where else in Minneapolis can you find delicious ham and sauerkraut balls, weiner schnitzel, and kassler rippchen all on the same menu? Black Forest Inn is a slice of very traditional German fare, with stripped-down furnishings and one of the most charming enclosed outdoor patios in the summertime. It's spacious enough for an impromptu gathering of 20 or so of your nearest and dearest friends. Rest assured there is a drink for everyone on the restaurant's extensive list -- from little-known German wines and beers to house specialty cocktails. (Try the Krautini, made with Steinhäger and sauerkraut juice. It might be the new Bloody Mary.) This underrated German restaurant is located on the corner of 26th and Nicollet, kitty-corner to the notably hip Eat Street Social.

Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars
Photo by Erik Hess

1. Donny Dirk's Zombie Den
2027 N. Second St., Minneapolis

Located in a mostly forgotten north Minneapolis territory, Donny Dirk's Zombie Den is one of the quirkiest little almost-divey gems in the city. The retro-sheik sidecar of a bar is finished with plush cream-colored studded swivel bar stools and intimate booths, various pieces of taxidermy, and a neon green-lit sign above the racks of booze that reeds "Undead Frank Lives" (a homage to Stand Up Frank's, which stood in place of Donny Dirk's until 2009). In event of a zombie resurrection, Donny Dirk's will be your place for "sophisticated tragedy" in the form of a delightfully gloomy craft cocktail or some other ghoul-faced libation. 


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