This place suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It's an Ethiopian restaurant, it's a lounge, it's a bar for beer geeks, and it's a nightclub. And although it doesn't excel in any of these functions, the Blue Nile succeeds at all of them. The food is good and reasonably priced, the tap selection is eclectic and carefully chosen, and the environment may be shabby but the layout encourages comfortable socializing. You can belly up to the bar to watch the scene or cozy into more private booths and create your own vibe with your friends.
You will not see touring musical acts or local bands that are starting to generate buzz in the local press. What you will see is homegrown music and entertainment that is difficult to find anywhere else in the Twin Cities. Desdemona's Poet's Groove is the quintessential example of the Blue Nile's style. Contrary to what the name suggests, Poet's Groove is much more than an open invitational poetry reading. Of course, spoken word poets are welcome and encouraged, but the stage is open to performers of all kinds. On my recent visit I saw a gospel singer, a rapper, a spoken word duo, a silky voiced R&B singer, and some rock n' roll--all in the first hour of the evening.
A spoken word poet herself--and arguably the most popular one in the Twin Cities--
Desdamona adds local star power to this free weekly event and has been hosting the Poet's Groove for eight years now. More than an artist, she is a benefactor for artists like herself, providing an opportunity for amateur artists to find and use their creative voices. Like any open mic night, Poet's Groove is subject to hit and miss performances. It can feel like a community center talent show, but at the Blue Nile there is a particularly strong sense of community.
As I watched from the bar I commented to my neighbor about the remarkably friendly vibe in the room. "There certainly is a can-do attitude in here," I said.
"Or at least a should-try one," he replied. Indeed.
On other nights at the Blue Nile you can catch regular reggae gigs from local veterans Les Exodus, DJ nights, and a monthly MC battle that will culminate in a championship night on the last Saturday of December.
Honestly, on any given night in the Twin Cities, the hottest show in town is probably not at the Blue Nile. But you will be hard-pressed to find a more diverse, energized, and positive crowd to spend your time with than the one you will find at the Blue Nile when they open their doors to amateur artists.
2027 Franklin Avenue E.
Minneapolis, MN 55404