Top 10 happy hours in the Twin Cities

Cocktails at Eat Street Social

Cocktails at Eat Street Social

After about 4 p.m., especially toward the end of the work week, people in offices and schools and hospitals and roller rinks everywhere start to get that...socializing itch. Happily, there are plenty of happy hour spots around town where comrades and co-workers can go and get that itch scratched -- places where the food is deep-fried, the booze is free-flowing, the taps are plentiful, and everything is cheap for a limited time only. 

We did our research and compiled a list based on overall value, range of options, and whether you can actually leave work at the usual time and still get your drink order in before the specials are over (a.k.a. happy hours that go past 5 p.m.) Here are our top 10 favorite happy hours in the Twin Cities.

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10. Victor's 1959 Cafe - 3756 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis
Hours: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. (yes, that's right) to 10:30 a.m. and Tuesday to Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Highlights: Introducing the concept of breakfast happy hour to the Kingfield neighborhood is just the first of Victor's many worthy contributions, but their tropical mimosas made with guava, mango, or guanabana juice (which tastes like a strawberry-banana hybrid) for just $4 are possibly their greatest. The $4 sake Bloody Marys are a close second. They don't have a full liquor license at Victor's, but the $4 wines by the glass and tap beers at the evening happy hour, which goes a half hour later than standard, certainly suffice. 

9. Blue Door Pub St. Paul - 1811 Selby Ave., St. Paul
Hours: Every day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Highlights: Blue Door is the exception to our after 5 p.m. rule, mainly because the $2 tap beers they serve at their earlier happy hour are hard to beat, especially in the area and especially for such a robust beer list. They also have $2 fries or tots to go with them and $5 wine if you're not into beer. The late-night happy hour block features $3 tap beers, $5 wine, and a fuller food menu with items ranging from $2 to $5.50.

8. Pat's Tap - 3510 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday to Thursday from 10 p.m. to close. 

Highlights: Pat's has $2 off rail drinks, house wine, and tap beer, but the main reason we like to come here, especially late night, is for the $5 bowl of garlicky steamed mussels, crispy fried spears of dill pickle, and a side of buttermilk dressing, and latke-like zucchini cakes with aioli. If your schedule makes you more of a day drinker, it's worth noting that Pat's has two-for-one Bloody Marys every weekday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

7. Great Waters Brewing Co. - 426 St. Peter St., St. Paul
Hours: Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday to Friday from 10 p.m. until close.

Highlights: Great Waters' house-brewed beers are only $2.50 a pint during happy hour, as are rail drinks. House wines are $3.50 and they have a handful of $5 snacks like chicken wings, nachos, and mini corn dogs. The only caveat here is that you have to sit in the bar or on the patio to get these deals, and depending on other events that are happening in the area, both areas can get a little crowded.

6. The Sample Room - 2124 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis
Hours: Monday to Friday from 3 p.m  to 6 p.m. and Sunday to Thursday from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Highlights: The afternoon into evening happy hour here has $3 taps, rails, and wine; $2 Grain Belt Premiums; and lots of tasty food specials including pickled walleye, a daily changing quarter-pound burger, and blue cheese and bacon nachos. If you happen to be hanging out at this charming small plates tip-to-tail eatery later at night, you can enjoy the same drink specials and $3 dishes like house-made hummus and creamy smoked trout spread, or $5 sweet potato croquettes and artichoke empanadas. 

5. Smack Shack - 603 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis
Hours: Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight.

Highlights: If you like a high octane drink that's still sweet and fruity, you can get a lot of bang for your buck with one of Smack Shack's Hurricanes, which are $7 at happy hour. There are also $3 pours of Summit (usually EPA and one seasonal option), Miller Lite, and Lucky Bucket Wheat. Upgrade to a rotating selection from Fulton or 612 Brew for $4, or get a glass of house red or white for $5. Smack Shack made the list at the halfway mark for their tiered pricing structure with the appetizer menu. There's something for every budget like Smack fries for $1, tacos for $3, or bacon mac and cheese for $5.

4. Nightingale - 2551 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Hours: Every day from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Highlights: Aside from the already compelling $2 oysters, $5 bruschetta, $7 pate, and $4 fries with malt vinegar aioli, Nightingale recently added its famed cheeseburger to the happy hour menu. Served alone it's $9, but for just a dollar more you can add a Hamm's tall boy and that scored big points for this late-night place. On the bar side order $3 rail drinks; $3 local beers like Indeed, Excelsior, and Fulton; and $2.50 domestic tall boys including PBR and Premium. There's also a $5 daily changing specialty cocktail, recently a creation called the Falconer, made with Templeton rye, Imbue Petal and Thorn aperitif, and a dash of bitters.

3. The Lowry - 2112 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: Every day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close.

Highlights: Commuters who constantly find themselves stuck in traffic, texting their friends to order them a drink before happy hour ends will appreciate that the Lowry's happy hour goes until 7 p.m., a rare thing in Minneapolis. In addition to $3 tap beers (with a very good selection) and premium rails, the Lowry offers a $6 craft cocktail of the week and food specials like $1 deviled eggs, $5 sliders, and $6 chicken potstickers. 

2. Lush Food Bar - 990 Central Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m.; and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Highlights: Another rare extended-hours spot and home to the even rarer Saturday night $1 drinks, Lush has some of the cheapest, craziest, definitely bus or walk or cab it to and fro deals in Northeast or anywhere else. It's two-for-one "you call" drinks and $5 appetizers most days of the week and late-night-feuling three-for-ones from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays.

1. Liquor Lyle's - 2021 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Hours: There is basically some special going all the time, but specifically 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday to Thursday from 9 p.m. until close.

Highlights: It's a dive, but it's the way it is because people loved it so well for so long. It's the Velveteen Rabbit of dive bars and the constant two-for-ones are what made Lyle's real. In addition to doubling up on almost any beer or rail cocktail, appetizers are half off during the day-into-evening happy hour. And if you think that sounds like a pretty solid deal, everything just gets cheaper after 9 p.m. when plenty of pints ring in at only $1.50, apps are but a buck, and there's a monthly changing cocktail that sells for just $3. 

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