You know the Uptown VFW as a cozy dive bar, tucked in the back of a nondescript storefront on Lyndale, a place to shovel free popcorn in your face and get cheap drinks and karaoke Bob Seger deep cuts until the early hours of the morn. And it still is that. But now it's a whole lot more.
At the beginning of this month, the James Ballentine VFW Post 246 (that's its proper name, in case you didn't know) opened up a sizable expansion. That nondescript storefront is now two enormous, sleek bars. A former ballroom has become an open space for live music, a lost art in Uptown. There's a kitchen, too, that serves classic country breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays and typical bar fare every night until midnight.
Yes, this is a new Uptown VFW indeed.
When you walk in the Lyndale entrance, you'll have a choice of two rooms: the one on the right centers on a U-shaped bar that is surrounded by big-screen televisions; the one on the left boasts even more TVs, plus a giant projection screen. Not long ago, Uptown sports fans were squeezing into Lyndale Tap House and the Herkimer for their favorite games. With the addition of Iron Door down the street and this capacious new VFW, your sardine tin days are behind you.
There's also a brand new kitchen, which is slinging bar standards like pretzels, tots, nachos, and onion rings, as well as burgers and wraps and salads for more of a meal. We love that they've also included weekend breakfast, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. It's a very simple menu — biscuits and gravy, steak and eggs, pancakes — but you can get a basic breakfast with eggs, hash browns, meat, and toast for $6.99, and that pleases us mightily.
And there are pulltabs, of course. The tiny booth in the original VFW bar has given way to what our bartender called "a pulltab suite." The old man selling your favorite bar game now has enough space to stand up, turn around, and extend his arms. A veritable palace!
Behind the two front bars is a giant open room that will serve as a concert venue. Could it be true? A new live music venue in the formerly rocking Uptown? Time will tell. For now, consider this a good space to throw a big party — should your party require pulltabs, cheap drinks, and a wide-open dance floor. Is there a party that doesn't?
The VFW financed the fancy new digs by selling "air space" behind their building, allowing a high-rise condo to be built on stilts above the VFW parking lot.
Loyal VFW fans squirming to shit-talk the sleek newness of it all should be rest assured: Your favorite nook is still safe and sound. A small corridor will lead you to the back bar where nothing has changed. The paneling is still your favorite shade of wood-brown; the premium circular booths still look out over the karaoke; the popcorn is still served in those paper cartons.
It's just that now our veterans and their hipster friends have even more space to hang, watch a game, eat a meal. And everyone has room to breathe when it's 1 a.m. Sunday morning, and all the booths are full and standing room is dwindling. They've preserved the past while investing a little more in the present.
2916 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis