Food & Drink

The Best Bars in the Twin Cities to Drink at Right Now

Updated On 01/02/2018 at 01:41PM EST Updated On 01/02/2018 at 01:41PM EST
Martina
Martina | Eliesa Johnson
Republic • Seven Corners

Republic

Seven Corners

A safe bet for cheap drinks and burgers
Despite the sad fact that Republic’s Uptown location recently closed, the original is still going strong. Republic consistently tops lists of best drinking establishments for a reason. Their excellent selection of beers and cocktails (both on draft!) pairs well with any number of the delicious food on offer, with unusual combinations like peanut sauce-topped duck burgers and soba noodle salad. Thirsty patrons can enjoy flights of beer or two different whisky brands, and even better, Republic has a happy hour that just won’t quit. One of the best deals in town, Republic’s twice-daily happy hour knocks prices down on all tap beers, house wines, cocktails, and even includes a $6 burger. For an affordable, guaranteed good drink, Republic is always a safe bet.

The Happy Gnome

The Happy Gnome

Downtown St. Paul

Excellent beers and St. Paul’s best fire pit
This good old St. Paul standby features 89 craft beers on tap, making this an absolute must-visit for any beer aficionado. They also offer a ton of different tasting events and beer dinners that help educate beer nerds and showcase the joys of craft brewing. Slide into a booth and enjoy what’s on tap or opt for a speciality cocktail like The Bees Blood Orange Knees (local Bare Honey infused Hendrick's gin, Meyer lemonade, and blood orange juice). Additionally, Happy Gnome boasts an excellent food menu and a variety of liquor options for drinkers who just can’t stomach more beers. Make sure to take at least one peek outside, even in the cold: Happy Gnome features one of the best patios in the Twin Cities. It's accessible year-round thanks to its enormous outdoor fire pit.

The Muddy Pig

The Muddy Pig

Downtown St. Paul

St. Paul’s OG beer temple that has served over 2,000 beers on draft
Before there were Surly, Summit, and the plethora of other beer temples, there was the Muddy Pig. One of the first bars in the Twin Cities to emphasize craft beer, the Muddy Pig features more than 40 beers on tap, including a lot of local brews. Since July 2016, the bar has served over 2,000 different types of draft beer. That equates to a lot of rotating options for beer enthusiasts. As comfy as a well-worn sweatshirt, the Muddy Pig is a safe bet for beer lovers who need options, and those who think they don’t like beer at all; with so many possibilities it’s impossible not to find something you’ll love.

Buster's on 28th

Powderhorn

A neighborhood bar focused on hard-to-find beer
Buster's is a gem that puts the celebration back into drinking beer, especially when those beers are interesting, weird, or hard to get a hold of -- which is why Buster's is usually a good spot for special cask events and tap takeovers. The bar also offers a build-your-own flight option, which varies in price depending on the styles you choose, but it is a great way to explore new brews from their rotating options. The filling pub grub menu also guarantees you can (somewhat) hangover-proof your visit, even if you need vegetarian options. If you’re smart enough to plan your visit around one of their many events, you can win sweet giveaways like record players.

Tattersall Distilling

Tattersall Distilling's Cocktail Room

Northeast

A fancy cocktail bar in a vintage space with innovative drinks
Housed in the 115-year-old Thorp Building, this place is technically a distillery, but its cocktail room is designed to perfectly show off everything that they’ve got working. Everything you’ll drink here is made in-house or directly made to Tattersall’s own contemporary specifications, and you can’t possibly go wrong with any of the options. Tattersall serves a broad array of house-made liquors (our last count was at least 22 different varietals), so there is sure to be something for everyone. If you make a night of it, make sure it’s in a tight party, as Tattersall does not allow groups of 15 or more. 

Miracle at Lawless

Lawless Distilling Company

Seward

Custom-made liquors for custom-made cocktails
When the folks behind Bittercube announced that they were opening their own distillery and cocktail room, it became an instant classic. This overdue addition to the Twin Cities cocktail boom came onto the scene hard -- using its own brand of Tippling House vodka and Greenway gin along with their custom line of high-class bitters -- and its bartenders easily pour some of best and most interesting cocktails around today. Lawless also has a kitchen and is serving up tasty bar fare on a revamped menu; they even allow you to bring your own food, if you'd prefer.

Volstead's Emporium

Volstead's Emporium

Uptown

Possibly the truest speakeasy in the Twin Cities
For the novelty factor alone, Volstead’s Emporium is a surefire crowd pleaser -- if you can find it, that is. Located in an alley behind several other local businesses, Volstead's has sometimes been accused of being a bit pretentious -- but the long weekend lines can only be attributed to the fact that their bartenders kick ass at what they do. While the cocktails tend to rotate seasonally, the Brooklyn (a twist on a Manhattan) is definitely a drink we find ourselves going back for. If you fancy your nights out Prohibition-era style, swing by for a classy indulgence.

Rival House

Rival House Sporting Parlour

Downtown St. Paul

Rival House goes beyond hotel bar expectations
This beautiful St. Paul spot may be a hotel bar, but it’s got a surprising amount to offer rabid sports fans. A great place to start is the 24 cicerone-approved craft taps and a menu that specializes in top-shelf bar food made with locally sourced ingredients in mind. On top of that, Rival House has added Instagram-worthy interiors and a lively sporting parlor that includes Skee-Ball, ping pong, and bubble hockey for all of your vintage gaming needs. Add in the ability to do all of this while watching all of the games on the big screens? Now you’ve got yourself a pretty solid game day setup.

Half Time Rec

Half Time Rec

Downtown St. Paul

A classic, award-winning Irish sports bar
When it comes to sports bars, there are three things you need: beer, food, and TVs. This little St. Paul institution just so happens to have those three things in spades. There are more than 20 beers on tap, multiple big screen TVs, and seriously delicious Irish-style bar food courtesy of the Paddy Shack. Just in case you need a little more, they’ve also got bocce ball in the basement, as well as pool and bean bags. Don’t worry about dressing up here; you can definitely roll in with your best pair of torn jeans and ugly sweater and fit right in. Try to avoid underestimating Half Time Rec’s low-key charms; it’s won awards for best burger and best dive bar for a reason.

Up-Down Minneapolis

Up-Down

Lyn Lake

Great pizza, flowing beer, and a dizzying selection of video games
Up-Down is the ultimate fantasy fulfillment for gamer fans. Showcasing a unique collection of over 50 different classic arcade games, pinball machines, and Skee-Ball alleys, along with several N64 setups, life-sized Jenga, and Connect Four sets, this is definitely a spot for people who like to play. Make sure to troll their website for ongoing updates on available pinball and arcade games, as well as daily drink and experience specials. If you feel like spending New Year’s Eve out of the house but in comfy clothes, this is your spot for interactive fun -- just make sure to get there early enough to snag your favorite games. The selection of 64 craft beers on tap, excellent pizza by the slice, and the fact that it’s always 21+ place it a notch above.

Vegas Lounge

St. Anthony Park

A den of karaoke and meat raffles
If there’s nothing you dream of more than bright lights and an open mic, look no further than the Vegas Lounge. This is a karaoke bar through and through. From the top-notch song selection to an excellent sound system, you’re guaranteed to have fun any night of the week. It serves up more than just karaoke, too, with a weekly lineup that includes bingo, meat raffles, $2 drink specials, and two-for-one happy hours. Release your inner pop star and swing through, especially on nights you know will get rowdy.

Troubadour Wine Bar

Troubadour Wine Bar

Uptown

An all-natural wine selection you can feel good about drinking
Troubadour advertises itself as an all-natural wine bar. That matters because -- as health-conscious oenophiles know -- cheaply or poorly made wines can often contain undesirable ingredients like added sulfites, pesticides, and unfiltered farm residues. Troubadour’s mission is to sell wines that are as clean, safe, and delicious as possible, and the bar pulls it off. Its menu has recently included rare varietals like Nebbiolo and Picpoul, as well as a solid range of the classic varietals like pinot noir and others you've probably already heard of. Troubadour’s current seasonal menu features wines exclusively made by women winemakers, so, by all means, support these ladies of the grape. Troubadour also has a small selection of beers on tap for those of you who don’t dig wine, but overall, it’s just a great little spot to just sit back and relax.

Bev's Wine Bar

North Loop

The wine bar that started it all in the North Loop
This place has been a North Loop institution since before it was known as the North Loop. For over 20 years, Bev’s has been serving up all kinds of wines by the glass and the bottle, along with a variety of nibbles and pizza for more substantial snackage. It’s also the sort of quaint little place where you can actually have a quiet conversation -- fueled by a simple, but high-quality, wine list. Bev’s keeps relatively short hours depending on the level of foot traffic, but don’t forget to reserve the space for private events.

Jackie Adelmann Photography

GYST Fermentation Bar

Uptown

Every food and drink item is somehow fermented
What if you need somewhere to go that offers interesting drinks with and without alcohol in them? Look no further than GYST Fermentation Bar, one of the more unique upstarts to grace Uptown’s dining scene. Everything on its menu is fermented. When it comes to food, this means things like pickles, cheeses, and pickled fish. Non-alcoholic beverages include a bracing range of kombucha, kvass (spiced brines, such as beet or pear brine), shrub sodas, and brine shots. Alcohol-wise, the tightly curated menu includes intriguing combinations such as sherry and cider or vermouth and kombucha, as well as a solid range of wines, beers, ciders, dessert, and fortified wines. Swing by for the afternoon happy hour or sign up for one of the many fermentation classes GYST hosts on subjects like making your own kombucha at home.   

The Restaurant Project

Young Joni

Northeast

Speakeasy great for drinks and wood-fired Asian-fusion pizza
The lines can be long to get in, but this hot spot, which only just opened, is so worth the wait. From creative, Asian-cuisine-inflected pizzas to gorgeous wood-fired side dishes, Young Joni’s perfectly executed menu is sure to surprise even the most wizened foodie. But Young Joni also has a secret back bar in addition to the main restaurant out front. Those facing a long wait can add their name to the list and hop down the alley to a speakeasy-style hole in the wall featuring Young Joni’s trademark creativity, but in cocktail form. Drinks include combinations like gin, saki, butterfly pea flower, and cucumber brine.

Bulls Horn

South Minneapolis

A true dive bar with extremely serious food
"Great food, no bull" is this bar's tagline, and you should pay attention to it. Bulls Horn is a local dive that was recently purchased and renovated by acclaimed local chef Doug Flicker. Reflecting a labor of love and an homage to Flicker’s favorite local haunt, he kept the bar's original vibes (which likely date back to 1935) but revamped the important stuff, like the food. You can’t go wrong here: one of the most acclaimed local chefs delivering delivered perfect chicken gizzards, pizza burgers, and adult-themed lunch trays like dill pickle fried chicken and ring bologna? In a dive bar with a respectable, affordable range of straightforward brewskis and a few wine selections? Keeping it simple can be oh so good.

Eliesa Johnson

Martina

South Minneapolis

South American flavors made to drink in the cold North
One of the most hotly anticipated debuts of 2017 is finally open, and boy was it worth the wait. With an astonishing Argentinian-inflected menu that includes fried blowfish tails, sea bolognese, and grilled octopus with bone marrow, you could be forgiven for never wandering past Martina's food menu. Don’t overlook the cocktails, however, which are just as creative as the dishes. The Kind of a Kalimotxo mixes red wine, rosso vermouth, amari, kola, lime, and nitrogen into a mix-and-matched wonder, and the Promiscuous includes a chest hair-raising vodka blend and basque olive brine. Non-drinkers can choose from a carefully prepared list of mocktails, and anyone who requires simpler tipples can order from beer, cider, or the encyclopedic wine list. Reservations are already nearly impossible to get, so book far ahead of time.

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1. Republic 221 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

Republic in Downtown East is the upscale answer to your average local dive or pub. In the confines of its open brick walls and stained-glass windows, this spot serves up higher-end versions of typical bar food like burgers with white cheddar, fried eggs or duck, tacos and steak sandwiches. Don't come here if you're all about house cocktails, that's not really this place's deal. But with over 100 beers and ciders from all over the state and world, it'd be impossible to walk out unsatisfied.

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2. The Happy Gnome 498 Selby Ave, St. Paul, MN 55102

Despite the diminutive name, you’ll want to arrive at this St. Paul bar with a giant-sized appetite, because not only is the 70-strong draft list deep on Midwest favorites and reliably on-point, but the juicy burgers are also a must-try. Better yet -- have that burger and beer on the patio when the Minnesota weather permits, because let’s be honest, there’s no better state to be in between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

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3. The Muddy Pig 162 Dale St N, Saint Paul, MN 55102

Named one of the 100 best places on planet Earth to have a beer by Draft Magazine, The Muddy Pig's got a ridiculous list of draft beers, many of which are local, plus a huge food menu that runs the gamut from small plates and salads to sandwiches and full-on entrees.

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4. Buster's on 28th 4204 S 28th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406

This Powderhorn gastropub has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past year or so. But after recovering from a fire that forced them to shutdown, they’re back and just as delicious as ever. The burgers here, served alongside a great beer list, are incredibly flavorful. Buns, made at The Baker’s Wife bakery right next door, do a nice job of soaking up all the meat's juicy deliciousness.

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5. Tattersall Distilling's Cocktail Room 1620 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Located in the historic Thorpe building in NE Minneapolis, Tattersall Distilling offers distillery tours, private parties, and a cocktail room to fill all your liquor desires. Legendary bar owner Dan Oskey has created a gem in the city by providing a place for the people of the Twin Cities to enjoy expertly crafted cocktails from some of the most famous spirits in the area. The open area, which is adorned with steel and wood, creates a clean and inviting atmosphere for you to sip your cocktails.

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6. Lawless Distilling Company 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406

Opened by the same guys behind Bittercube, Seward's industrial-chic, community-oriented Lawless Distilling Company creates all of its cocktails with the distillery's own vodkas and gins. The two signature spirits are the Tippling House Vodka, named after houses where alcohol was distilled during Prohibition in Minneapolis, and Greenway Gin, named after the bike highway. The patio is prime real estate at this hot spot, especially during the summer.

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7. Volstead's Emporium 711 W. Lake, Minneapolis, MN

Volstead's Emporium is the pinnacle of secretive in Minneapolis: when it opened, it didn't have a website, Facebook page, or phone number. It relied purely on word of mouth. If you want in, we'll tell you that a door with a red light is located in a back alley at Lake & Lyndale, behind a well-known cowboy-themed bar. The always-changing menu is sure to have something to catch your eye, or you can go classic with a high-quality Old Fashioned.

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8. Rival House Sporting Parlour 411 Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55101

This sporting lounge -- not sports bar -- is located at the base of the DoubleTree Inn in Downtown St. Paul for your refined game day viewing and ‘za enjoyment. It's driven by craft beer and their centerpiece wood-fire pizza oven.

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9. Half Time Rec 1013 Front Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55103

Half time goes full time at this legendary St. Paul sports bar. With over 20 beers on tap, broadcast of all major games, an indoor bocce court (!!!), AND live music every weekend, you have plenty of ways to kill time before the fourth quarter.

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10. Up-Down 3012 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408

You're practically guaranteed to have a blast at Up-Down in Lyn-Lake, which boasts 64 craft beers on tap, pizza by the slice, and a unique collection of more than 50 classic arcade games, pinball machines, and skee-ball alleys. Not to mention, there are several neo-classic N64 setups, life-sized Jenga, and Connect Four. In case you somehow need more convincing to plan your next party here, the hand-made pizzas come in varieties like mac & cheese and jalapeño popper.

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11. Vegas Lounge 965 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

A visit to this proudly old school dive is cheaper than a ticket to Vegas. Come for the karaoke, stay for the meat raffle.

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12. Bev's Wine Bar 250 3rd Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401

A North Loop hidden gem, Bev’s pours a limited but thoughtfully curated list of unpretentious, mostly European wines by the glass and bottle, along with a variety of snacks and pizzas. Sporting exposed brick and wooden tables, it's the sort of quaint and cozy spot where you can actually have a conversation, ideally over a bottle of Malbec, brie, and a baguette.

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13. Troubadour Wine Bar 2827 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Unwind to live music at this quaint and colorful Uptown wine bar, which carries 40 varietals from around the world, a small selection of craft beers on tap, and charcuterie & cheese boards. From acoustic rock to bluegrass to rhythm & soul, there's a performance every night at Troubadour, which elevates the already-relaxing, community-oriented feel here: local art hangs on the walls surrounding friendly customers on cozy couches.