Top 15 best underrated Twin Cities hipster bars

Categories: Lists
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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.


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21 comments
Luke Rohde
Luke Rohde

BEAR THE SOUND is playing Driftwood Char Bar!!!

Stephen Biondo
Stephen Biondo

Why would anyone want to go to a "hipster bar" anyway?

koehl102
koehl102

I don't even know what 'hipster' means anymore.  Dusty's?  That's my go-to place, love it (I live a block away), and I rarely see anyone under the age of 35 there.  What does hipster mean?

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

Only three Mpls bars here would qualify as "hipster" and would make a top ten list of bars of Mpls bars. None listed in St Paul count unless it's the Amsterdam or probably Turf Club (still haven't made it there somehow, but hear good things). St Paul needs hipsters to save them from the extremes of boring overpriced bars and sketchy dives where patrons like to stab and shoot one another.

robert.moffitt
robert.moffitt

I have been to most of these places. I don't know if that's good or bad.

hody_007
hody_007

#5 Nye's Polonaise Room UNDERRATED? In October 2006 Esquire named it "The Best Bar In America".

Karen Volkman
Karen Volkman

I'm happy you failed to find the really good spots in St. Paul, keep the "hipsters" going to the other side of the river so us EastSiders can keep our secrets :)

Sarah Moeding
Sarah Moeding

*whew* You missed my favorite, and the best of them all. But dagnabit for mentioning Dusty's. Man, I love that place. Catch The Sudden Lovelys there on their once-monthly Friday night gig, and you'll be in heaven.

Christopher Greenfield
Christopher Greenfield

I love Dusty's as it is in close proximity to my girlfriend's house and the food is pretty good but I wish their bartenders were a little more practiced at their trade (stick to beer or straight whiskey as their cocktails leave a lot to be desired)!

Patrick Toth
Patrick Toth

"Arguably, pretty much any spot in St. Paul could constitute an underrated hipster hangout." Funny, five years ago, it was a major effort to get almost anyone west of the river to even utter the name "St. Paul"; City Pages, included. How times have changed...

Joe Strom
Joe Strom

Genius Bar at the Apple Store

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