Minneapolis Nordeast

Minneapolis, Minnesota

As far as density goes, Minneapolis' Nordeast neighborhood is the city's dive bar king, a tightly packed, nicely-aged array of well-varied dives.
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
There are few cities with an area as concentrated with dive bars as the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis. There’s something in the mixture of residential density, proximity to the urban core of the city, deep historical roots and that little something extra authentic that comes with drinking in the Upper Midwest. Referred to interchangeably as Northeast and Nordeast, the area is lined with neighborhood pubs, meat raffles, bingo nights and the kind of dive bar drinking befitting the city of Minneapolis.

The real difficulty here is where to draw the line. There are more potential dive bar destinations than a night could reasonably hold. There are probably more potential dive bars than an entire weekend could reasonably hold. And those dive bars come in great variation, music dives like Shaw’s, renovated properties like Mayslack’s, unique food items like the dago at Dusty’s, a weird green glow under a Ferris wheel at Tony Jaros’. Start anywhere, end anywhere, this is a free-form dive bar crawl in a particularly potent area to do just that.

The Stops

1. Dusty's Bar

1319 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Google Map
(612) 378-9831
Web Site Link

The key to a great dive bar crawl is setting the tone with a great first stop that doubles as a place to lay an adequate food foundation to prepare for an evening of drinking. Dusty’s Bar is famous for the dago, an Upper Midwest concoction that looks a lot like a hamburger substituting ground pork for ground beef. The small kitchen in back cranks out a menu beyond just the dago, all of it in a pleasingly rustic environment that includes a makeshift library in an old phone booth. Dusty’s sits on the outer rim of the Northeast neighborhood, keeping all potential routes open.

2. Mayslack's

1428 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Google Map
(612) 789-9862
Web Site Link

Even Minneapolis’ Northeast neighborhood isn’t immune to dive bar reclamations and renovations. Mayslack’s sits on the edge of that transition, a revamped interior and fresh coat of paint coexisting with a host of original features. Ancient wooden booths, an impressive stamped ceiling and a timeless bar still feature prominently even as the bar’s patio and secondary room see enhancement. Progress is a double edged sword and it’s on display at Mayslack’s.

3. Knight Cap Bar Lounge

1500 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Google Map
(612) 789-5233

Where Mayslack’s has seen some advancement in its features and fixtures, the Knight Cap across the street serves as an antidote of sorts. With an amazing bar sign and some amazingly complementary murals inside depicting some kind of medieval jousting scene, the ambiance is an excellent exercise in dive bar theming. And, of course, for no known reason, there’s an aquarium behind the bar offering a unique element of visual appeal for a night of drinking.

4. Shaw's Bar & Grill

1528 University Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Google Map
(612) 781-4405

There’s something very classic about an awning with ornate type above the front door of a dive bar that looks like it hasn’t changed for a handful of decades. Shaw’s maintains a strong reputation for two things: the quality of the burgers and the quality of the blues that shuffles across the small stage inside. With ample Christmas lights and drop ceiling tiles, Shaw’s is a proper dive bar that happens to contain an impressive array of rock memorabilia on its walls.

5. Jimmy's Bar & Lounge

1828 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Google Map
(612) 788-1383

Now this is a Minneapolis dive bar. Jimmy’s may just be the dive bar king of the Nordeast neighborhood, a shotgun rectangle of a space with little more to it than a long bar and a few chairs. Built in booths along the wall opposite the war provide a little visual distinction, but this is a true neighborhood haunt catering to locals and changing little over the years. Old Style and a bag of chips is about as complex as it gets at Jimmy’s and that can only be taken as a good thing.

6. Grumpy's

2200 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Google Map
(612) 789-7429
Web Site Link

It’s not all blue collar dive bars in the Northeast neighborhood, with slightly more upscale offerings available for a change of pace. Grumpy’s and the nearby NE / Northeast Palace represent the best of that bunch, revamped interiors within historic buildings creating fresh bars even if they aren’t complete dives. Grumpy’s has cultivated the hip neighborhood collecting point vibe, complete with outdoor stage and equally outdoor drinking when the Minneapolis weather cooperates.

7. NE Palace

2500 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Google Map
(612) 788-9535

One notch closer to dive bar and only three blocks north of Grumpy’s, NE Palace features a truly Minneapolis-grade dive bar façade and the sign to match. Red and white paint job across from apartment buildings, this is a neighborhood bar that’s put some money in a freshly updated patio that extends the footprint. Outdoor dive bar neon is good, indoor neon is even better and NE Palaces features a couple of noteworthy examples, creating the kind of friendly glow you want out a dive bar toward the end of the night.

8. Tony Jaros' River Garden

2500 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Google Map
(612) 789-9728
Web Site Link

When all else fails, head for the giant Ferris wheel. Not the most expected landmark in a city like Minneapolis, Tony Jaros’ sits along the Mississippi River across the street from a mini amusement area of sorts. Bathed in a soft green glow, the color scheme matches the signature drink, the Greenie, a lime and vodka concoction not to be outdone by similar varieties of all sorts of colors (your guess what’s in the Brownie). Open late, classic dive bar interior, signature drink, what better way to cap an evening of Nordeast dive bar drinking.

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