The purest dive bar rectangle in Minny.
Along Minneapolis’ University Avenue just north of downtown, a stretch of dive bars conveniently dot an otherwise residential neighborhood, creating a concentration of destination dives uncommon in a city the size of Minneapolis. Jimmy’s Bar & Lounge makes a case for king Minneapolis dive bar of that area, on the surface little more than a rectangle of a building but inside creates such an old-school, no nonsense vibe that it’s easy to see decades of drinkers stopping in for a beer on the way home.
Outside, the signage game at Jimmy’s is strong, one of the better Minneapolis dive bar collections of vintage signs not only included an understated sign with the name of the bar but the absolutely Minneapolis-required Grain Belt sign above the door (two separate doors, in fact). A flat awning over the front door states the name of the bar once again, all on top of a rock façade common to houses built about 50-plus years ago and seen seldom since. To say that Jimmy’s is old school requires only a cursory glance at the building.
The description of the space inside isn’t going to take up much room. This is a single room in a residential part of Minneapolis slinging beer and providing a venue for neighborhood conversations. One long wall of the space is home to the bar, a uniquely shaped contraption flat in the middle but curved at both ends, almost like a dumbbell cut in half. Behind the bar, illuminated pillars frame selections of glasses, bookending the long line of liquor bottles available. A plastic food menu can be found on one end of the bar stocked with basics like hot dogs and nachos.
The opposite wall of Jimmy’s is home to long stretches of black, leather seating supported by small round tables, cocktail style. The stretch is broken up by the bar’s dart board and capped by Minneapolis staple, the gambling & pull-tab station found in most Minneapolis dive bars. The throw back nature of the interior continues, expressed by the deep wooden vertical paneling that runs throughout the space as well as the drop ceiling that ties it all together. Under foot, a tile floor that has likely seen no shortage of Grain Belt Nordeast spilled on it over the years.
Even at the late hour of this reviewer’s last visit, the vibe was conversational, certainly a no-nonsense environment that still allowed for an outsider like myself to jump into a conversation at the bar. Between breaking up a disagreement here or there, the bartender was entirely friendly, open to the kind of idle chit chat befitting a dive bar as classic as Jimmy’s. About the only piece of bar décor that could be fairly described as “modern” happens to be the jukebox that on this night was fittingly cranking out vintage hits.
For an area of Minneapolis so rich in dive bars, it takes quite a bit to stand out and Jimmy’s steadfast continuation of all things old school and classic certainly stands out. What should feel like a rock-ringed rectangle in the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis feels a bit more like a time portal to a simpler time. From unique bar shape to the distinct and contrasting padded booths along the opposite wall, Jimmy’s packs a vintage dive bar punch in a small footprint.