Because nothing says Minneapolis like a lime and vodka cocktail.
Bordered by the Mississippi River and the northern tip of Minneapolis’ dive bar rich Northeast neighborhood, Tony Jaro’s can fill a bit like an outpost on the edge of the city’s urban core before venturing into destinations a bit further flung. But this is a destination worth a final step on a dive bar drinking crawl, its location making it a natural night capper.
As the bar’s web site details, the building that today houses Tony Jaros’ River Garden was erected in 1909 for the purposes of distributing beer to nearby loggers. Today’s tenants moved in a handful of decades later, an institution that has remained part of the Jaros family ever since. And though technology has marched forward over the bar’s expansive history, cash is still the preferred and only accepted payment.
Outside and in, a faint green glow seems to permeate the structure, from the sign out front to the bar’s liquor lighting array. Pale stone gives way to well-worn brick outside, the words ‘liquor’ and ‘food’ above the door clearing up any misconception as to what kind of garden lies inside. The tone is set immediately by the vintage pay phone just inside the front door, and unlikely other vintage “decorations,” this one appears to be in working order.
There’s more to the green motif than simply the lights, as the dive bar’s signature offering appears to the be “The Greenie,” as a mural on the outside of the building makes clear. This reviewer did not partake in a Greenie on a recent visit, but fair to say any liquor drink named after a color is likely a mix of strong and sweet that makes getting up the next morning a little bit more difficult. Investigation reveals that the concoction is a mixture of lime flavoring and vodka. And fear not, the Pinkie, Bluie, Orangie, Purplie and Brownie are all available as well.
The space itself isn’t complicated, a shoebox of a Minneapolis dive bar bathed in beer sign neon almost exclusively. Along one wall, a string of red cushioned booths provide intimate seating for pairs of drinkers (or ill-conceived groups with poor judgment). Aside from a spare table here and there, the main attraction is the 360 degree bar in the middle of the room, a wrap around structure that serves as a dive liquor island. As an added benefit, the bar features a bit of a ledge, allowing elbows and drinks to exist on different planes, or facilitating double decker dive bar drinking.
Green lighting illuminates the liquor selection below the lip of the bar, a color that just feels old fashioned in a good way, a timeless bit of in-bar marketing as it reflects off of the line of glass bottles. Painted walls very quickly give way to dive bar standard wood paneling, where the dive bar’s neon lights are paired with a collection of old pictures and the odd television or two. Not to be left out of the dive bar checklist, a selection of sports trophies also provide a bit of visual appeal.
Brightly colored signature drink aside, the appeal here is a classic dive bar on the edge of a neighborhood flush with options. Conveniently, the night cap status of the bar is supported by the fact it sits across the street from a Ferris wheel, meaning that no matter the mental state of those seeking it out, Tony Jaros is always a quick look at the skyline away. And rightfully so for one of the pure Minneapolis dive bar destinations.