The Upper Midwest is the right kind of weather-fueled breeding ground for hard-drinking dive bars able to withstand deep tranches of snow and humid summer heat. Minneapolis is, in a lot of ways, the perfect dive bar city, a community that embraces drinking and great food, a love affair so strong that the region’s signature food, a hamburger patty with a molten cheese core, was born, arguably, in a dive bar in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And though the true heritage of the Juicy Lucy is a debated historical footnote, the two main options are a dive bar and an ex-speakeasy that opened in 1928, two robust options.
The Nordeast, a neighborhood just across the Mississippi River from the city’s urban core, holds the city’s densest concentration of dive bars, a corridor with some of the purest Minneapolis has to offer, from a timeless brick rectangle like Jimmy’s Bar & Lounge
to a green glowing outpost under a Ferris wheel like Tony Jaros’ River Garden
. Beyond, amazing dive bars are built into the fabric of neighborhoods throughout the region, like The Nook
with its subterranean dollar bill-lined bowling alley dive bar or The Spot
, opened in 1885, its wood panel exterior looking it might just fit in during the 1800s.
And there’s more to the food here than the Juicy Lucy, though Matt’s Bar
is an excellent place to start the pilgrimage (and it’s spelled “Jucy Lucy” according to them, of course). Dusty’s Bar
, another Nordeast luminary, offers the dago, a variation on a hamburger made with ground pork. And Gopher Bar
, maybe the last great dive bar in downtown St. Paul, is deservedly famous for coney dogs served with meat sauce (not chili) atop split Texas toast-style buns.
Food, drinking, dive bars, these things go hand in hand, and Minneapolis provides a perfect storm, resulting in neighborhood after neighborhood each with its own CC Club
, its own Palmer’s Bar
, creating a dive bar inventory of sorts hard to rival in the Upper Midwest and elsewhere.