The loudest, hottest karaoke on Earth to be sure.
My ears may never recover from a visit to the Vegas Lounge. The mixture here is simple, a late night dive bar in a part of town with less late night options than it might seem that serves up nightly karaoke to a diverse crowd atop a small stage with an aggressive sound system. The sign above the door reads “Warning!!! Coldest Beer In Town” and a bench beneath it is inscribed with the words “Vegas Lounge Best Dive Bar.” There’s certainly a plan here. Vegas Lounge knows what it is.
Vegas Lounge sits in a part of Minneapolis that serves as a transition between two more trafficked parts of the city, its downtown urban core and the dive bar-friendly Northeast neighborhood. This wide swath of Minneapolis just across the Mississippi River is a little less dense than other parts of the city, leaving a pocket for a place like the Vegas Lounge to thrive as a karaoke-fueled destination. Outside, the building can be best described as a brick shoebox with a fenced-in patio attached, a free but overflowing parking lot serving as the collection point for those looking for a little late night glory. Dice on fire feature prominently in the dive bar’s signage, both an homage to Vegas as well as an indication of the rough temperature inside.
This is a karaoke hot box, to be sure. The space is built around a central bar that provides a slender horseshoe footprint in the bar’s front room. Horizontal wooden panels run the length of the space, creating what feels like a wooden shoebox inside of a brick shoebox sitting in the embers of a fire. It’s hot, if that isn’t coming through, on a cold Minneapolis night when the place is packed with an eclectic mix (skewing younger on this reviewer’s visit) waiting for their turn to fill the Vegas Lounge with pitch-adjacent screaming.
Though it certainly is not the case every night at the Vegas Lounge, on this night the volume dial wasn’t turned up to 11, it was turned up to 1100. Each scream from the sub-30’s duet’s rendition of a Taylor Swift song reverberated not just in the ear drums but the craniums of those in attendance. It bothered no one, clearly, as the space was packed, vibrant and pulsing with both the off-pitch screeching of two recent undergrads and the accompanying backup vocals throughout the Vegas Lounge.
The space itself is about as expansive as the term ‘shoebox’ suggests, which is to say not entirely. The slightly elevated stage up front caps off one short wall to the end of the space, the bar in back and the rest of the intervening space covered in low tables. Minneapolis staple, the pull tab booth, sits to one side and the area just inside the front door scrapes together enough space for a bar game or two. The confines here are snug, to be sure.
When the Minneapolis weather cooperates, a porch in back offers some measure of relief, low metals tables interspersed among the weathered wood fencing that surrounds the area. Windows into the bar provide a glimpse of the congregation ensuring that no one ever really escapes the karaoke that permeates the dive bar.
There are dive bars that attempt to be many things, straddling the line between dusty dive bar and fresh renovation, for example, but Vegas Lounge is no such Minneapolis dive bar. This is a shoebox-sized karaoke inferno of a dive bar that offers precisely the kind of late night atmosphere that both attracts and propels a great evening of karaoke. And in a city with dive bar options as diverse as Minneapolis, Vegas Lounge stands out in its steadfast adoption of a theme, truly the dive bar karaoke king of the city.