The City of Minneapolis’s official seal hides its motto in tiny type at the very top, like a cipher: “En Avant,” or “forward.” Long a hotbed of progressivism, Minneapolis’s pioneering ways have recently been less political and more cultural. The city has embraced foodie-ism, bike friendliness and endless live music, which emanates from nationally acclaimed public radio stations, restaurants and pretty much any outdoor event sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Board.
But there are limits to how forward Minneapolis wants to be. Combine a stoicism inherited from Scandinavian grandparents and winters that weed out those who can’t hang, and you get a metropolis that’s not eager to expand. That said, long summer days spent on the 22 lakes within city limits reward those who endure the cold. Just remember: Don’t swim in the Mississippi. That’s gross. And don’t mention the omnipresent Fargo accent. That’s as tired as a knock-knock joke in these parts.
1 P.M. Bolster yourself with a late brunch at the Triple Rock Social Club. Owned and operated by a member of punk band Dillinger Four, the bar’s menu reads like Vice magazine. Even straightforward offerings of eggs, meat (or veggie substitute), home fries and toast are packaged under names like “The Most Important Meal of the Day (Especially After What You Did Last Night).” Both the “old bar” and music venue sides of the Triple Rock have table service until 3 p.m., so you’ve got plenty of time to replenish via hair of the dog. Another way to ease your hangover is with the award-winning spicy bloody mary and awesome biscuits and gravy, while reveling in the intense Bowie–Faith No More–Otis Redding–Metallica hodgepodge blaring from the nearby jukebox.
3 P.M. Just beyond the Triple Rock’s threshold sits the West Bank neighborhood, with its half-mile gauntlet of cheap, classic bars, where all the best bad ideas start. The area’s name is derived from the nearby West Bank section of the University of Minnesota campus, which straddles both the eastern and western sides of the Mississippi River—in other words, there’s no connection to the Palestinian territory in the Middle East of the same name. Here, anarcho-punks, undergrads and first-generation Somali Americans unite in debauchery beneath the iconic Riverside Towers. Spend the remainder of the afternoon sipping a local craft beer from the Surly or Indeed breweries while playing boccie ball on the patio of the Nomad World Pub. If you prefer stiffer drinks, head directly across the street to Palmer’s, one of the city’s most notorious dive bars, where a single shot is a four-finger pour and costs only $5.25.
6:30 P.M. Your next challenge awaits at the 331 Club, a neighborhood bar that rotates live music, bingo and bar trivia throughout the week. The standout evening, however, is every other Saturday night—or what the 331 Club calls “The Drinkin’ Spelling Bee.” Watching is free, but should you feel like attempting to spell P-H-A-N-T-A-S-M-A-G-O-R-I-C in public while mildly intoxicated, you can do so for the low, low cost of $6, which also gets you a free pint of Minnesota-brewed Grain Belt Premium, recently named “best cheap beer in the nation” by Deadspin. Each round successfully cleared earns you another free beer. Last man standing wins bragging rights—and $25 off their bar tab.
9 P.M.Now that your mental acumen has been sufficiently tested, it’s time to address your stomach. Bar La Grassa, which is owned by the James Beard Award–winning chef Isaac Becker, has been wowing foodies for years. At La Grassa the sophisticated Italian menu takes center stage in an upscale atmosphere that’s casual enough to not alienate the uninitiated. Start with the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta, and then have the foie gras tortellini. This stuffed, handmade pasta is served in a brown butter sauce and sprinkled with currants to cut the richness of the dish. An added bonus? The full menu is served until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
11:30 P.M. For post-dinner culture, bypass the more popular Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and head to the House of Balls around the corner. Sculptor-proprietor Allen Christian keeps odd hours, but if he’s in, his door is always open. His workspace doubles as a gallery packed with creations, often electrified for your entertainment, hewn from found objects including (but not limited to): false teeth, pistons, typewriter guts and, of course, bowling balls. The rest of the storefront is equally approachable and interactive. Buttons animate sculptures in the windows or trigger the voices of long-gone visitors, answering questions such as “What is the oddest place you’ve made love?” or “What do you do with tears?” The questions are listed near the door buzzer; for posterity, record your own message before departing.
12:15 A.M. Located along Nicollet Avenue’s “Eat Street” corridor in the Whittier neighborhood, Icehouse has a drink menu as diverse as the nightly music coming from the Twin Peaks–esque stage in the center of its cavernous dining room. Libations range from indulgences like George Is Drinking Tonight! (a blend of vodka, gin and Chartreuse served with lemon and cava) to the low-brow Colonel Mustard (whiskey dispensed directly into your mouth from a yellow mustard bottle).
2:30 A.M. Everyone is kicked out of Icehouse shortly after 2 a.m.—no matter if you’re sucking whiskey from a French’s bottle or politely sipping from a martini glass. Luckily Santana Foods, is ready and waiting for your arrival. By day, Santana’s is nothing more than an unassuming corner store. At night, however, it becomes a juggernaut deli counter that’s open until 4 a.m. with crowds gathering for cheese curds, falafel, chicken wings, potato wedges and more. Santana’s menu sounds like a disjointed collection of food only drunken revelers would love. But it’s a testament to the culinary quality in Minneapolis when even the late-night eats are enticing when sober.
Photo courtesy of Collapse the Light/Flickr