a week in Northeast

Downtown clubs and campus bars attract University students like it’s their job. And it is.

But by limiting yourself to these hot spots, some of you – heck, maybe many of you – are missing out on big fun in Minneapolis.

Welcome to Northeast, a name best said how the immigrants did it: by substituting a “d” for that pesky “th” sound.

I’ve lived and worked in “Nordeast” Minneapolis since August. Every time I tell anyone where I live, they say something like, Ooohh, Northeast. It’s the new Uptown.

And in some ways, it is. Northeast is a hip place to live, work and party.

Take a 20-minute bike ride, and you’ll find the neighborhood’s mix of recently developed condominiums and the real Northeast, where Polish old ladies still trim their lawn with scissors and hipsters walk their dogs and visit art openings.

Those of you familiar with Northeast probably know most about the St. Anthony area – where Aveda Institute towers above Surdyck’s and Keegan’s Irish Pub.

But there’s more to Northeast. In fact, there is so much that one could find something to do every night of the week.

I went on a bar tour (notice I said tour and not crawl) one lovely afternoon and talked with owners, managers, bartenders and servers.

All of them had one common claim: Their crowds are diverse. They get regulars who have lived in Northeast all their lives, blue collar workers, hipsters, yuppie suburbanites and college students.

You heard them. College students. So get your scissors, cut out this article and put on your Sunday best, because we’re spending a week in Northeast Minneapolis.


Wilde Roast Café (518 Hennepin Ave. E.)

Aesthetics: An elegant café with an old-world style dedicated to the great Oscar Wilde. Much of the clientele is GLBT, and it’s attached to a GLBT bookstore that sells unique postcards and greeting cards.

Entertainment: Music and readings scattered throughout the month.

Specials: On Sundays and Mondays it offers half-price bottles of wine. The wine is good – better because you drink it out of small European wine glasses.

Patio: There are tables and chairs outside. But the street’s busy, so it’s better to stay inside.

Menu: The menu is pricey but high-quality, and the service is patient and warm.


The U Otter Stop Inn (617 Central Ave. S.E.)

Aesthetics: The ultimate corner bar, it’s not much bigger than an apartment living room. Records, bar posters and other knickknacks clutter one wall.

Entertainment: The Otter is celebrated for its karaoke seven days a week from 9 p.m. to close.


Elsie’s (729 Marshall St. N.E.)

Aesthetics: This place doesn’t fit the tiny-neighborhood-bar feel consistent throughout Northeast. Elsie’s is massive. It houses a modern bowling alley, fancy restaurant and a classy bar.

Entertainment: Bowling and more video games than you could ask for. Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. On the weekends bowling gets booked. To avoid waiting for lanes, head here Tuesdays when it’s slower but still fun.

Patio: It’s fenced in, charming and suitable for hanging out, not just smoking.

Menu: Standard bar food with higher prices and a good steak selection.


Spring Street Tavern/Club Underground (355 Monroe St. N.E.)

Aesthetics: The Spring won best neighborhood bar in City Pages this year. Each night a very diverse mix of people crowds the place’s concrete floor. There isn’t much to say about the bar itself – but the people who frequent it more than make up for it.

Entertainment: Club Underground, located in the tavern’s basement, opened last year. It offers eclectic music Wednesday through Sunday. Wednesday’s punk, Thursday’s techno, Friday and Saturday vary and Sunday features New Orleans jazz.

Patio: Spacious, with more than enough room to eat.

Menu: Standard bar menu, but everything’s made from scratch.

The Moose on Monroe ( across the street from Spring Street Tavern; 356 Monroe St. N.E.)

Aesthetics: When you’re done at The Spring, cross the street and dive into The Moose. It’s a darker bar and regulars make up most of the customers. The owner, Larry, likes it that way, and he keeps his regulars happy by buying a round for the bar nearly every time he walks in or out.

Entertainment: Karaoke, meat raffles and Texas Hold ‘Em on various nights of the week.

Specials: Happy hour. During karaoke, DJ Chris calls out different deals every half hour.

Busy times: Lunch and late night; be warned, though – the later the hour, the more volatile the crowd. Fights are frequent at The Moose.

Menu: Standard bar menu featuring excellent pizza and wings. The Moose Pie is a garbage pizza that still makes my mouth water.


Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge (2519 Marshall St. N.E.)

Aesthetics: The only tiki bar in Minneapolis is in an old A&W in disguise. The crowd is economically diverse, while staff members are the tattooed, rough-and-tumble type. A glowing neon sign says “Mender of Broken Dreams” above the bar, and their motto is “Where your petty concerns of authenticity are irrelevant.” It’s a bar with attitude.

Entertainment: Just a nice juke box.

Patio: A fancy one with grass umbrellas and tiki torches.

Menu: They have two – a tiki drink menu and a unique food menu featuring pizza, sandwiches and a variety of unique appetizers.


Grumpy’s (2200 Fourth St. N.)

Aesthetics: A traditional Northeast bar feel – small but exciting. Start your afternoon at Grumpy’s after a long week at work, and enjoy this classic neighborhood bar in all its simplicity. There’s not much to it, and that’s what makes it a comfortable low-pressure hangout.

Entertainment: None.

Patio: Yes, but no drinks allowed.

Menu: Just peanuts and frozen pizza, which is cooked in a pizza oven on the bar.

Jitters: (205 Hennepin Ave. E.) – Swanky basement bar with lots of vintage furniture in the newer portion of Northeast.

Aesthetics: Go home from Grumpy’s and put on your fancy pants. This basement bar is a swanky jewel in Northeast – all vintage furniture and mood-lighting with a big well-lit stage fit for its many events.

Entertainment: Funk, R&B and soul on Wednesday, cabaret on Friday and John Stark on Saturday.

Patio: Nope – it’s in the basement.

Menu: A fancy food menu, but the martini menu is what they’re known for. Try the French Kiss – it’s amazing.


Shaw’s (1528 University Ave. N.E.)

Aesthetics: Shaw’s feels like that one bar up at your cabin. It has a townie feel in the middle of the city – the bar is small but has big heart. Start your night here with some home cooking and good company. Usually the owner, Mike Shaw, is sitting right at the bar chatting with everyone.

Entertainment: Live music Thursday through Saturday.

Patio: Fully loaded.

Menu: Home of the Shaw burger! They load this thing up with onions, mushrooms, Swiss and American cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, bacon and some special sauce – all for five bucks.

Mayslack’s (1428 Fourth St. N.E.)

Aesthetics: This bar has been standing for 100 years, but for the past 50 it’s been all about the beef. It’s got an old-world style with tin ceilings, intimate booths and friendly waitstaff – meaning me. Full disclosure: I work there. Come for the roast beef and the music, and stay for a crazy night of partying.

Entertainment: Live music Wednesday through Saturday, with polka on Sundays.

Patio: Full service.

Menu: They serve roast beef sandwiches the same way Mayslack did when he owned the bar years ago. The signature piece is The Original – one pound of roast beef on a caraway rye bun. Otherwise there’s traditional bar food and some other higher-scale offerings.

331 Club (331 13th Ave. N.E.)

Aesthetics: This narrow bar used to be a scary biker bar, but a year ago it was renovated into a stylish music lounge, with plush red vinyl booths and dark blue walls. This place is trendy but not over-the-top trendy and hops late at night. So after a beefy late night snack at Mayslack’s, walk around the corner and enjoy more live music with a more intimate crowd.

Entertainment: Every night there’s something going on, from readings by Lit 6 Project and independent film showings to live music by eclectic local bands.

Patio: Just off the street there are tiny tables and a long bench – best for smoke breaks.