Northeast of Downtown
Where the Good Times Are
Northeast Minneapolis has enjoyed a well-deserved streak of popularity, driven by its art scene and supporting events, excellent leisure dining, and its growing profile as a pleasant place to live.
Artistic pursuits aside, the area’s primary appeal is the lively nightlife and gorgeous paths along the riverfront, which not only bring in the locals, but compel not-so-locals to travel great distances for an airy table or lazy stroll.
Drink It In
If you enjoy a whiff of history with your food and beverages, get thee to Pracna on Main, opened circa 1890, making it Minneapolis’ oldest, continually running tavern and café. Common ownership means you can bring your wine over to the first-run films in the neighboring St. Anthony Main Theater.
The riverfront’s Main Street is lined with terraces with outdoor seating, from where one can watch the world go by on the pedestrian and bike paths as well as the occasional classic car on the cobblestone street. Among these options is the tranquil Aster Café, where their outstanding food and happy hour make it a prime first date locale. The happy hour at Wilde Café & Spirits, situated in a Victorian dining room that would make Oscar proud, is also notably generous. They serve individual pizzas and sandwiches or just stop in for a cup of refreshing gelato.
Alluring as it is, Main Street doesn’t have a monopoly on Northeast’s worthwhile nightlife. The truly exceptional experience of munching on Tex-Mex and drinking fruity cocktails on a moving ferris wheel can be found at Betty Danger’s Country Club – “a country club for the 99 percent.” Get your earth-legs back after that on the mini-golf course. Betty’s sister space, Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, is just as pleasingly ridiculous. Multiple dining rooms and the terrace are swathed in Polynesian decorations, where one can indulge in tiki drinks and Minnesota favorites like cheese curds and tater tots.
What do we want? Beer! When do we want it? Beer!
The craft beer scene has landed on Northeast Minneapolis hard. There are more than half dozen breweries, distilleries and even the odd cidery, including numerous tap rooms serving it all. It’s a great area for a weekend brewery crawl or a dedicated night in a craft beer bar sampling beers from across the neighborhood.
The dizzying options include the 612 Brew and its enormous indoor, wood-brick space and a small, atmospheric stone amphitheater outside. They keep about 10 of their products on tap at any given time. Bauhaus Brew Labs serves a German-American beer hybrid in their busy taproom which hosts events like film screenings, trivia and live music. Indeed Brewing Company has two taprooms, serving pints of their flagship Day Tripper Pale Ale, IPAs, “experimental brews,” and the Wooden Soul series of wild, sour, and barrel-aged beer. Finally, there is Sociable Cider Werks, for those who like a little apple zing with their brewery explorations.
The East Hennepin Ave Corridor
The eclectic and storied East Hennepin corridor has, in some instances, been elevated to legendary status. A few fantastic historic landmarks are complimented by a collection of new, exciting additions to the neighborhood. But first, age before beauty.
In business for over 60 years, Kramarczuk's Polish restaurant, delicatessen and bakery attracts elderly Eastern Europeans, hipsters and everyone in between for fresh baked bread, pastries, smoked sausages (in dozens of varieties), stewed cabbage, head cheese and other babushka favorites.
Standing at the gateway to East Hennepin since the mid-19th century, Our Lady Lourdes Catholic Church is the oldest church in Minneapolis. The church’s ongoing restoration includes a new mural, carillon bells and the remodeled rectory. Guided tours are available by appointment.
Just before intersecting with Northeast Minneapolis, Hennepin Ave bisects Nicollet Island, where a small, but delightful neighborhood can be found on the north side of the island. There’s nothing to do here except wander the brick streets, but fans of adorable, beautifully maintained houses with white picket fences right out of a bucolic “Leave It to Beaver” will want to snap a few pictures down here.
Ginger Hop Restaurant has a reasonably priced Asian fusion menu, craft beers, a gorgeous, wood-crafted Indochine décor (check out the ceiling fans), and frequent events in their basement lounge space, Honey. Brand new to the neighborhood in late-summer 2017 is the buzzing New American cuisine at Bardo. The short menu has a tempting variety of moderately priced small plates, craft cocktails and a small but strong selection of tap beers. PinkU Japanese Street Food serves obsessively crafted small plates, just 11 of them, of Japanese seafood favorites, prepared in an open kitchen. The small, local Masu Sushi & Robata chain combines sushi, sashimi, skewers, noodle bowls and more with mixology cocktails, like the brightly colored Gummi drinks.
Minnesota German beer hall chain, New Bohemia, is heavy on the wurst, wurst and more wurst, including two vegan varieties because this is Northeast. Keegan’s Irish Pub is best known for its live music, Tuesday and Thursday trivia nights and perfect pours of Guinness. The Edwardian-style interior was actually designed and built in Ireland. Whitey’s World Famous Saloon gets full marks for the ambitious name and baseball décor (the owner is a former Major League Baseball player). The menu is standard bar food for standard people. Families and sports fans make up a good portion of the clientele, but it’s a place for pretty much anyone looking for a casual place to eat, drink and chill. Quintessential dive bar, the Otter Saloon is known for being a chill place for a drink, except during happy hour and karaoke, which they stage 365 days a year, when all bets are off. They have several drink specials priced for poor hipsters and the blue collar crowd.
Long time Northeast favorite, Red Stag Supperclub, has more New American cuisine amazingness is on offer. What makes them even more impressive is that they were the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified restaurant in Minnesota. Their famous Tuesday “Cheap Date Night” special includes two entrées, a bottle of wine (or two beers) and a dessert for $36 per couple. Their breakfasts and brunches are no less famous. The slow-cooked comfort food at Brassa Premium Rotisserie has packed the converted garage space, and patio, for a decade. Pulled pork and chicken, slow roasted beef, gumbo fried rice, crispy yucca and fried plantains are among the Creole-inspired dishes. The Bad Waitress is best known for their breakfast menu as well as having more than one vegan option, catnip to the Northeast crowd. Their sustainable philosophy includes sourcing their food from local distributors.
13th Ave NE and University Ave NE – A Food and Dive Bar Speed Round
The intersection of 13th and University has some notably great night out spots radiating out in all directions. These include Northeast Social (American/Continental bistro), Erte (French-American food, craft cocktails), Anchor Fish and Chips (Alaskan cod, Irish pub food), Dangerous Man Brewery (Craft brewery an taproom) and Young Joni (wood-fired pizza, Korean grill).
You can’t swing a tire around Northeast without hitting a dive bar, namely 311 (vintage dive bar, live music), Mayslacks (old school dive, roast beef sandwiches, live music), Shaw’s (sports bar, live music), Grumpy’s (tavern, bar food, video games) and Northeast Palace (live music, dancing, karaoke).
Finally, the Ritz Theater, dating back to 1883, hosts live theater and performing artists, including contemporary music, ballet, opera and burlesque.
Artist studios and galleries and live performance spaces housed in old warehouses and factories have defined Northeast Minneapolis. The area’s 400-some artists open their galleries and show off their stuff at a variety of fairs and art crawls, including the legendary Art-A-Whirl, which occurs annually on the third weekend in May.
For an exhaustive directory of Northeast art galleries and events, visit the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association.
The only paddle share program in the Western Hemisphere is developing on the east side of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. Reserve a kayak on their website, pick it up at one of the stations and hit the water. For bonus, feel-good sharing karma, you can travel to and from your Paddle Share adventure on Nice Ride bikes.