Don't judge these Twin Cities eating and drinking establishments by what you can see from the street. Inside, you'll find some of the most creative places for a bite, a cocktail, or just a good atmosphere.
Reminiscent of an underground NYC pizzeria, this coal-fired pizza is consistently some of the best in the state. While there are now multiple Black Sheep restaurants, we love the North Loop location for those basement-style vibes. Wine by the carafe and salads to share complete the cozy. Order a side of marinara, as they tend to go light on it to achieve that excellent crispy char on the crust.
Steak up top, pizza on the bottom. At the high-traffic corner of Hennepin and Franklin in Lowry Hill, this high-end steakhouse upstairs gives way to a bustling pizzeria and bar downstairs. We love a good Wagyu too, but it's the wood-fired pies and crave-worthy salads that have won our weeknight hearts.
Leave it to a bunch of artists to take an old SPAM canning facility and turn it into something wonderful. Located in St. Paul's industrial Midway neighborhood, the space is a year-round indoor playground. Mini golf, a vintage arcade, live music, boozy ice cream drinks, and cotton candy are just some of the highlights making this a second-date heaven.
Another downtown Minneapolis destination feels like the downstairs lair of the world’s most stylish taxidermist. Mounted animal heads on dark leather and velvet, dripping candlelight, and not a window in the place make this one of the most romantic spots in town. Located beneath Hotel Ivy, it's so hidden, it’s almost clandestine. Order up a drink of the eye-dropper and tincture variety, and enjoy this best-kept secret from a cushy sofa spot in the shadow of a buffalo cranium.
Lowertown's Green Lantern makes no bones about drawing its inspiration from the bad old days when downtown Pig's Eye was a haven for legendary criminals like John Dillinger and Frank Nash.
Named after St. Paul's historical Green Lantern Tavern, a den of scoundrels that was used as a front for bootlegging in the late '20s, the restaurant features a full suite of classic cocktails and a jazzy basement stage. Don't expect your great grandpa's menu, however. Green Lantern's kitchen is cranking out throughly modern, small-plate-focused cuisine.
Living legend Cornbread Harris on keys each week is one of many good reasons to visit this family-friendly downtown landmark with live music almost nightly. Cheekily horrific decor, lemon-ricotta pancakes, and gospel bunch are a few others. If above-ground is more your style, visit the street-level Angel Food Bakery for tons of sweets and savories including “big-assed pretzels” and “you fancy” cupcakes.
To be surrounded with books and booze? Mark it down as a “Yes, please.” The Library Bar at the base of Mercy restaurant is an unexpected oasis from the busiest stretch of downtown Minneapolis. Escape directionally challenged theater goers and harried rush hour traffic for the peaceful din of little more than pages turning and glasses clinking.
Underneath the Bachelor Farmer restaurant, a big, purple back door leads to a nondescript, industrial doorway. And that leads to an altogether designer room with Scandi-stylish everything. One of the first to put craft cocktails on the map around here, the Marvel is by now a classic, but worth revisiting. Not into craft? Order the “something sweet with vodka.”
This is where the gourmet bar burger craze began, and fortunately the original Parlour Burger can still be had (and thoroughly enjoyed) here. Splitting the difference between cavernous and bright – there’s a bank of windows along one wall – this shadowy lair is all North Loop, from the repurposed wooden bar to the brushed steel rafters.
For fine dining that doesn’t take itself overly seriously, Sanctuary over in the eastern half of downtown Minneapolis is about as adult as it gets while remaining whimsical. While it recently lost its longtime chef Patrick Anatalian, Sanctuary still has gargoyles, mulled wine, and a constantly changing menu specializing in pre-theatre reservations accommodating the nearby Guthrie.
Perhaps the most outta sight of all the underground places on this list, your enjoyment of it will depend on your constitution. Find the door after traveling through a dark alley on West Lake and waiting for the doorman to peek through the eyeholes. It’s all part of the mystique, and if you haven’t bolted yet, you might as well play along. Downstairs, a super luxe lounge awaits, with a lavish they-don’t-make-them-like-this-anymore atmosphere. If you’re lucky, a jazz trio is the entertainment, and it’s enough to transport you to Prohibition times.