Make no mistake. The Twin Cities are not only flush with live music, but also flush with live music venues that take the listener’s experience to the next level. (RIP, Triple Rock and Whiskey Junction.)
Ear candy and calories collide at these 20 live music venues with restaurant-level food to boot.
The modern, yet classically elegant Icehouse on Nicollet has a little something for everyone. A full-service restaurant helmed by underrated chef Matt Bickford, a stage that hosts everything from salsa to hip-hop, a theatre in the round stage (with tables and chairs), a dance floor, a patio, and a craft cocktail bar. Icehouse is the home of the mini-donut garnished Bloody Mary, but also an eclectic menu featuring highlights like king crab in curry butter and clam stew with green chile.
St. Paul’s venerated live music venue has been standing since the '40s, and nearly everyone from Tommy Stinson to Big Freedia have graced the stage at some point. It’s also a haven for meat eaters, serving loaded burgers and dogs, and even BYO breakfast sandwiches with local meats from Kramarczuck's. Vegetarians and vegans needn’t be sad: they’ve thought of you too, with Herbivorous Butcher brats and bacon.
Perhaps the most elegant stage in Minneapolis, this spot on Nicollet Mall is where nationally recognized jazz artists, world music stars, New Orleans brass bands and more converge. Prince did a residency too. The eats are chic and polished as well, with big steaks, racks of lamb, and understated Creole classics on the plate.
If you were looking for a New York-style underground jazz club that just happened to serve muffalettas, po’ boys, and Oysters Rockefeller, you’d head to St. Paul’s Vieux Carré (formerly the Artist’s Quarter). Pro tip: have a nightcap at the upstairs Meritage, where a Sazerac with absinthe will keep the night's theme going strong.
Minneapolis’ most famous stage (and Prince’s house) used to do little more than vending machine chips and candy bars, but they got wise and added an adjacent restaurant in 2010. The Depot slings typical bar fare including every burger topping you've ever thought of (cheese curds, short rib, and caramelized onions, to name a few), wings by the pound, bacon-wrapped "Diamond Dogs," and all-day breakfast. In other words: Exactly what you want before (or after) many drinks and a killer show.
Known locally as the club that’s hosted legendary Minneapolis funk band Dr. Mambo’s Combo for over 30 years (since the North Loop was still called the Warehouse District), Bunker’s has automatic mythical status. The food is basic pub fare with weekly specials, including big plates of classic meatloaf and prime rib dinners.
Set deep in a red-and-black basement level lounge, Hell's Kitchen is one of Minneapolis’ most unique experiences, offering drama on the stage as well as on the plate. Live music at brunch is one of the many ways HK likes to keep things interesting, and the tunes go great with their specialties like lemon ricotta pancakes or Wild Rice Porridge.
An ornamental riverside lounge that hosts everything from quirky gypsy jazz to swing brunch, and also happens to have the loveliest patio in town. The “romantic plates to share” are a fitting accompaniment for date night. Choose from dishes like BBQ brisket tacos or curried vegetable dumplings. They also serve a mean flatbread.
This petite northeast Minneapolis "Never a cover” gem offers an equally petite menu of 2-for-$5 tacos, or a $6 quesadilla if you prefer. It’s all you need to go along with $3 pints and the weekly Saturday Drinking Spelling Bee. A beloved watering hole for area musicians, you're just as likely to see top-tier rock talent drinking on the patio as you are on the venue's tiny stage.
This grown-up blues bar also happens to be the place for a grown-up bar burger that has nothing to do with the trendy burgers of 2017. The "three napkin affair" Shawburger is a throwback to a time when a bar burger was a gritty proposition without the words “Cajun” or “bourbon.” But when a blues woman is belting out a somebody-done-somebody-wrong song, the signature Shaw's burger is just right: sautéed onions and mushrooms, Swiss and American cheeses, mayo, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and Shaw’s signature sauce.
Minnesota’s newest Jamaican restaurant kitchen has recently begun to host dance nights, comedy shows, and weather permitting, boasts a Kingston-style patio with live music acts. Their jerk chicken or braised oxtails paired sweet plantains and a Red Stripe are to die for.
This before-it-was-trendy Lowertown coffee shop is now more of a restaurant that serves coffee, but despite a remodel, they’ve kept the somewhat scratch-and-dent vibes, complete with a guy and his guitar crooning away in the corner. The wine pours are big and the scratch food can be quite inspired. Pay special attention to the Latin-inspired selections like the Cuban or fish tacos.
Undersung little lounge in Dinkytown is one of those spots with deep couches for sinking into, pinball games for sticking a quarter in, eclectic bohemian decor, and live music nightly. Soundman and talent-buyer Ryan Olcott keeps the place jumping with adventurous indie bands, and you can even get burgers and fries sent down from longtime campus staple Annie’s Parlour, and how can you not love that?
Owned by the same folks as the aforementioned 331 Club, The Amsterdam is a full-sized music hall and a major destination for touring acts that also happens to have deliciously clever menu of European street food. Dutch-style sliders (broodjes), drumsticks (kippenbout) and delightfully crispy frites sit alongside more adventurous fare like loempias and bitterballen.
A West Bank fixture at the corner of Cedar and Riverside, the Acadia boasts a massive selection of craft taps and comfortable pub fare with a few unexpected twists. The smallish stage and anything-goes booking make the Acadia a perfect place to watch your new favorite local band play their first or second show.
If you weren't careful, you might miss the tunnel-esque music room at Grumpy's Downtown location, but attentive drinkers will love their weekly Saturday night band residencies that focus on all things heavy and loud. Toss in the occasional parking lot music festival and a generous selection of stellar burgers, and you've got a quality combination.
Just down the street from their Washington Ave neighbors at Grumpy's, Day Block Brewing is home to an innovative showcase called "Bands That Brew." Every month, Day Block's brewmasters invite a local group to collaborate with them on a brand new, short-run beer released during the band's show in Day Block's sizable taproom. That innovative spirit is also alive in Day Block's kitchen, which cranks out a global take on brewpub favorites.
Vegans rejoice! While the Triple Rock may be gone, the Seward Cafe is still with us, and their menu is a love song to veggies, tempeh, and brown rice. While the collectively run cafe appears sleepy during the daytime, the place transforms into a DIY clubhouse for punk shows and other avant gardé performances on weekend evenings.
Neighborhood regulars have been singing the praises of VFW Post 236's heaping breakfast plates for years, but the newly renovated bar now boasts a giant music hall for local and national acts. From dance nights to metal shows, the Uptown VFW doesn't discriminate, and they'll even leave their kitchen open until 1 a.m. for you.
Tucked away in the basement of "far-east meets NordEast" fusion restaurant Ginger Hop, Honey shares a menu with its upstairs neighbor, meaning you can score some delicious sticky wings in while shaking it at enduring dance nights like Turnt Up! and Flip Phone. It isn't just DJs either, Honey's accessible stage makes it a great place to catch up-and-coming local indie bands.
With additional reporting by Zach McCormick