Bars Worth The Money In Minnesota: Aster Café
In these cash-strapped times, it’s important to consider the economics of going out. There’s not just the cover charge to consider; there’s the cost of parking, drinking, and food that factor into an evening as well. But sometimes you can’t put a price on the overall experience, and a place like the Aster Café is worth your hard-earned money.
In a pair of cities stuffed to the gills with great music venues, the Aster Café is a relative newcomer to the scene. Although they’ve had music from time to time, it’s only in the last year or so that the tiny, cozy café along the Mississippi in Saint Anthony Main has gotten serious about their live entertainment. The good news when it comes to the dollars and cents is that the diverse shows (from the all-improv, abstract beauty of Coloring Time to the dusty Americana of Molly Maher and Erik Koskinen) are almost all under $10, and mostly around $5. Likewise, just a short jaunt north of the river from downtown, you’ll find the parking abundant and reasonable.
The kicker here is the cost of drinks and food. Sure, you can get a Hamm’s for $3, but the tap beers are all $5 and up. Now of course for that price you get a revolving, largely local selection that will include seasonal and creative brews from Surly, Harriet Brewing, and Fulton, amongst others. Then there are the cocktails, which hover around $7 but include such creative offerings as an entire suite of loose leaf tea-infused drinks such as the delicious Jalopy, which pairs Jameson and ginger beer with Lemon Solstice tea (a blend of vanilla, lemon, and lemongrass).
And if you’re hoping for a bar pizza (you know, the kind that’s round but cut like it’s square?), you’re out of luck. Flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, and a variety of small plates hew to the artisanal and organic, meaning you’re not going to get out of there for less than $10 at least if you get a bit peckish.
But if you can see your way past those costs, the Aster Café will reward your patronage with one of the finest combinations of atmosphere, quality food and drink, and live entertainment in the Twin Cities. The sound, particularly for more intimate, gentle bands, is fantastic, and if you’ve left behind the days of being packed into general admission, you’ll relish the chance to enjoy performances from tables you can reserve ahead of time. The aforementioned flatbread pizzas are creative, boasting toppings like chorizo and potato with queso fresco and chimichurri or Serrano ham with butternut squash, chevre, and chili flake. Keep an eye on their calendar for when your favorite local artist decides to do an intimate, laidback show or else take a chance on someone you’ve never heard of. With the band set against a backdrop of Saint Anthony Falls and the lights of downtown and candles glowing warmly on the tables, you’re all but guaranteed to get your money’s worth.
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Steve McPherson is a writer and musician who has lived in the Twin Cities since 2004, where he teaches writing and music at McNally Smith. His dog is named after both a drink and a guitar. He tweets from @steventurous.