By Kate LaChapelle
Referenced in countless songs and showing up to create memorable movie moments, jukeboxes are a pop cultural icon of an era of hoop skirts and milkshakes, but when was the last time you actually saw a jukebox in a bar? Classic boxes with physical albums are hard to come by as bars have given way to the surge in digital boxes. Whether you’re a snob for the old style Wurlitzer or appreciate the variety of the new TouchTunes, there are many places around the Twin Cities to find them; these are just a few favorites.
Mortimer’s Bar & Restaurant
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
A neighborhood favorite, this expansive, Uptown hangout boasts not one, but three full bars, each with its own distinct flavor. The main, and front, bar houses their TouchTune Jukebox, a popular brand amongst the new digital boxes. What sets this one a bit apart though is the Top Played category. Ranging from classics like “Super Freak” to modern surprises like Bjork and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” the top played songs at Mort’s are as varied as its clientele. The spacious bar hosts a variety of games like Lord of the Rings pinball and Mrs. Pacman, but the place hasn’t gone completely digital, still housing a number of foosball tables that results in regular tournaments. Their 2-for-1 specials bring in a large crowd, but it never seems overcrowded and there’s always someone dancing along to whatever music the Jukebox is cranking out.
The Triple Rock Social Club
Hours: Mon to Fri – 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sat to Sun 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
For a hip throwback, check out West Bank’s Triple Rock Social Club. While Triple Rock is a big hit among the tattooed, beanied, and bearded University crowd, the patrons range in age to oldsters and even dip into the biker crowd. Their old time Sapphire machine only costs a quarter a pop and has albums ranging from Stevie Wonder and James Brown to Van Halen, Rage Against the Machine, and The Dead Kennedys. It’s a veritable wet dream for the PBR drinking crowd, complete with an all-you-can-eat Bacon Night on Wednesdays from 9-11 PM, but don’t let the artery-clogging porkfest fool you, this little hole in the wall has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options too.
Hours: Mon to Fri – 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sat to Sun 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Palmer’s is an iconic little West Bank bar with an outdoor patio that’s bigger than the inside. However small it may be, it’s got big sound in a big way. Not only does it have live music on a tiny, red-curtained stage, they also house a digital jukebox that’s constantly in use aside from the time leading up to a live show when the bartender flips it over to house music to set the tone for the show. Palmer’s draws a diverse crowd of University students to older patrons who wouldn’t look out of place in an English pub, their music choices are just as varied. With well-worn, black leather stools a cigarette stand behind the bar, going to Palmer’s is like stepping into a different era.
Spring Street Tavern
Hours: Mon to Fri – 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sat to Sun – 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Like Mort’s Spring Street Tavern has a TouchTune machine, but the top plays in this hidden gem could not be more different. Amongst them are Nicki Minaj, The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, and Adele, this time with “Rumour Has It”. It’s got a very relaxed, neighborhood bar atmosphere, which makes sense since the place seems to spring up out of nowhere in the middle of a residential neighborhood at the crossroads of Spring and Monroe. The bar itself is huge, extending almost the full-length of the place and marks the border between a more regular seated dining area and the bar side with stools on both sides. It boasts a pool table and a few bar top games, but the real kicker comes from the pull-tab station where anyone’s luck can change for a buck.
Hours: Mon to Fri – 3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Sat to Sun – 1 p.m. – 2:30 a.m.
When you hear gay bar, you probably think scores of half-naked men grinding on a dance floor with a house mix pounding in the background. Well, the 19 Bar is not your average gay bar, in fact, aside from a few neon signs declaring it as such; it could easily pass for just a regular old bar. 19 Bar is home to a less flamboyant crowd than say The Saloon and has a nice patio out back and three pool tables with monthly tournaments. Their old time jukebox is a real gem though. Not only is it four plays for a buck, the CDs it houses are mostly mixes made by its regular patrons and it’s not unheard of to find Britney Spears on the same CD as Shirley Bassey, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Frank Sinatra and always sparks an interesting conversation.
Kate LaChapelle is a freelance writer in the Twin Cities area who survived earning a film degree from Emerson College in 2010. She’s addicted to hazelnut soy lattes and sporadically tweets from @KateLaChapelle.