A good bar is something that can serve as a neighborhood gathering place, late-night hot spot or after-dinner destination. They are often an important part of a city’s cultural fabric. It seemed like almost every day in 2015 there was news of a new bar opening its doors, and its bottles, to the public. It’s sometimes hard to keep up. Will they all last? It’s hard to say. But here are a couple that have already left their mark, and should be high on your list next time you’re looking for a drink.
Emmett’s Public House
695 Grand Ave
St Paul, MN 55105
This is a classic Irish pub, complete with dark wood, low lighting, a cozy fireplace and lots (and lots) of whiskey. The concept is from the people behind Dixie’s and Saji-Ya (which share the building), and it is perhaps their most successful. The space is welcoming, inviting you to stay for just one more Guiness or an extra bite of those addicting Claddagh Fries. It’s a warm place, perfect for cold days, that also lets in the sunlight of summer. And St. Patrick’s Day? There won’t be a better place around to celebrate.
1115 2nd Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Perhaps the most impressive of this list, Constantine’s subterranean vibe, dark lighting, sexy feel and excellent cocktails make it a truly special nighttime destination. It isn’t just “Constantine” by name — the walls are adorned with priests of the Dark Ages and flourishes a la the ancient Emperor’s time. It’s a fully-realized concept that sets you in the perfect mix of goth and swank. But the cocktails are the real reason to come. Always balanced, always delicious, always begging you to try another. As they’ll tell you: Tolerance, not temperance. Pro-tip: the late-night burgers for $5 are incredible and sure to keep you from stopping at the McDonald’s drive-thru on your way home.
250 E. 7th St.
St Paul, MN 55101
The team from Uptown’s Muddy Waters brings something a little different to Lowertown’s pub landscape. Dark Horse is comfortable, sure and welcoming to all, it is across the street from Gopher Bar, after all. But, it’s also modern, upscale, decidedly “Bohemian” and unlike anything else you’ll find in the rapidly growing bar scene around it. Late night food (till 1:30 a.m.), and happy hour specials at jaw-droppingly low prices make this bar a must for late night hangouts. Look for an outdoor patio, complete with bonfire pits, to be open when the weather warms in the spring.
Related: Best Bars With A Patio In Minnesota
1930 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
It’s technically not new, as this craft-cocktail pioneer has led the way for creative drinking in Minneapolis for some time. But it’s a brand new space after a what-felt-like-way-too-long hiatus, and boy is it a beautiful space. There’s really nothing left of Rye, which used to occupy the Lowry Hill address, and you’ll at once feel ready for a night of drinking and debauchery upon entering the dimly lit, elegant interior. People all over the city cheered and drank and cheered some more when Bradstreet reopened in mid-2015, and we all hope it won’t be moving again anytime soon.
Ox Cart Ale House
255 6th St E
St Paul, MN 55101
Only in recent years would more than one place in Minnesota’s capital city make a list such as this. The formerly sleepy St. Paul has seen an astounding surge of nightlife, thanks in large part to the booming Lowertown neighborhood. Home also to the aforementioned Dark Horse, Lowertown has also welcomed OxCart, a modern take on a classic pub where good food and creative tap beer reign supreme. This is a place where you can enjoy chef-driven bar food (no wonder, as the kitchen is run by Andy Lilja of Heartland and Colossal Cafe fame), alongside your beer or cocktail. Come spring, the OxCart will unveil the neighborhood’s only rooftop patio, so you’ll be able to enjoy your craft beer and handmade sausage high above everyone else.
Related: Best College Bars In Minnesota
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.