Whether you love piano bars or hate them, they’ve come back on the scene and are hard to ignore. They can be a lot of fun, recalling the drunken songs of college days, the piano lessons of youth or just simply another way to party. There are plenty of places to find music in Minnesota. These places dedicate themselves to the piano.
The Shout House
650 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55402
With a sleek new location in the former Epic space, The Shout House is able to truly shine, and no longer has to be part of the generic Block E complex. The truest piano bar on this list, in that you can find piano action almost every night of the week, The Shout House caters to those who want to sing and drink all night. Sing along to hits from the 50s, 80s or modern day depending on what night you’re there, and know that you’ve come for nothing other than classic rock and roll and a good time.
850 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105
After a brief hiatus, Friday night dueling pianos is back. Grand Avenue, which gets pretty busy on a Friday night, seems to be the perfect place for the energy of Bonfire, and you’ll be in good company if you’re feeling a piano bar kind of night. Enjoy late-night happy hour, nice ambiance (it would be very easy to forget that this local chain originated in the suburbs) and, of course, the melodies pounding on piano keys while you eat, drink and revel.
490 N. Robert St.
St. Paul, MN 55101
The baby grand near the bar of this awesome downtown St. Paul club doesn’t get enough use. But when it does, this is as good a place for a piano as anywhere. The cool vibe may not recall Rick’s Bar Americain and there’s no “Play it again, Sam” but that’s not why you come here. This is a tongue-in-chic, booze-heavy gay bar that caters to anyone and is really the only thing of its type in the area. Piano happens on Mondays for Open Mic (be prepared for Broadway hits and lively fun), as well as various events throughout the week, so don’t miss out on a lot of singing, a little dancing and all-around fun.
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Nye’s Polonaise Room
112 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
This old world bar pretty much sets the standard for piano bars in the cities. It is swanky, cool and dimly lit, like you can still imagine Dino smoking a cigarette at the bar. And in the next room, the piano player is taking requests, playing songs that make people move, smile and throw their hands in the air. This is the vibe of Nye’s, and for a night of piano music, cold beer and cocktails, it’s hard to find a better place.
Dakota Jazz Club
1010 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
This is not a piano bar in the traditional sense, and certainly not a piano bar in the way the aforementioned places are. There are no dueling pianos or drunken pound-out, sing-along songs here. For those looking for a tasteful evening of music, this is still the best place to catch some of the local, national and international musicians playing live piano on the Dakota’s elegant stage. The music here is about what the piano can truly do as an instrument, and a stark alternative to anything else on this list. Look for its second location to open in downtown St. Paul this fall.
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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.