When the first cool fall wind blows across the Twin Cities, it doesn’t mean the days of enjoying a pint outside with your friends have to end. There are plenty of bars that have more natural outdoor heating solutions than those creepily robotic space heaters and we all know that when it comes to conviviality in the autumn months, nothing beats gathering around a roaring fire. And when the first flakes chase you indoors, many bars have indoor fireplaces to warm the cockles of your heart and other extremities. Here are a couple of options.
Eden at Le Meridien Chambers
901 Hennepin Avenue
With Italian-themed cocktails courtesy of D’Amico and a sleek modern fire pit, Eden is one of the most inviting outdoor drinking spots in the cities. The fire rises from rocks scattered around a large square pit near the middle of the courtyard, the perfect companion to your last Negroni ($12) of the season. Other solid options include the sour but refreshing D’Amico Organico with Prairie vodka, organic lime, brown sugar and San Pellegrino ($12) or the dessert-esque Amaretto di Cherry with di Saronno, cherry puree, lemon, lime and soda water ($12). Out-of-towners and bohemians alike can relax in curtained booths or meander indoors to check out the modern art.
700 Hennepin Ave
Hours: Open Mon-Thu,Sun 4pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 4pm-2am
Seven’s modern fire pit (it’s on the rooftop patio—they call it a Skybar) is narrower than Eden’s, and so is their imagination when it comes to drinks. They have seven specialty martinis served for $7 each from 4 pm to 6:30 pm (not 7, as you might assume) and only one of them is made with gin. During non-happy hours, something as simple as Jack Daniels on the rocks will set you back more than $10 and the specialty cocktail list is mostly overly sweet vodka drinks. Still, it’s hard to beat lounging on a Minneapolis rooftop, even when the thumping techno music is trying to ruin the moment.
501 Cedar Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Hours: Open Weekdays 3pm-2am; Weekends 11am-2am
At the other end of the spectrum lie the simple pleasures of the Nomad’s bare bones patio and cozy outdoor fireplace. The outdoor vibe of this West Bank institution was upped a lot when they gave the whole wall over to a giant mural by local artist Broken Crow and the fenced in patio is a great place to relax and hang with friends and a pint from their extensive beer list, which includes many Belgian ales and more exotic brews. And just because a bar’s not trendy doesn’t mean it can’t be European—on the side opposite the patio you can enjoy a game of Bocce as long as weather permits and whenever there’s a soccer match to be watched, you can watch it at the Nomad.
923 Washington Ave N
This outpost on the edge on Minneapolis’ warehouse district gives you the best of both worlds. They have, for instance, some of the finer liquors (such as Plymouth gin) for your martini but there’s nary a hint of attitude to the place. The back patio is surrounded by a high wooden fence that shuts out the wider world so you can enjoy their large fire pit in peace and for $4 you can even buy a S’mores kit. Their generous happy hour runs from 5 to 8 pm on weekdays with two-for-ones on domestic drafts and rail drinks plus on Saturday you can get half-price bottles of wine from 5 to 9 pm. What could be better than celebrating the changing leaves than a fine bottle of Altos Las Hormigas’ Malbec with friends around a fire pit?
3118 W Lake St
Hours: Open Mon-Thu 3pm-1am; Fri 3pm-2am; Sat 11am-2am; Sun 10am-12am
Sure, Tryg’s has real oak fireplaces, but it’s also kind of cavernous and suburban. If that’s your scene, though, Tryg’s does it well, with specialty cocktails that are sweet but not without imagination. The Baja ($9) combines Sauza Hornitos Reposado with cranberry juice, mango puree, and lemon and lime soda for a taste that’s eerily reminiscent of Mauna Lai, Mott’s Hawaiian juice drink. Real lemon and lime plus soda water might improve it. The Cucumber Crisper ($9) blends Effen cucumber vodka with muddled mint, cucumber, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, and soda for something a little less cloying and a little more refreshing. Its location directly across from Lake Calhoun and just a little ways from Lake of the Isles make it a natural for an autumn walk by the lake and a drink afterwards.
W.A. Frost & Company
375 Selby Ave
Saint Paul, MN
Hours: Sun – Thurs 11:00am – midnight; Fri/Sat 11:00am – 1:00am
Old world charm is in full effect at W.A. Frost and Company, a bar and restaurant that actually sports numerous fireplaces throughout. The real winner is the big one in the dining room that sports a burnished metal cover and 360 degree access to its warmth. Not content with vodka martinis, the bartenders also know their way around traditional cocktails and have some great cold weather specialties based around brandy and whiskey. Once cooler weather arrives, there’s nothing better than sipping a hot toddy around the hearth.
What’s your favorite bar with a fire pit or fireplace?
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.