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Dive Bars

An out-of-town friend who loves dive bars is visiting and I want to give him a Cook's tour. For him, the sleazier, the better. If the place is filled with unsavory, even dangerous characters, he is in hog heaven. The recent news about Champions on Lake St. has me thinking it fits the bill, but I've never been. Have you? Or, do you know of any other establishment that might meet his criteria?

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  1. There are places that foster the vibe your friend seeks:
    - Gopher Bar
    - CC Club
    - Lyle's

    For Champions, I have a personal difficulty with treating recent crime -- particular in neighborhoods where poverty plays a part -- as a spectator attraction.

    3 Replies
    1. re: KTFoley

      Apologies. The latest incident is indeed tragic and sad, and my heart goes out to anyone personally affected. I was thinking more of the overall vibe of the place.

      1. re: KTFoley

        I think the Gopher Bar might be a "good ol'boy" establishment, re:racist bar. I understand the need for dive and dogs, but I couldn't stand to be in there for even a drink.

        1. re: stepawayfromthetable

          Yes, nearly every piece written about the Gopher Bar has been clear about its willingness to offend.

          That post is a list of places where the vibe exists on purpose. A gawker could be entertained or become the entertainment himself. Would you agree that's a fairer proposition than treating a crime scene as a personal sideshow?

      2. Vegas Lounge 3 (2 for 1) happy hours each day. Major Karoke in evening. Central Ave NE Mpls

        1. Agree with The above recs and would add Red Dragon, Tony Jaros and Palmers.

            1. Lee's Liquor Lounge
              The Rail Station
              The Hexagon
              Big V's
              The Spot
              Not sure if the Turf Club qualifies as a dive exactly, but it's a cool place.

              Don't think any of these places have much food beyond Heggie's pizza and peanuts, though, so maybe not much of a "Cook's tour." Maybe there are still ladies selling tamales out of coolers now and then?

              1 Reply
              1. re: LiaM

                Personal experience says these all fit the bill: Big V's ~ BJ's ~ Bullwinkle's ~ CC Club ~ Country Bar ~ Cuzzy's ~ Double Duce (aka 22nd Ave Station) ~ The Dubliner ~ Dusty's ~ Frenchman's ~ Halftime Rec ~ Hexagon ~ Tony Jaro's ~ The Joint ~ Knight Cap Lounge ~ Lee's Liquor Lounge ~ Mortimer's ~ Nomad ~ Otter's Saloon ~ Palmer's ~ Red Dragon ~ Spot Bar ~ Terminal Bar ~ Vegas Lounge

              2. All of these are within a mile of one another:

                Vegas Lounge
                Spring St Tavern
                Knight Cap
                Tony Jaros
                NE Palace

                The Champions comment makes me think you might want to revel in misery/poverty, and no matter how unsavory I find that notion, you'll get to see people spending their disability checks at these places if you go between noon and 4.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Foureyes137

                  The Joint, near Cedar-Riverside. Great biker bar.

                2. A couple of folks have raised the issue of poverty. This is an interesting issue. How intrinsically is the notion of a a dive tied to economic status? Can there be an upper-class dive bar? Can you buy a craft beer at a dive without being shunned by the status quo? or is PBR and Bud de rigueur?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ChancesR

                    In the dive bars of my memory (it has been a while), craft beers, had they been around then, would definetly not been available to order so the OP's question above would have been moot. 2 or 3 tap beers, an equal number of bottled beers (no imports), booze straight up, booze & water and booze with a mixer were the sum total of available options. Don't even think about a blender. Food consisted of bagged peanuts or chips for sale. Usually a pretty good juke box. A well worn pool table or two. Think Moby Dick's in its pre-biker bar days (told you it's been a while).

                    I came of (under) age in the glory days of St. Paul's 3-2 bars. I recently read an article that only a couple of these still exist in the Twin Cities

                    This question makes me curious; what (other than the clientele) defines a dive bar these days?

                    1. re: ChancesR

                      Let's take the historical linkages between alcoholism and poverty (correlation not causation notwithstanding, I don't think anyone believe's there aren't rich drunks) as a given, the term dive-bar is loaded and can refer to any number of places that vary largely in their format and clientele...depending on one's background, the same bar referred to as a working-man's pub by people that live and work near it, would be some tourist's "dive".

                      A quote from Playboy (by way of wikipedia) seems succinct and apt, "A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows—bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly.".

                      It reminds me of the old saying about porn: Don't ask me to define it, but I know it when I see it.

                      I think Grumpy's NE walks the dive-line closest...can you get a craft beer there? Certainly. Is it $8 (like I paid for a Bell's @ Pittsburgh Blue last week)? Hell no.

                      Sadly, for those that do not live in parts of town that have any density (what is the best dive bar in Plymouth?) , I think dive is primary defined by the age of the establishment, it's decor, and it's clientele.

                      1. re: ChancesR

                        The ones that I listed in my reply do not appear to be so -- as I said, they foster the vibe of a dive bar no matter who occupies the stools.

                        Matt's Bar is another example of a dive because it hasn't changed with time, no matter which economic class the patrons occupy.

                        Restaurants that foster a similar dive's vibe without ending up as a stop on the poverty tour would be Mickey's Diner, Uncle Franky's, Hard Times Cafe.

                      2. I'd go with Matt's Bar in Minneapolis because of the Jucy Lucy connection and the Half Time Rec in St. Paul where the bar scene in Grumpy Old Men was filmed. They both have the aura of a dive bar and some unique historical character to add to it.

                        Just about anywhere Nordeast and old might qualify. Tony Jaros most certainly. I want to say Sully's too but Yelp says it is closed.

                        1. Okay, I had to pull out an old t-shirt from when I used to do the NE Mpls Pub Crawl. The front of the shirt has a map, the back lists the order of the crawl.

                          Some of these places may have changed hands or closed.

                          Sun Saloon
                          331 Club
                          Joe's Town Pump (closed or called something else)
                          Laura's 1029 (now just the 1029 bar)
                          Jacob's 101
                          Gabby's Saloon (now Psycho Suzi's)
                          Polish Palace
                          Tony Jaros's River Garden
                          Stasiu's (now Stanley's???)
                          First Chance/Last Chance (now NE Palace???)
                          Zurbey's (closed or renamed)
                          22nd Ave Station (strippers in the back)
                          Jimmy's Sports Bar
                          Knight Cap

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Brad Ballinger

                            I know Jacob's 101 closed several years ago. IIRC, they were a middle eastern food/steakhouse kind of place.

                            1. re: Brad Ballinger

                              That shirt sounds awesome comma old.

                              Sun Saloon is Shaw's.
                              Polish Palace is Sample Room.
                              Joe's Town Pump was razed to expand Boom Island Park I believe.

                              1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                How was NE Yacht Club excluded from that list?

                                1. re: BrandonWarn

                                  "How was NE Yacht Club excluded from that list?"

                                  I think it because the hamburgers are too good.

                              2. Interesting question. Unsavory and dangerous characters are fun when you're a tourist behind safe line. It's a different story when you're a character involved in the play. I don't have those experiences here in the TC, I do, unfortunately, in Philly.

                                In the TC, some of the places mentioned, like the CC, Lyles, and Lee's are dive "tourist" areas. My hipster friends like to go there, and drink PBR while talking about their Macinac Island vacations.

                                I agree with folks above (below?) that defining a dive bar is tough. There's the "safe" dives, many of which are on this list below (above?) that folks like to think are tough, but are pretty easy - sure, lots of tats, and lots of of $80+ hipster jeans and plaid shirts. Just sayin'.

                                If it's not on the list, I'll add Skarda's on W 7th in STP. It gives me the creeps.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: foreverhungry

                                  I'd offer that the "tourist" bars are absolutely the right place for people like the OP's friend who go looking for a scene.

                                  The people who make their lives in a neighborhood are not there for my entertainment.

                                  1. re: foreverhungry

                                    I imagine everyone has a different definition or take on what a dive bar is based on their experience and background and even age. What differentiates a so called dive bar from just primarily a no-frills neighborhood bar for instance? There seems to be a lot fewer blue collar types of both compared to 50 years ago. Even so called biker bars are rather ambiguous given who is actually riding those bikes.

                                  2. the Spot bar is very friendly and safe. it does have this going for it... it smells like a dive bar....

                                    1. Wow, this thread is like a "This Is Your Life" episode for me. I've had a lot of beer at these places. Probably the #1 bar that would have fit your friend's bill was Standup Franks, but it no longer exists except as a trendy zombie bar now. Two that I haven't seen on the list so far are the Sunrise Inn and Adrian's Tavern, both located in S.Mpls and excellent dive bars. I believe that the Sunrise is one of the last 3.2 bars.

                                      Contrary to others, I'll just assume that you tossed in the "dangerous characters" comment in jest. To me there is a real difference between a dive bar and a problem bar, the former having cheap taps, a seedy but safe environment, and a blue-collar clientele. The problem bars tend to have real crimes and non-working clientele.

                                      If I were to direct your friend to a few places, I would go with Palmer's on the West Bank, either the Vegas Lounge or Spring Street Tavern, and then Jimmy's in Northeast - my all-time favorite place to drink a beer and have a conversation.

                                      If you're including nudie establishments, BJ's and the Deuce Deuce (22nd Ave Station) should be on the list. It's been a few years, but the Deuce used to have $1 taps of Old Style.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: GutGrease

                                        The Deuce Deuce is currently closed due to tax reasons (at least it was 2 Saturday's ago when the bachelor party I was in charge of was going to stop there, in between Suzie's, Grumpy's and the Knightcap.

                                        1. re: american_idle

                                          So that's why there haven't been tear-assing motorcycles waking us up @ 2am all weekend. I hope the tax issues continue until it snows.

                                          1. re: zfwp

                                            I dunno. The only thing that I've ever ordered there was beer

                                        2. I thought of another dive bar candidate, Top Hat on 5th between Robert and Jackson, downtown St. Paul.

                                          1. I would add The Schooner on E Lake in Minneapolis, and The Trend, if you end up in St Paul. Both are delights.

                                            1. Your interpretation of dive bars may very well be mainstream sheepish America or could be more of the Canadian club love style.If you want classic dive ,then go urban>Zombie on 2nd,4th st saloon indahood. Head out to .East /west7th st St Paul.If the epitome of the reality of the word means what I thin,go to Tria North Oaks.,..You will find the most mismatched couples in the world here.Trust fund babies with zero personalitites,old washed up men with poorly fitting shirts,scamming tattoed love boys trapping for cash.Socially bankrupt nobodies are all here for your liking

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: shikken

                                                I'm strangely attracted by your description

                                                1. re: GutGrease

                                                  I can't say I've ever heard Tria described that way. It absolutely gets a mixed crowd, but beyond that, it isn't a dive by any definition.

                                                2. I also remembered that the Frenchman (Richfield) would be a good candidate. It's pretty much two double-wide trailers turned into a bar

                                                    1. how about Nina's Grill in Burnsville?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: zfwp

                                                        Not funny.

                                                        Nina's was the site of a recent homicide; that's why it's been in the news.

                                                        1. re: Jordan

                                                          remember the op's request noted the recent homicide at champions as a plus.

                                                      2. Joe & Stan's on W 7th in St. Paul. (Although maybe more 'blue collar' than 'dive.')
                                                        And on the same drag, the place caddy corner from The Glockenspiel (name escapes) is definitely in the mold.
                                                        Concur on the Top Hat in St. Paul.
                                                        The Big 10 in Hopkins.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: bishopsbitter

                                                          The place near Glockenspiel is Keenan's. Not that I've ever been. I just drive past it all the time.

                                                        2. Son Charged with Shooting Up Father's Saloon

                                                          After 18 shotgun blasts, Nick Lindee was reportedly stopped when his father choked him unconscious.
                                                          I think this might be the Dive Bar your looking for. They have a 2 for 1 happy hour also....
                                                          Lindee's Saloon & Eatery

                                                          1. No mention of Mortimer's? Full of regulars, but not dangerous. A bit dumpy and no uber-fancy beers, but the prices are decent and service is solid. Free popcorn too.