With the new Depot Tavern, First Avenue was hoping to create a next-door bar that music fans would love.

Mission accomplished.

Let's count the ways: 1) There are TVs displaying a live feed from First Ave's mainroom and the 7th Street Entry. 2) Concertgoers may buy tickets at the bar and avoid Ticketmaster fees. And 3) Just as the Entry has access to the Main Room, the Depot leads right into the Entry.

After several delays, the bar opened last Friday. My first impression: It's a lot slicker than I expected it to be. While it won't be confused with La Belle Vie, the Depot features a crisp design that's highlighted by a dark wood bar and a dozen big, bright flat-screen TVs. Make no mistake, the bar is going after those thousands of Twins fans who walk by First Ave every other day.

You enter the Depot through the first of two garage doors (which will probably stay open during the summer months). Inside, there's a mix of high- and low-top tables, plus a couple of booths. First Ave general manager Nate Kranz said he plans to add more band photos to the white walls.

The menu, by chef Karl Lichtfuss (last seen at Joe's Garage), is comfort food taken up a notch. It includes grilled portobello sliders, baked mac-and-cheese, an inside-out burger. One item that's been getting a lot of hype (deservedly) is the Diamond Dog. The torpedo-sized hot dog is wrapped in bacon and deep fried before being served on a pretzel bun. This heart-attack-waiting-to-happen goes down nicely with one of the bar's 16 tap beers.

The Depot name is an ode to First Ave's history as a bus depot and was the name given to the club's original incarnation back in 1970.

Cheers to the new Depot.

thorgen@startribune.com • 612-673-7909

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