As he and his bandmates worked the small room between sets talking to each and every audience member, Gary Raynor raised a question likely voiced by a lot of musicians who play Fingal's Cave.

"How did you guys know we were playing down here tonight?" the bassist in the classic jazz trio Stablemates asked.

Located beneath MetroNOME Brewery in St. Paul's Lowertown — a taproom created by musicians to raise money for music education — Fingal's Cave is not an easy place to find. Yours truly had been to the brewery twice without realizing there was a music room down the darkened staircase from the main bar area.

What a find. Same with Volstead's Emporium, another basement-level music bar in Minneapolis' Lyn-Lake hub with hidden appeal. The operators there actually intended to keep the place semi-secret, playing it up as a throwback to a Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Volstead's did not even advertise or use social media for promotion throughout its first five years in business.

"People like to feel like they're in on a cool, well-kept secret," said Volstead's owner John Braun, offering this conclusion: "Word of mouth can still be a powerful tool."

At the risk of spoiling some cool secrets, here's a roundup of these and two other musical watering holes around the Twin Cities that feel like hidden hideaways — small, intimate, tucked-away rooms with warm vibes suitable for winter.

Anoka Hardware Store Speakeasy

The scene: Even when you locate the nondescript door under a red light in an alley off Anoka's Main Street, you still might not know you're entering a bar. The front foyer looks like an old-school hardware shop, with tools on the wall and a store counter. Behind a "secret" door, though — sometimes requiring a pass code (given via reservation) — the host will lead you into what looks like a full-blown, low-lit faux speakeasy from the 1920s, with hardwood floors, tin ceiling tiles and vintage-styled furniture.

The story: A grandson of Minnesota's first female mayor, Anoka's Lorraine Hostetler, this "store" owner, Jason Hostetler, actually used a former funeral home and not a hardware site to house his long-dreamt-of speakeasy. It's a lot more inviting and comfortable than that sounds. Drink options include lots of varieties of Old Fashioneds — they even offer flights — plus a wide range of fancy cocktails, rare whiskeys and a good mocktail selection. The food options are limited to charcuterie and snacks. Seating is limited, too. There are only 12 tables, so reservations are often required.

The music: The vintage theme extends to the talent bookings, too, with lots of old-school jazz, blues and country, plus singer/songwriters. On our recent visit, cabaret singer Mia Dorr left the stage and wandered around the room to serenade audience members face-to-face. Bluesmen Jay Walter & the Rectifiers perform this Thursday, and swinging jazzists the Working Stiffs are on Friday. There's no cover charge for music.

201 Jackson St. #101, Anoka,

Fingal's Cave at MetroNOME Brewery

The scene: Down the brewery's staircase in one of Lowertown's great historic warehouse buildings, Fingal's really does have a cavelike atmosphere with its roughened, rustic stone walls and darkened lighting. The 50-person-capacity room feels mighty cozy, though, with booths along one wall and tables and chairs, plus a long, mirrored bar. It's named after a famous landmark in Scotland with supposedly miraculous acoustics. Older jazz lovers might find it akin to the old Artists' Quarter location in Lowertown, whose spirit is also still channeled in downtown St. Paul at KJ's Hideaway (another cool basement music hub).

The story: Housed at the bottom of the Market House building, Fingal's Cave and its counterpart brewery were founded by two classical musicians hoping to use the spaces to support and fund music education. Hence the name: "Metronome" is a timekeeping device used by musicians. Old-worldly beers are the first-chair player here along with the music.

"We were surprised how well the downstairs room worked as a performance space," said one of the co-founders, Bill Eddins, a pianist and conductor. "Musicians love how intimate and warm it feels."

The music: "It's a great room for jazz," Eddins noted, citing a special appearance by Wynton Marsalis there in 2022 and bookings during the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Pianist Dale Alexander plays there Thursday as part of the University of Minnesota's Jazz Festival, and lots of student jazz showcases dot the calendar. "But we really welcome everything," Eddins added, as evidenced by rootsy pickers Nikki Mattson and Rich Rue this Saturday. Cover is usually $10.

385 Broadway, St. Paul,

The Mudd Room

The scene: So much for "hidden." On a recent Friday night, patrons were lined up on the staircase waiting to get down into this lively basement bar, another speakeasy-themed venue underneath Lucky's 13 Pub in Mendota. The dimly lit room is lined with red-velvet booths and marble-top tables surrounded by rock walls and retro light fixtures. Unlike the other venues listed here, this one can get pretty loud and rowdy.

The story: Opened in 2016, the Mudd Room has clearly stayed popular despite or maybe because of its location in historic Mendota's small business strip. Like its popular neighbor upstairs, the bar was bought by the team behind Pajarito restaurants coming out of COVID-19 lockdown. It boasts a wide range of classic and newfangled cocktails, several with Duluth's Vikre gin. The small-plate food menu includes sliders and flatbreads.

The music: A bit of everything is on the calendar Thursdays through Sundays, including singer/songwriters, jazz, R&B and country acts. This week's schedule includes twanger Ledfoot Larry on Thursday, singer/songwriter Tim Howe on Friday and Jeff Gavin's funky cover band Saturday. The venue also has Wednesday night comedy shows with local talent — the only nights there's usually a cover ($10).

1352 State Hwy. 13, Mendota,

Volstead's Emporium

The scene: This one also starts with a back-alley entryway and even a secretive knock on the door, where a host will open a slot to ask for an "invitation" (reservations help but aren't necessary). After heading down an industrial-looking stairway, the space opens up to a beautifully retro speakeasy room with checkered-tile floors, velvety booths, a gorgeous old bar and a few secretive features (no spoilers!). The wood stage overlooks candlelit tables and houses a baby grand piano.

The story: It sounds like the setup to a joke: "A tech guy and a lawyer walk into a bar. ... " Volstead's partners Dave West (the techie) and John Braun (lawyer) opened the basement bar in 2015 "mostly on a lark," Braun said. They picked the former site of the six-lane bowling alley Calhoun Lanes, in a 1913-built building. They took the name of Minnesota congressman Andrew Volstead, who co-authored the Prohibition Act in 1919 (coincidentally also used by the unaffiliated Volstead's House in Eagan).

"We became the worst-kept secret in Minneapolis," Braun said, noting that they have ditched some of the old secretive tactics. The space's good reputation was built on intimate music shows and its bistro-y food menu, with hanger steak, mussels and a primo burger. Drink offerings include lots of playful, fruity or earthy cocktails and wine.

The music: "We really favor jazz or other instrumental music," Braun said. A lot of the talent has a vintage flavor to suit the vibe, too, as evidenced by Friday's act, Django Reinhardt-channeling regulars Mill City Hot Club. Saturday features young jazz quintet Báhn Mì, and Sunday has rocky strummer Billy Johnson. Other monthly regulars include guitar master Tim Sparks and Parisota Hot Club. There's never a cover.

711 W. Lake St. (alley between Aldrich & Lyndale Avs.), Mpls.,