I'm the type of person who usually needs a drink before going to the theater. And the kooky, zany performances at the annual Fringe Festival only amplify that necessity.
The Fringe has to be the only fest with show names like "The Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" and "The Problem (With) Your Mother's Butt." Makes for good conversation afterward, especially with another drink in hand.
This year, one of the fest's two major hubs is near the corner of Lake and Lyndale, an area of Minneapolis packed with great bars and restaurants. If you're looking for a spot to drink before or after crashing the local theaters (Bryant-Lake Bowl, Huge Improv Theater, Intermedia Arts, etc.), here are five of my favorites at LynLake.
This one's a no-brainer. It's Fringe Central, where your Fringe button gets you exclusive access to the second floor and the scenic rooftop. Munch on noodles and try the sake (brewed on-site) or one of the bar's many Minnesota beers.
- 515 W. Lake St., Mpls
The old coffee shop from down the street now resembles a gastropub with a serious tap beer list and a cozy patio.
- 2933 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls
Everything about this place is goofy, except the pizza and beer. The drivers dress like superheroes and the sidewalk patio has a grass tiki theme. But the pizza ingredients are locally sourced and the beer is, too.
- 2917 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls
Looking for a quick late-night drink? Don't be intimidated by the foodie intelligentsia streaming in and out of this place. Its sleek bar is open to everyone and features cocktails made with fresh ingredients.
- 2903 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls
VFW Post 246
Dirt-cheap drinks, loud karaoke and a cast of characters. Heck, this place would make a great Fringe performance.
- 2916 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls
Blue Plate comes to Uptown
After some delay, the Lowry is finally ready to open. The seventh bar in the Blue Plate restaurant group became a casualty of the state government shutdown in July. The bar was awaiting its state buyers card, a $20 piece of paperwork that allows bars to purchase liquor. Without it, the Lowry's owners couldn't start training and had to back up the opening date several times. It's set to open Monday.
Blue Plate's locations (Groveland Tap, Longfellow Grill, Three Squares, etc.) are typically well-designed, but nothing fancy. They've kicked it up a notch at the Lowry, which is located in the old Hollywood Video space (across from Liquor Lyle's). The design has a hint of retro (Art Deco windows, old-school seating) and the attitude is a little bit edgy (the servers will wear fishnet stockings).
I'm most excited about the drinks program, which looks to be heavy-duty. The craft beer list is spread across 36 taps. The bar will have 16 wines in the Winekeeper (that high-tech refrigeration unit they use at Scusi). There also will be six wines on tap. And mixologist Jeff Rogers has designed a respectable cocktail list. As for food, the menu is similar to Blue Plate's Maple Grove outpost, Three Squares, a gastropub that does burgers and meatloaf better than most bars. The big difference here is the addition of fresh oysters. Why oysters? Why not, I say.
- 2112 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls
Johnny Michaels rocks out
It was only a matter of time before bartender Johnny Michaels worked his cocktail magic at a rock bar. The man is a super music fan (he's named not one but two drinks after post-rock band Mogwai). While he's still holding down his post at La Belle Vie, Michaels has designed drink lists at several other bars, the most recent being at Masu. His next cocktail adventure will take place at Icehouse, the Eat Street bar/restaurant/music venue opening in November by the owners of Be'Wiched. Located in the old Sinbad's at 2528 Nicollet Av. S., the venue is comparable in size to the Turf Club.
Michaels said his role will be pretty hands-on at Icehouse. He's helping to design the bar, with the goal of producing fine cocktails as fast as possible. "I think that's the future of craft cocktails," he said. "People want better drinks, but they don't want to wait 15 minutes." While much of the Icehouse concept is still in the planning stages, Michaels is already thinking about more musician-inspired drinks.
"I might name one after Aby Wolf," he said of the local singer/songwriter. That's a good start.