New Year's Eve is for amateurs. I should know -- I used to be one.

Let me tell you about the last time I went out on NYE and acted stupid (coulda been last year; coulda been 10 years ago -- I ain't telling!). Whatever the case, I spent the next day huddled over some shiny white porcelain. Disgusting, I know. The year before that, I sloshed through the snow searching for a friend who got kicked out of the club (only to find this said friend splayed out on the sidewalk).

Like I said: Embarrassing.

So, this year I'm not going to give you a guide to the biggest, wildest, drunkest parties that our club scene has to offer. This list is the opposite. Call it the anti-NYE. By all means, celebrate, but do you really need an all-you-can-drink ticket to blackout-ville?

If you must go out, here are some great NYE spots where you won't be beset by drunk people dancing on the bar with nothing on but those obnoxious "2012"-shaped eyeglasses.

ASTER CAFE

  • It's for: Overzealous music nerds (that's a good thing!).
  • What to expect: The all-star improv band, Coloring Time (featuring members of Peter Wolf Crier, No Bird Sing and Kill the Vultures), is inviting bargoers to bring their own instruments for one big NYE jam. Or just come as you are and enjoy the sounds at this St. Anthony Main gem. Cover is $10.
  • Find it: 125 SE. Main St., Mpls. 612-379-3138. www.aster-cafe.com.

TOWN HALL BREWERY

  • It's for: Beer lovers.
  • What to expect: A "Cheers"-type atmosphere with beer geeks reveling in their hoppy suds. The brewpub's recently released Festivus beer (a la "Seinfeld") will be on tap. It's a winter black lager brewed with more than 300 pounds of tart red cherries. That's cause to celebrate.
  • Find it: 1430 Washington Av. S., Mpls. 612-339-8696. www.townhallbrewery.com.

KING AND I THAI

  • It's for: Lounge lovers.
  • What to expect: Skip the restaurant and go straight to the lounge at this Thai restaurant. The underappreciated side room is a dimly lit chill-out spot, perfect for steady conversation and some ambient DJ music. Big plus: Happy hour is 9 p.m. to midnight. (You can make a reservation, too.)
  • Find it: 1346 LaSalle Av., Mpls. 612-332-6928. www.kingandithai.com.

RED STAG

  • It's for: Neo supper-club fans.
  • What to expect: The usual dinner crowd mixed with Northeast hipsters and jazz classicists Ahmed & the Creators revving up at 10:30 p.m. Relaxed but funky.
  • Find it: 509 1st Av. NE., Mpls. 612-767-7766. www.redstagsupperclub.com.

THE NOOK

  • It's for: Dive-bar fans.
  • What to expect: A $20 bill. That's all you need for a good time at this classic St. Paul institution. It gets you appetizer munchies, plus all the Hamm's beer you can drink. "Where else would you want to bring a date for a cheap beer?" co-owner Mike Runyon said of his NYE special. Order one of their famous juicy lucys, too.
  • Find it: 492 Hamline Av. S., St. Paul. 651-698-4347. www.crnook.com.

MERITAGE and HEARTLAND

  • It's for: Foodies.
  • What to expect: Both of St. Paul's top fine-dining establishments are offering $65 tasting menus. At Meritage, the night is highlighted by Maine lobster poached in butter and a duet of beef that includes braised short ribs and strip loin en sous vide. At Heartland, you'll feast on sturgeon, goose breast and other Midwestern delicacies. Tables are going fast.
  • Find it: Meritage, 410 S. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, www.meritage-stpaul.com. Heartland, 289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, www.heartlandrestaurant.com.

W.A. FROST

  • It's for: NYE lovebirds.
  • What to expect: If you're looking for maximum romance without breaking the bank, slip downstairs at this classic St. Paul restaurant and discover its intimate lounge. Fireplace, brick-layered alcoves and a bunch of cushy furniture.
  • Find it: 374 Selby Av., St. Paul. 651-224-5715. www.wafrost.com.

PSYCHO SUZI'S

  • It's for: Hearty drinkers.
  • What to expect: The tiki palace is describing its Dec. 31 festivities as a vacation from the debauchery of NYE. But by the looks of it, there might be some craziness to be had. For $40 you can get four tiki drinks or four tap beers (plus a Champagne toast, one appetizer and a take-home tiki mug).
  • Find it: 1900 NE. Marshall St., Mpls. 612-788-9069. www.psychosuzis.com.