On New Year's Eve, do you really need an all-you-can-drink ticket to blackout-ville? 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.
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.
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.
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).
It's for: Neo supper club fans.
What to expect: The usual dinner crowd mixed with Northeast hipsters and the jazz classicists Ahmed & the Creators revving up at 10:30 p.m. Relaxed but funky.
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.
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.
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. Fireplaces, brick-layered alcoves and a bunch of cushy furniture.