The larger of Minnesota's Twin Cities, Minneapolis has long enjoyed a reputation as a progressive, arts-driven city with a vibrant lesbian and gay community, a wealth of museums, a first-rate theater scene, and an abundance of hip restaurants, cafes, and - increasingly - swank hotels. A series of beautiful lakes and parks extends south from bustling downtown, which also fringes a scenic stretch of the Mississippi River.
It's a bowling alley. It's a community theater. It's a groovy dive bar. It's a funky cafe — the beloved Bryant-Lake Bowl, has been a fixture near the city's artsy but affluent Uptown neighborhood (more specifically just east, in the funky Lyn-Lake District). This quirky and extremely gay-popular venue hosts edgy theatrical productions, comedy, performance art, and spoken word in the theater. The bowling alley is a fun place to gather with friends and while away a cheap evening.
The bar and restaurant are cool spots for happy hour (held on weeknights both in the early evening and late-night hours), hearty breakfasts, and affordable chow all day. For dinner, you can't go wrong with Bryant-Bowl's spinach-fennel-date salad with walnuts and feta; or the asparagus risotto with roasted organic chicken or shrimp. People sometimes ask why a city as large as Minneapolis has so few gay bars — one reason is the wealth of venues that cater to a genuinely mixed crowd, the Bryant-Lake Bowl leading the way.
A long-popular gay nightlife complex (formerly known as the Minneapolis Eagle and The Bolt) in the Mill City district on the Mississippi River, the EagleBOLTBar caters to a predominantly male bunch, including plenty of Growlr and Scruff types, but having rebranded in recent years, it does draw a more diverse crowd and welcomes all in the community. There's also a restaurant serving burgers, sandwiches, salads, and weekend brunch fare. The Eagle originally opened in this space back in 1998. Off the back of the bar is a good-size heated patio, which also has access to a video bar that's open Wednesday through Sunday nights. Then on Friday and Saturday nights, live DJs spin tunes in the dance floor. Depending on your mood and the night of the week, there's pretty much something for everybody here.
A massive and rather legendary GLBT nightclub in the downtown Minneapolis theater and nightclub district, the Gay 90's has become known over the years for its three floors of queer entertainment, from drag shows to go-go strippers to DJ dancing. The club packs them in on weekends and draws a genuine mix of patrons — gays, straights, women, men, young, old, and all races. Be warned: The Adonis Men strip review is a big hit not only with men who like men but also giggling bachelorette parties.
What had been a fairly skeevy cruise bar back in the day, the happily unpretentious 19 Bar is today a terrific neighborhood hangout — perfect for a game of pool or darts, getting to know locals (it's in the charming Loring Park neighborhood), taking a break from business (it's a block from the convention center and a short taxi ride south of downtown), or relaxing with a drink on the covered patio. Another fine attribute: the eclectic jukebox. The welcoming staff and no-attitude vibe makes 19 Bar popular with gay guys (and more than a few lesbians) of all ages.
Brass Rail - Gay Bar
One of the longest-running gay clubs in the Midwest, the Brass Rail is most famous for its drag shows and go-go boys. The extremely cruise-y club (there's always gay porn showing on the monitors) is looking pretty good these days, after having undergone a makeover. Key nights include Friday for the live-piano happy hour, and Wednesday if you're a fan of male strippers. Along with the Gay 90s next door and the Saloon a few blocks down, the Brass Rail has for many years been a key component of the downtown Hennepin Avenue gay nightlife strip.
Part of downtown's cruise-y and campy gay entertainment strip on the edge of the Hennepin Avenue theater district, The Saloon has been an extremely popular fixture for more than three decades. It's a large space comprising a dance club, lounge, and a casual restaurant serving short-order pub fare and sandwiches. On weekends, the dance bar is one of the most popular gay clubs in the Midwest. Go-go boys gyrate on a platform with a shower (and some nights they have amateur shower strip contests). The owners have done a good job keeping this place looking good, with an impressive sound system, a huge stone fireplace in the bar, and an impressive array of happy hour special. Pretty fun place, all in all.
Sandwiched between the Mill City Museum and Guthrie Theater in the city's imaginatively repurposed Mill District, Spoonriver is one of the hot spots in the Twin Cities for super-fresh, creatively prepared organic cuisine, with an emphasis on vegetarian cuisine. The restaurant is helmed by Brenda Langton, who for years owned the former Cafe Brenda in the Warehouse District. Inside this modern, high-ceilinged space with tall windows overlooking this historic neighborhood, Spoonriver lunch and dinner daily (except Mondays), and a first-rate brunch on weekends where you might sample udon chicken salad with peanut-lemongrass dressing (you can sub ginger mock duck), or warm smoked Scottish salmon in buckwheat crepes with dill-sour cream. Typical dinner fare includes savory wild mushroom-pistachio terrine with fruit chutney, followed by slow-roasted Minnesota lamb and vegetable stew over couscous pilaf with minted yogurt.
Langton also established the increasingly popular Mill City Farmers Market on Saturday mornings along the adjacent Plaza — it runs from early May through October and features organic produce and artisan foods.