First things first: “dive bar” is not an insult. It’s a compliment. Everyone should know that, but if you didn’t, now you do.
Dive bars are typically smaller than most, have a local vibe, and feature staff – and regulars – with particular personalities.
While most dive bars don’t have music, there are some that do – and even a few that specialize in it. Below are the best dive bars that feature music in the Twin Cities
500 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis
Palmer’s – a West Bank institution since 1906 – may be the ultimate dive bar. It was originally owned by the Minneapolis Brewing Company (which became local favorite Gran Belt), possibly operated as a speakeasy during prohibition (with an underground tunnel to what is now the Nomad Pub), had an upstairs brothel during the 1930s, and was the backdrop for a movie based on a book by counter-culture icon Charles Bukowski (Factotum)
They are still the go-to spot on Cedar, featuring live music almost every night of the week. Their legendary original bar is still intact, making it for a delightful blast from the past. Stop by for some of the best rock, folk, indie, Americana, and more in the Twin Cities.
331 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis
The 331 Club, which is a short drive from Palmer’s, is the premier live music venue of Northeast. Catch live shows there every night from every possible genre (bonus: there’s never a cover).
Hidden gems on the Twin Cities music scene, many of them hard-working independent songwriters, are the 331’s specialty. Popular string band The Roe Family Singers have played there every Monday night for years now.
Low lights give it an especially dive-y atmosphere. Its beer selection is surprisingly large (and varied) for its occupancy, and the food is a lot fresher than you might expect.
1567 University Avenue, St. Paul
Formerly Big V’s, the Midway Saloon is sometimes overshadowed by the legendary Turf Club – figuratively and literally – but it has its own specific character. Midway Saloon is an apt name, as its rough-and-tumble vibe fits the Midway neighborhood far better than the more hipster-y Turf.
Like the 331, Midway Saloon is often home to unsigned, truly independent acts. Also like their Northeast dive counterpart, they have a great selection of alcohol, as they proudly display on a banner bragging about their “50 beers and 50 whiskeys.”
409 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
The Terminal Bar – or the Terminal Illness, as it is sometimes cynically referred to – is easily the dive-iest dive bar on this list. Google it and you won’t find an actual website, but you will find a half dozen articles about an impending closing that has never come (one is titled “How the Terminal bar neither evolved nor died”).
The Terminal hosts live shows almost every night. If you’re looking for music with a heavier edge – hard rock, metal, etc. – you’d be more likely to find it here than any of the other establishments on this list.