Here’s something that tends to get lost as we support our chosen teams, hurling beer cans from buses and insults from the stands: Football is a game.
A game. An amusement. A diversion. It’s a bunch of massive, sweaty humans crashing into each other while a few slightly less massive ones play catch. It’s awesome! It also doesn’t have to be quite so serious. And didn’t you travel to the Twin Cities to unwind?
What we’ve assembled here is an all-star lineup of 10 bars and restaurants with a similar fun-meets-fundamentals ethos—places that serve trophy-worthy food and drinks, yes, but are a joy to visit for the rest of your senses too, and where there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a really good “I’m sorry, you did what?” story to take back home.
Betty Danger’s Country Club and Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge
Don’t let the argyle fool you. Betty Danger’s isn’t a country club in the classic sense... or in any sense, except that there’s a seasonal mini golf course. It’s a zany place where Tex-Mex meets afternoon tea, where the drinks are strong and the overall vibe feels like the Ink Master contestants commandeered an episode of The Great British Baking Show. Ah, and they also have a Ferris wheel—sorry, a Mechanical Tree—you can drink on, even in winter. For a tiki take on the same over-the-top irreverence, chuck some quarters in the jukebox at Danger’s sibling, Psycho Suzi’s. She’s just an eight-minute walk down Marshall Street. 2501 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis; 612-315-4997 and 1900 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis; 612-788-9069.
Can Can Wonderland
More mini golf, you say? What about ping pong? Or air hockey? Pinball? Get thee to Can Can Wonderland, the Pee Wee’s Playhouse of St. Paul. Here, the only thing crazier than the 18 wacky indoor putt-putt holes and vintage game-packed boardwalk arcade are the cocktails: a dazzling array of boozy floats, slushies, and malts—plus nitrogen freeze pops. 755 Prior Ave. N., Suite #004, St. Paul; 651-925-2261.
Of all the innovations of the 20th century—nuclear power, antibiotics, television—not one has been so revolutionary as the Minneapolis-born Jucy Lucy: a burger with the cheese stuffed inside the patty. Burger hyperbole? Perhaps. But the second your teeth unearth the Lucy’s molten center and its goo springs forth, you’ll feel like a California miner striking gold for the first time. Your personal discovery is just gold of the dairy variety. 3500 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612-722-7072.
This pint-sized pancake joint has been the pride of Dinkytown for more than six decades. You’ll want to show up early, though, and ready yourself to wait in line—the hallway-like diner boasts just 14 seats. (Like we said: tiny!) Be prepared also for the hungry patrons who come after you and lurk over your shoulder as they wait to snatch your stool, salivating slightly. 413 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612-331-9991.
If you’re a Replacements fan—and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t dare utter as much here in their hometown—you might know the CC Club as the watering hole that inspired “Here Comes a Regular.” It’s really not as depressing as all that, and as iconic dives go, you can’t find a much better one for shooting pool and playing Big Buck Hunter. Don’t leave without ordering a Heggies. (What—you’ve never had square-cut bar pizza before?) 2600 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-874-7226.
The Lexington’s Rooftop Ice Bar
We’ve had ice bars for a bit, but there’s a plethora of them this year as restaurants ready to introduce visitors to the Bold North. At least we’re not making you go ice fishing? Opt to freeze your tail off on the roof at the Lex, where they have an ice throne, a shot luge, and guest bartenders. That way, when you get chilly, you’re conveniently situated atop one of the Twin Cities’ most iconic culinary landmarks. The rooftop is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through February 10. 1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-289-4990.
There are three certainties in life, actually: death, taxes, and Mickey’s Diner, which has been open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since 1939. We recommend grabbing a counter seat and watching the griddle masters who give new meaning to old faithful in action—just ignore how much butter is going in those so-fluffy-they-actually-defy-gravity omelettes. And sure, you’re all here for football, but there’s no ignoring Mickey’s very important hockey connection: It’s the diner from The Mighty Ducks. 36 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-222-5633.
Surly Beer Hall
Even if your plane in from Philly touched down mere seconds ago, you’ve probably already noticed that you can’t chuck a beer can in this town without hitting a craft brewery. There are dozens, and while plenty are worth your time—Fair State, Modist, and Barrel Theory all come to mind—Surly’s the destination to hit if you only have time to hit one. They’re the reason we even have taprooms in town; Surly was the force behind 2011 legislation that made brewing and serving beer in the same space legal, and three years later, they cut the ribbon on their stunning Malcolm Avenue compound. The food here is no joke, either: Show up with your squad, order a bunch of boards and shareables, and thank us later. 520 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 763-999-4040.
Pig Ate My Pizza
How to properly sing the praises of this porky little pizza place? We’ll start by saying the pillowy crusts and outside-the-box toppings are the work of James Winberg, Bob Gerken, and Mike Brown, the same trio of James Beard Award semi-finalists behind the highly regarded Travail Kitchen & Amusements. The place is pork-heavy—consider trying the Piggy Pie with pepperoni three ways—but the menu’s pretty sprawling, and it boasts a badass regional beer selection to boot. Don’t get address anxiety, by the way. Robbinsdale’s really not far from downtown Minneapolis. 4154 W. Broadway Ave., Robbinsdale; 763-537-7267.