Jazz, Roots, and Blues – A Place to Start
In my weekly music suggestions I list the name of the venue, but rarely give more information, figuring that folks who use the internet will find the information they need. Nevertheless, from time to time I will mention a place to hear music and my companions will ask, “Where is that?” Here then, is a listing of most venues with addresses, contact information, and in some cases, a few brief comments.
I am listing the venues in alphabetical order, starting with the first name of the club, though not including the word “The.” Clicking on the name will take you to the venue’s website. Use this list as a start. Many of these venues only feature music a few nights a week, so check websites or call to get the latest information.
Copyright © 2012, 2016, 2018, Larry Englund
318 Cafe, 318 Water Street, Excelsior. 952-401-7902. Jazz, folk, and roots in an intimate space.
331 Club, 331 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis. 612-331-1746. Good beer list. Roots and Americana music, with the occasional acoustic swing. Also rock and Deejays for special events. Never a cover, but a tip jar is passed around.
Amsterdam Bar & Hall, 6th & Wabasha, Saint Paul. 612-285-3112. Rock, hip-hop, and occasional singer/songwriters, and even a jazz group on very occasional dates. A rock n’ roll hall with minimal decoration but a large beer list and Dutch food, including frites (fries) with a choice of sauces, and brodjes (little sandwiches). There are two stages. Music on the smaller bar stage has a tip jar. Cover varies for the large hall stage.
408 St. Peter, Saint Paul (Entrance is off 7th Place). Jazz and only jazz each night from Monday to Saturday, featuring the cream of Twin Cities artists during the week and visiting artists on the weekend. Monday nights are poetry night, and Tuesday nights feature an invitational jam. Cover is $5 and up. We lost a great club when The Artists’ Quarter closed on December 31, 2013.
Aster Cafe, 125 SE Main Street, Minneapolis. 612-379-3138 Pretty good wine list, lots of infusions, teas. Acoustic jazz, as well as singer/songwriters and roots/Americana. Charming room with a nice view of downtown Minneapolis. Cover charge varies.
Barbette, 1600 Lake Street, Minneapolis. 612-827-5710. Wine, beer, good food, jazz, singer/songwriters, and various duos and trios on Mondays. Music starts at 10pm for late night music lovers. As of 2016, they only have music about once a month. No cover.
Bayport BBQ, 328 5th Avenue North, Bayport. 651-955-6337. A small joint with terrific BBQ and traditional fixins. Order at the counter. Chris Johnson, the owner/cook, is a big fan of deep blues, music that’s as stripped-down and energized as it gets. As of 2016 they no longer feature live music, but do play lots of blues and roots music on their house system. You can also buy albums.
Bennett’s Chop House, 1305 West 7th Street, Saint Paul. 651-228-9274. Traditional jazz on the second and last Tuesday of each month. Reservations recommended.
Black Dog, 308 Prince Street, Saint Paul. 612-228-9274. This comfy place, located kitty-corner from the Farmers Market, has an adventurous music schedule, ranging from improvised jazz, to roots music, Flamenco nights, and even a Balkan party band. Good sandwiches, soups, regional beer, and a nice little wine list. They have jazz every Saturday night, featuring two groups, with the opener often featuring young talented musicians of high school age. Generally no cover, though there is a tip jar. The place was remodeled in 2016 to allow for a bigger menu, mixed drinks, and better sight lines and sound in the music room.
Bloomington Theater and Art Center, 1800 West Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington. Occasional jazz (often vocal) in the Black Box Theater.
Boom Island Brewing, 2014 Washington Ave North, Minneapolis. This brewery specializes in Belgian-inspired beers, and features a jazz group each Saturday night in its taproom.
Bunker’s Music Bar and Grill, 761 North Washington Ave, Minneapolis. . 612-338-8188. Lots of old school R&B, some reggae, and a bit of rock. Mondays and Tuesdays Dr. Mambo’s Combo continues its long running gig, with guest artists, including visiting musicians with national reputations. Cover charge varies.
Cafe Maude, 5411 Penn Avenue South, Minneapolis. 612-822-5411. As of 2016 they no longer feature music on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. This neighborhood bistro is known for its food and cocktails.
Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis. 612-338-2674. This somewhat large hall has both seated and unseated shows, featuring a wide variety of world music, acoustic music, R&B, and once in a great while, jazz.
Crooners, 6161 Highway 65 NE, Minneapolis. 763-571-9020. Located in the old Shorewood on Moore Lake in Fridley, Crooners is, as might be expected, the place to hear jazzy vocalists, as well as some R&B. They have music from Monday – Saturday, though some nights it ends by 10pm. Of special interest is the Dunsmore Room, where a quiet listening atmosphere is enforced. It’s where you’ll see some visiting artists as well as the best of the area’s resident artists.
Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. 612-332-1010. A classic nightclub and restaurant, known as much for its food as for its line-up of visiting artists, who range from Delfeyo Marsalis and John Scofield, to boomer favorites like Judy Collins, or more contemporary performers like Shawn Colvin, Dave Alvin, or any one of a number of bluegrass performers. The cover charge for visiting artists can get pretty high, depending on the artist. It’s not unusual for the Dakota to be the only club on an artist’s tour.
Dayblock Brewing Taproom, 1105 South Washington, Minneapolis. 612-617-7793. This brewhouse features live music in their Tap Room a few times each week – usually rock or roots music.
Driftwood Char Bar, 4415 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis. 612-354-3402. This beer n’ wine bar has roots and rock. Never a cover, but a tip jar is often passed.
The Dubliner Pub, 2162 University Avenue West, Saint Paul. 651-646-5551. An unpretentious, comfortable Irish Bar which features Irish music on a regular basis as well as sea shanty sings once a month and dancing. Thursdays from 5-7pm you’ll find acoustic music as washboard/percussionist Mikkel Beckmen brings in guests from the blues and roots world. Sundays also feature non-Irish music, as well as late night vinyl deejays playing a wide variety of music. They now have a full kitchen. The first Friday of the month features Right Track, a vinyl dance party with music mostly from the 60s and 70s.
Dunn Brothers on Grand, 1569 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul. 651-698-0618. A classic coffeehouse that features acoustic music a few nights a week.
Dusty’s, 1319 Marshall Avenue, NE, Minneapolis. 612-378-2118. This is a tiny, no frills bar that features mostly acoustic roots music, though there’s a rock n’ roll trio or two that shows up once in a while. No cover, but there’s usually a tip jar.
Eagles Club #34 2507 East 25th Street, Minneapolis. Swing bands and dancing on nice dance floors, as well as Cajun/Zydeco and R&B bands. Cover runs from $5-$10.
Famous Daves BBQ & Blues Club, 3001 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis. This Calhoun Square club features more than the blues – there’s some rock n’ roll, and of course, visiting and resident blues artists, though recent changes have reduced music to Monday night swing night and just the weekends. Cover charge varies.
Gingko Coffee House, 721 North Snelling Ave, Saint Paul. 651-645-2647. Acoustic folk, and some roots. Varied music schedule – often a stop for touring folk artists.
Half Time Rec, 1013 Front Ave, Saint Paul. 651-488-8245. No longer featuring Cajun and Zydeco music on Sunday evenings, though it does have some Rock on weekends.
Hat Trick Lounge, 134 East 5th Street, Saint Paul. 651-228-1347. This downtown “street bar” offers an eclectic mix of music on weekends, including roots, blues, and jazz. No music during Januiary, February, July, and August.
Hell’s Kitchen, 80 9th Street South, Minneapolis. 612-332-4700. Jazz and roots early shows (6pm – 9pm). Rock late at night (10pm). No cover.
Hollihan’s Pub, 2160 3rd Street, White Bear Lake. 651-429-0280. Some blues, rock. No cover, and no website, so call.
Honey Lounge, 205 East Hennepin, Minneapolis. 612-746-0306. This basement lounge features lots of deejays, but will have small group jazz and other music every once in a while. Sometimes a cover.
Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Main Street, Hopkins. 952-979-1100. Often presents national level blues and jazz in conjunction with promoters.
The Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis. 612-276-6523. This spacious, if a bit noisy, restaurant/bar features music seven nights a week. Monday nights is the Jazz Implosion, featuring the kind of adventurous music that used to be found in the Clown Lounge at the Turf Club. Jazz is also available on other nights, though if you go for supper on a weekend, when there is likely a jazz duo playing, be sure to be seated near the band, as the noise can get quite loud from other patrons.
Ingredients Cafe, 4725 Highway 61 North, White Bear Lake. 651-426-6611. A well-regarded restaurant that features acoustic music four nights a week, with some jazz. No cover.
Jazz Central Studios, 407 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis. You have to walk down a hall and down some steps to get to this place “by cats for cats.” Every Monday night a featured artist plays with the house rhythm section, and then a jam session ensues for the second set. Tuesday nights are for big bands, Wednesdays often feature bass-led or experimental groups, while Thursdays are for vocalists and Fridays for many of the bands that used to regularly play the Artists’ Quarter. Occasional Saturday gigs as well. Donation at the door. $10 is suggested.
Landmark Center, 75 5th Street, Saint Paul. 651-292-0323. Varied schedule of folk, jazz, and more. Some noontime concerts during the summer.
Lee’s Liquor Lounge, 101 Glenwood, Minneapolis. 612-338-9491. Rockabilly, alt-country, some R&B, rock, and a good dance floor. Cover varies.
The Lexington Restaurant, 1096 Grand Avenue (corner of Lexington), Saint Paul. The revitalized Lexington now features small jazz groups in the Williamsburg Room Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights starting at 7pm.
Mayslack’s, 1428 4th Street, NE, Minneapolis. 612-789-9862. Roots, Americana, Rock.
Mason Jar, 1564 Cliff Road, Eagan. 651-340-6127. This is a new restaurant that’s opened in the former Pardon My French space. They occasionally have duos and trios, mostly playing & singing jazz. As of May, 2016, it appears that have stopped having music.
Merlin’s Rest, 3601 East Lake Street, Minneapolis. 612-216-2419. Some jazz & acoustic swing, as well as Americana, and Irish music. No cover, but bring an ID if you want to drink alcohol.
Mendoberri Cafe & Wine Bar, 730 Main Street, Mendota Heights. 651-209-3270. This Wine Bar is in a development called the Village. They have duos and trios playing jazz and acoustic music two nights a week. Good wine list, and good desserts. No cover.
Minnesota Music Cafe, 449 Payne Avenue, Saint Paul. 651-776-4699. Soul, blues, rock, and some Latin, with a large dance floor. May Tuesday evenings they feature a big band early in the evening. Cover varies.
Narrows Blues Saloon, 3380 Shoreline Drive, Navarre. 952-471-3352. Blues, of course, in a room with good sightlines and a not-too-small, not-very-big dance floor.
Neumann’s 2531 East 7th Street, North Saint Paul. 651-770-6020. The oldest continually operating bar in the state has a tiny stage but a big sound, featuring blues and rock. No cover.
Nomad World Pub, 501 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis. Roots, Rock, deejays, and televised soccer games.
Nona Rossa’s Wine Bar, 4168 West Broadway Avenue, Robbinsdale. 763-537-3700. Very occasional jazz duos.
Normandy Kitchen, 405 South 8th Street, Minneapolis. 612-370-1400. This bar, part of the Normandy Inn, is a charming and intimate space in which to hear music, with room for about 50 people. They feature music most Saturdays, with duos and trios like Maurice Jacox, and Charmin & Shapira. The food (popovers!), drinks, and atmosphere hearken back to the 60s. Given its small size, reservations are recommended.
O’Gara’s, 164 North Snelling, Saint Paul. 651-644-3333. A sports bar with Beasly’s Big Band performing on an irregular basis. Some rock in the back room. No cover for the big band.
Palmers Bar, 500 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis. 612-333-7625. A West Bank institution, Palmers serves stiff drinks and has music 7 nights a week – mostly rootsy, bluesy stuff. The fact that they were named one of the best bars in America by Esquire belies the somewhat dive-y vibe, though to be fair, it has one of the most diverse crowds you’ll find around, from street people to grad students, lawyers, goths, old hippies, and folks of all colors. Occasional cover charge.
Red Stag Supper Club, 509 1st Avenue NE, Minneapolis. 612-767-7766. It appears they no longer have music except for an annual block party.
Riverview Wine Bar, 3753 42nd Ave South, Minneapolis. 612-722-7234. Acoustic music and small group jazz, including the Zacc Harris Trio every Sunday night, and the Overtones jazz trio on Wednesdays. Sometimes there’s a cover charge.
Saint Barnabas Center for the Arts, 15600 Old Rockford Road, Plymouth. 763-553-3083. Features a series called Jazz at St. Barny’s.
Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar, 350 Market Street, Saint Paul. Vocalist and accompanist on weekends from Fall through Spring. Good, if pricey, cocktails and snacks. No cover.
Schooner Tavern, 2901 27th Avenue South, Minneapolis. 612-729-4365. This modest bar has a small stage and a small dance floor, but that doesn’t stop folks from making use of both. They feature rock and blues, with some occasional jazz.
School II Wine Bar & Bistro, 600 Market Street, Suite 170, Chanhanssen. 952-949-0000. Jazz and jazzy R&B.
Shaws, 1528 University Avenue NE, Minneapolis. 612-781-4405. Blues and rock. The Butanes play every Thursday, and often have folks sit in. No cover.
The Station, 2171 4th Street, White Bear Lake. 651-426-2300. Blues, pop, & vocals that may veer into jazz from time to time.
Studio Z, 275 East 4th Street, Saint Paul. 651-755-1600. New chamber music and jazz. It’s a varied schedule, with a varied cover.
Turf Club, 1601 University Avenue, Saint Paul. 651 – 647-0486. Venerable rock club with roots music, touring and resident bands. Cover varies.
Vieux Carré, 408 Saint Peter Street, Saint Paul. 651-291-2715. This is now in the old Artists’ Quarter space in the basement of the Hamm Building, with it’s entrance on the 7th Place pedestrian mall. It was made slightly larger, and given new chairs and tables, as well as a small kitchen, which turns out food inspired by New Orleans. After all, Vieux Carré is the Old Quarter in French, and used to designate that city’s French Quarter. It’s open from Wednesday through Saturday and features area musicians playing blues, roots, and jazz. Of special note is the fact that they have solo artists and duos playing from 6pm to 8pm with no cover.
Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis. 612-353-4794. This historic bar in the West Bank neighborhood re-opened in May of 2016 with new owners, after the previous owner had closed it in 2006. Closed again as of the beginning of 2018.
Wabasha Street Caves, 215 Wabasha Street, Saint Paul. 651-292-1220. The former mushroom caves and 30s gangster hang-out features a Swing Dance night every Thursday, with big bands. It’s quite the scene with young couples practicing acrobatic moves in the side rooms and folks from 15-70 out on the dance floor. Inexpensive drinks, though water seems to be most in demand. $7 cover.
Washington Square Bar & Grill, 4736 Washington Square, White Bear Lake. 651-407-7162. This restaurant in the heart of White Bear Lake features some roots and blues. It’s a small room with a bar that seats about 10. No cover.
Wilebski’s Blues Saloon, 1638 Rice Street, Saint Paul. 651-331-0929. Blues, mostly Fridays from 6pm – 10pm, but some weeknights. A large dance floor and plenty of parking.