Pedals and Pull-Tabs: The dive bars of U.S. Bike Route 41

Photo by Bradley Stemke, Flickr

Photo by Bradley Stemke, Flickr

The North Star Bicycle Route (a.k.a., U.S. Bicycle Route 41) connects St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Canadian border, winding through Duluth, Grand Marais, two national parks, past nine state parks, and along the shores of Lake Superior. The route offers 315 miles of safe and sound pedaling, either on mixed-used paths or highways with bike-friendly shoulders.

Awesomest of all, it’s lined with dozens of authentic Minnesota dive bars that are best experienced by bicycle. Featuring all the beers, burgers, pull tabs, pool tables, fried cheesy delights, and eccentric local regulars your bike heart desires.

So air up your tires, tighten your helmet, and pack up your pannier—and don’t forget the TUMS. Let’s embark on the ultimate bike bar crawl.

St. Paul

Bloody mary and snit of beer at Kelly's Depot Bar // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Bloody mary and snit of beer at Kelly’s Depot Bar // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Kelly’s Depot Bar & Grill • 241 Kellogg Blvd E

The adventure begins at this Lowertown watering hole, beloved by locals since it opened in 1989. Stretch your legs to warm up for the long ride and grab a bloody mary while you’re at it.

Vogel’s Lounge • 1112 Arcade St

A big city, small town bar that’s been family-owned since 1976. Sip something frosty while you haphazardly toss a few darts, enjoy a meaty Heggie’s pizza, watch the game, and pull a tab or 20.

White Bear Lake

Cabin 61 • 4150 Hoffman Rd

A family restaurant on Goose Lake that’s packed with beers (Miller Lite to Lakes & Legends) and classic Minnesota dishes. We’re hungering over the more adventurous Campfire Burger: smoked gouda, peanut butter, bacon, spicy lingonberry jam, and side of chips.

Hugo

Car show at Blacksmith Lounge & Broaster // Photo via Blacksmith's Facebook

Car show at Blacksmith Lounge & Broaster // Photo via Blacksmith’s Facebook

Blacksmith Lounge & Broaster • 17205 Forest Blvd N

A quick hop off the bike trail, this hugely popular Hugo institution is known for its broasted chicken, its 10-ounce Horseshoe Burger with bacon and cheese, its gigantic car shows, and its monthly consignment auctions where locals proffer their best cast-offs.

North Branch

JJ’s Bowl and Lounge • 6427 Ash St  

Google reviews for this bar and bowling alley promise… a fascinating experience. One reviewer calls it a “motel from a horror story,” while another says the place is “trash and the people treat you like garbage.” Pure dive bar ambience.

Harris

Local Bar & Lounge • 2430 Stark Rd  

Local Bar & Lounge carries all kinds of local deliciousness, from six local tap beers and numerous craft options in cans and bottles, to Rush City Bakery’s locally made bread. Eat the Rocket Wings or a burger with fresh-never-frozen beef from White Bear Lake. That’ll keep your legs charged.

Full Moon Bar & Restaurant • 2425 Stark Rd  A family-owned establishment, built as a schoolhouse in the early 1900s and turned into a bar in the ’50s. You might get schooled by the Flame Thrower Burger.

Rush City

Flickabirds Resort • 50155 Clover Tr  

Stop into this lakeside bar and restaurant for bingo on Tuesdays, ribs on Friday and Saturday, and a bucket full o’ beer all days.

Next Page: Rush City to Mahtowa

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