By Brian Kaufenberg
6 W 6th St, St Paul
Each night, the Amsterdam Bar & Hall’s three “X”s shine out onto 6th Street in St. Paul, calling to Twin Citizens who have long written off the nightlife in the downtown area. For those who are wise enough to heed the call, the Amsterdam rewards them with live music, a broad list of beers from the Netherlands and Minnesota, and a food menu full of Dutch specialties from broodjes (Dutch sandwiches) to mussels and frites.
What’s special about the Amsterdam is its dedication to bringing music and events to downtown St. Paul every night of the week. With a small stage near the bar and a main stage in the back room, the Amsterdam is able to host a wide-range of events. Come to hear one of the dozens of up-and-coming local bands on most nights, stop by on Mondays to play trivia, or join the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for its Composer Series—a live interview with classical and modern musical composers.
The focus on music is not surprising considering the proprietors also own Minneapolis’ 331 Club, a musical launch pad for local acts. Now the Amsterdam’s hip, edgy atmosphere is making it a destination for music heads, beer lovers, as well as seasoned St. Paulites looking for a refreshing change of pace for their happy hour.
125 SE Main St, Minneapolis
The location on the historic cobblestone St. Anthony on Main makes a visit to the Aster Café worth it in itself, but the drink list, the food, and the live music add to the warm, inviting allure of this restaurant. During the summer, people in the know crowd the outdoor patio and enjoy brunch in full view of the river and downtown Minneapolis. In the winter, passersby will notice the Aster’s steamed windows from the street, signaling a packed house for whichever live musician or band is playing that night.
It’s the music that sets the Aster Café apart from other great Minneapolis bars and restaurants. The café brings in local upstart musicians trying to make a name for themselves, as well as more established Minnesota artists, such as Dessa and Heiruspecs, eager to play a more intimate show. With room at the Aster’s copper-topped tables and hand-carved wood bar for around just 80 people or standing room for 100, the setting creates a focus on the music that is unlike many other of the music venues in town.
For patrons visiting the Aster for it’s fantastic drink list including tea-infused cocktails, Bloody Marys using pepper-infused or basil-infused vodkas, and it’s thoughtful list of craft beers—not to mention its focused menu of quality gastropub fare—the music may play second fiddle. But by the end of the night, those patrons might not only be leaving with a satisfied stomach, but a new favorite local artist.