Top Historic Bars in the Twin Cities
Photo by Nuli_k/Fotolia
There isn’t anything better than local history—except maybe a cold drink in an original or historically restored bar. Thanks to the commitment of community members, families, and business men and women over the years, the Twin Cities are home to several preserved and restored restaurants and bars with the hopes of taking their guests on a little trip back in time. From a bar that has proudly served drinks since the 1880s (even through Prohibition) to an elegantly restored art-deco spot that served F. Scott Fitzgerald before his writing career took off, any of these bars are well worth the stop.
Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery
Originally established in 1857, Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery was reestablished in 2017 after years of hard work put in by owner Tom Schroeder and St. Paul architect John Yust. Renamed after the original owner, Anthony Waldmann, the historic building is the Twin Cities’ oldest commercial structure. It once held a saloon that closed over 154 years ago when Waldmann went on to open up a grain and feed store farther down the road. The stone building was used as a house for many of the following years but today it has been turned into a brewery that serves traditional German-style lagers and German food including freshly made sausages, pretzels and limestone potatoes, using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Paul. Visit Waldmann’s blog, run by Schroeder, for more information about the redevelopment process, building history and recovered artifacts.
Neumann’s in North St. Paul has claimed the title of “Oldest Bar in Minnesota” and has been serving the Twin Cities since 1887. Even the Great Depression and Prohibition didn’t stop the bar from serving—they just served “near-beer” on the first floor and opened a speakeasy on the second. Bill Neumann originally opened the bar to serve Hamm’s beer to the growing community of North St. Paul. Today, visitors can still drink Hamm’s beer on tap and climb the steps to the second floor to see the keyhole window used to monitor people’s entry. Known for its trademark frogs in the front window and Hamm’s bar back (a gift from Hamm's brewery when the bar first opened), Neumann’s continues to serve the community of North St. Paul, bringing in out-of-towners and locals alike with its history, welcoming atmosphere and American bar food.
Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar
Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar has been serving Minneapolis since 1934 although its origin can be traced back to 1855 when Gottlieb Gluek arrived in Minneapolis from Germany. Over the years, Gluek and his sons opened various breweries and restaurants across the metro, but today Gluek’s Restaurant and Bar is back where it started in the Warehouse District at its original Gluek Building site in 1902. In the 1980s, the restaurant was completely destroyed in a fire, but the owners were quick to rebuild, ensuring that the design was as close to the original building as possible down to the floor plan, detailed woodwork, stained glass and vaulted ceilings. The restaurant’s lunch and dinner menus offer German and American fare.
Named after Joseph Forepaugh, the successful businessman who built the stately Victorian masion in 1870, Forepaugh’s is located in Irvine Park, St. Paul, and yes, it’s just as elegant as it looks. Forepaugh eventually sold the home which fell into deterioration until a private company bought the mansion and reopened it as a restaurant in 1976. In 2007, Bruce Taher renovated the house and redid the menu to create the beautiful restaurant you see today. Forepaugh’s boasts of fine dining in a 19th century setting with the kitchen using locally sources ingredients whenever possible. On a more haunted historical note, it is said that a young maid, Molly, haunts the restaurant. History has it that Molly and Forepaugh had an affair in the 1870s and after they were discovered, Molly hanged herself on the third floor of the house. Employees through the years have heard mysterious noises from the third floor and a few others have even claimed to see her walking around between guests during parties.
Originally opened as one of Gluek’s bars (a “G” is still imprinted on the original tin ceiling), the bar has been known as Monte Carlo since 1906. Today it is the oldest bar in the Warehouse District and is characterized by its copper bar top, old-school atmosphere and extensive patio seating in the summer.
Commodore Bar and Restaurant
The original Commodore Hotel and art-deco inspired bar opened in the 1920s in St. Paul and was frequented during the prohibition by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda along with a few other notable locals. Revamped and restored to its former glory, the Commodore Bar and Restaurant reopened in 2016 and serves an extensive menu of specialty cocktails and mouth-watering appetizers and entrees.
Firehouse Wine Bar
The up and coming Firehouse Wine Bar in St. Paul is a project that has been in the works for a while. Redevelopment is set to begin soon, thanks to community members and developers Brody Nordland and Chelsea Kaeding who joined together to save the 1872 brick building from demolition. The area was originally slated for a singular hotel, but developers have since updated the hotel plan to allow for St. Paul’s oldest firehouse to stay. The wine bar will focus on West Coast California wines, and Nordland and Kaeding plan to partner with local restaurants to provide food pairings for guests to order.