SWING THAT SONG
Five of our favorite jazz venues in Minneapolis and St. Paul
By Lianna Matt
It’s hard to pick out the sound of the city—especially when our metro is really two cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and both are bursting with sound. Even with concerts covering every genre, we go deep into each one. If jazz is your thing, get that laid back feel at five of our favorite jazz venues. We stack the lineups high with local talent, rising stars and big names that bring the house down with their chops.
The Dakota has been part of the Twin Cities scene for 37 years after beginning in St. Paul and moving over to Minneapolis to become a mainstay on Nicollet Mall. With consistent accolades in local and national media outlets, including USA Today, the Dakota has become a benchmark for musicians in the jazz world with performances from the likes of Prince, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Ramsey Lewis, and more. Expect great performances every night in the venue’s two-level seating as well as a delicious, chef-driven meal every time you go.
Besides being one of Minneapolis’ most iconic breakfast spots, Hell’s Kitchen doubles as a jazz joint on weekend evenings and brunches. Yes, that does mean you have the opportunity to take part in the restaurant’s 35-foot bloody mary bar while hearing soft shoe jazz. While the lineup is mostly jazz, it also dips into genres including soul, Americana and Reggae. As you listen to the tunes, you won’t regret descending into this red and black cavern of housemade food, locally crafted beers and, just for yet another quirk, internationally distributed peanut butter.
Take in two stories of jazz, good food, a huge whiskey collection and $5 sipping shots at the place that made the stage as prominent as possible: the Icehouse. While this Uptown venue might be set in an industrial setting, its eclectic menu has more than a touch of fine dining in dishes like swordfish, veal carpaccio and a 10 course tasting menu option. Both touring and local artists play here, and on the weekends, the music can go all day.
For some serious local jazz, go to the intimate 50-seat setting of Jazz Central Studios where performers flourish and astound nearly every day of the week. This studio is pretty no frills, but the pure love for jazz is more than enough to fill the space and the atmosphere. Besides performances, Jazz Central also hosts educational clinics and open rehearsals, so if you’re around for a while, you can find your community in this venue.
Wrap yourself in jazz, soul, blues and the magic that happens when you mix them at this cocktail bar and lounge inspired by New Orleans food and speakeasy atmospheres. Vieux Carré is run by the same people as the Dakota, and the owners are bringing low cover charges ($5-15) and a mix of jazz and acoustics to the basement of the historic Hamm Building. Make sure to bring cash, though—like a true speakeasy, Vieux Carré doesn’t accept credit cards for the cover charge.