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Cocktail Confidential: Bartenders' Favorite Hidden Gems

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In honor of Cocktail Week, Eater convinced 9 bartenders in the Cities to disclose their go-to hidden gems when sitting on the other side of the bar. From dive bars to neighborhood spots, these eight picks span the Cities and suburbs, offering up cocktails, mixed drinks, and lots of places to get some good straight whiskey (do we sense a bartender trend here?).

Without further ado, here are 9 favorite hidden gem bars from Eat Street Social's Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz, Marvel Bar's Pip Hanson and Peder Schweigert, The Strip Club's Dan Oskey, Parlour's Jesse Held, Saffron's Robert Jones, Café Maude's Elliot Manthey, and, in a late addition, cocktail man-about-town Johnny MIchaels (of La Belle Vie, Icehouse, and Union).


· All Coverage of Cocktail Week 2013 [Eater MPLS]

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Muddy Pig

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162 Dale St N
Saint Paul, MN 55102
(651) 254-1030
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Marvel Bar's Peder Schweigert has been going to the Muddy Pig for ten years. "It feels like my neighborhood, it is my neighborhood," says Schweigert, who lives 6 blocks away. He goes for the conversation, and also for the obscure beers and extensive whiskey list, with no particular favorite: "I frolic amongst."

2. Merlins Rest

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3601 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 216-2419
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Marvel Bar's Pip Hanson picked Longfellow spot Merlin's Rest, known for its "Whisky Bible" as his hidden gem. "I'm not there as often as I'd like," Hanson says, "but I love going there when I do."

3. Tracy's Saloon

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2207 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 332-1865
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The Strip Club's Dan Oskey chose Seward's Tracy's Saloon as his under-the-radar pick. "No frills, no bells, no whistles, but Tracy's Saloon over on Franklin is a good place just to get an honest cocktail," says Oskey. Usually Oskey gets a mixed drink, and he mentions that they also have really good bar food.

4. Knight Cap Bar & Lounge

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1500 4th St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 789-5233
Eat Street Social's Nick Kosevich picked Northeast's Knight Cap for his hidden gem. He says, "I'd have to say the Hidden Gem in my life would be North East's Knight Cap. I always never want to go, I always never want to leave, and I curse its name every morning after. I think this is because I drink whatever good whiskey they have until it runs out and then I move on to the next. "

5. Sample Room

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2124 Marshall St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) 789-0333
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Saffron's Robert Jones shares his hidden gem pick: "The Sample Room, I think, is still off a lot of people's radars for some reason. I like getting cocktails from Ryen Goldsmith, not one in particular but whatever he's messing with at the time."

6. Liquor Lyle's

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2021 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 870-8183
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Eat Street Social's Ira Koplowitz comes to Minneapolis frequently from his homebase of Milwaukee. When he's here, he's usually working on the Eat Street menu, but he's had some good times at a few "cool divey spots." He says, "At the top of the list is Lyle's Liquors. When I'm there, it is definitely a shot of bourbon and a beer."

7. Rainbow Chinese

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2739 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 870-7084
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Cocktail man-about-town Johnny Michaels (of La Belle Vie, Icehouse, and Union) says that Eat Street's Rainbow Chinese is an underrated place to get an excellent cocktail: "If you want to check out an emerging DrinkMakingStar who's flying just under the general public's radar, go to Rainbow Chinese Restaurant (Eat St, by 28th and Nicollet) and sample what Jimmy Vongsouvahn has been producing. Rainbow Chinese, the original destination restaurant on Eat St (they just celebrated their 25th anniversary this past year, yeah..25 Years!!!) has always been known for the magical food Chef Tammy Wong has lovingly made for her customers. Now, Jimmy has blossomed out of nowhere and is making cocktails equal to Rainbow's excellent cuisine. He's a very shy young man, but has style for miles and miles, and also the game to compete with the cocktail destinations we already know about. Check him out before his bar gets too crowded."

8. Bunny's Bar and Grill

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5916 Excelsior Blvd
St Louis Park, MN 55416-2811
(952) 922-9515
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Café Maude's Elliot Manthey explains his hidden gem pick thusly: "I have a real affinity for Bunny's on Excelsior Blvd in St Louis Park. They have great bar food, pull tabs, free popcorn, and some pretty decent stuff on tap. It's a few blocks from my parents' house and we walk up there in the snow during the holidays when its time for the 'adults' to go bed. They have the coldest bottle of Bud in town. They have a few rye whiskeys, too."

9. Gold Nugget

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14401 Excelsior Blvd
Minnetonka, MN 55345
(952) 935-3600
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Parlour's Jesse Held's hidden gem is Minnetonka's Gold Nugget. For drinks, Held usually orders a seasonal craft beer and a bourbon. For food, Held likes the cheese curds, and he points out that they also offer a great weekly burger special.

1. The Muddy Pig

162 Dale St N, Saint Paul, MN 55102
Marvel Bar's Peder Schweigert has been going to the Muddy Pig for ten years. "It feels like my neighborhood, it is my neighborhood," says Schweigert, who lives 6 blocks away. He goes for the conversation, and also for the obscure beers and extensive whiskey list, with no particular favorite: "I frolic amongst."
162 Dale St N
Saint Paul, MN 55102

2. Merlins Rest

3601 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406
Marvel Bar's Pip Hanson picked Longfellow spot Merlin's Rest, known for its "Whisky Bible" as his hidden gem. "I'm not there as often as I'd like," Hanson says, "but I love going there when I do."
3601 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406

3. Tracy's Saloon

2207 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404
The Strip Club's Dan Oskey chose Seward's Tracy's Saloon as his under-the-radar pick. "No frills, no bells, no whistles, but Tracy's Saloon over on Franklin is a good place just to get an honest cocktail," says Oskey. Usually Oskey gets a mixed drink, and he mentions that they also have really good bar food.
2207 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55404

4. Knight Cap Bar & Lounge

1500 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Eat Street Social's Nick Kosevich picked Northeast's Knight Cap for his hidden gem. He says, "I'd have to say the Hidden Gem in my life would be North East's Knight Cap. I always never want to go, I always never want to leave, and I curse its name every morning after. I think this is because I drink whatever good whiskey they have until it runs out and then I move on to the next. "
1500 4th St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

5. Sample Room

2124 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Saffron's Robert Jones shares his hidden gem pick: "The Sample Room, I think, is still off a lot of people's radars for some reason. I like getting cocktails from Ryen Goldsmith, not one in particular but whatever he's messing with at the time."
2124 Marshall St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418

6. Liquor Lyle's

2021 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55405
Eat Street Social's Ira Koplowitz comes to Minneapolis frequently from his homebase of Milwaukee. When he's here, he's usually working on the Eat Street menu, but he's had some good times at a few "cool divey spots." He says, "At the top of the list is Lyle's Liquors. When I'm there, it is definitely a shot of bourbon and a beer."
2021 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55405

7. Rainbow Chinese

2739 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Cocktail man-about-town Johnny Michaels (of La Belle Vie, Icehouse, and Union) says that Eat Street's Rainbow Chinese is an underrated place to get an excellent cocktail: "If you want to check out an emerging DrinkMakingStar who's flying just under the general public's radar, go to Rainbow Chinese Restaurant (Eat St, by 28th and Nicollet) and sample what Jimmy Vongsouvahn has been producing. Rainbow Chinese, the original destination restaurant on Eat St (they just celebrated their 25th anniversary this past year, yeah..25 Years!!!) has always been known for the magical food Chef Tammy Wong has lovingly made for her customers. Now, Jimmy has blossomed out of nowhere and is making cocktails equal to Rainbow's excellent cuisine. He's a very shy young man, but has style for miles and miles, and also the game to compete with the cocktail destinations we already know about. Check him out before his bar gets too crowded."
2739 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408

8. Bunny's Bar and Grill

5916 Excelsior Blvd, St Louis Park, MN 55416-2811
Café Maude's Elliot Manthey explains his hidden gem pick thusly: "I have a real affinity for Bunny's on Excelsior Blvd in St Louis Park. They have great bar food, pull tabs, free popcorn, and some pretty decent stuff on tap. It's a few blocks from my parents' house and we walk up there in the snow during the holidays when its time for the 'adults' to go bed. They have the coldest bottle of Bud in town. They have a few rye whiskeys, too."
5916 Excelsior Blvd
St Louis Park, MN 55416-2811

9. Gold Nugget

14401 Excelsior Blvd, Minnetonka, MN 55345
Parlour's Jesse Held's hidden gem is Minnetonka's Gold Nugget. For drinks, Held usually orders a seasonal craft beer and a bourbon. For food, Held likes the cheese curds, and he points out that they also offer a great weekly burger special.
14401 Excelsior Blvd
Minnetonka, MN 55345

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