Down-home Downtown

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October 3, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Ellen Gabler
Ellen Gabler

Bunker's, home to foot-stomping music and homemade food, is a place where you don't have to impress anyone

Bunker's Music Bar & Grill

761 Washington Ave. N.



Don't be confused. You're not in a backwoods Wisconsin bar.

Bunker's Music Bar & Grill brings you back to nights up North, slinging back beers with the locals.

But scratch the sticks and dead deer heads. This time you're in Downtown Minneapolis, with an impressive array of live, local music each night of the week.

What's hot

People come for the music but love the laid-back atmosphere that is only Bunker's.

Described by bartender John Theo as "the epitome of a working-class bar," Bunker's is all about hanging out and having a good time.

Wednesday nights are very popular; that's when G.B. Leighton whips it up on stage and gets the crowd riled up. Other local favorites play the rest of the week -- there's a musician's jam hosted by Root City on Sundays, Dr. Mambo's Combo every Monday, Tracey Blake Project every Tuesday and The New Congress on Thursdays.

Friday and Saturday its up in the air. Some well-known artists, such as Kurt Jorgenson take the stage, or other local and regional bands. Every once in a while, Bunker's pulls in a national act.

And don't forget the food. During the day, Monday through Saturday, there are home-cooked lunches, including a "Thanksgiving dinner" that is said to impress.

What's not

If you're not into that night's music, and want a peppier atmosphere, Bunker's might be a bit of a drag. It's certainly not the place to be seen, and isn't packed with attractive singles looking to meet you.

In general, groups of friends keep to themselves, unless the band can loosen things up.

The scene

Bunker's is no doubt off-the-beaten-path from Downtown's main strip of watering holes. Because of that, people mostly have a plan to make a stop there before the night begins, instead of just wandering in from another bar.

A woody interior gives Bunker's a homey feel, along with the many lighted beer signs stuck to the wall. There's pool and Golden Tee for the gamers, and free popcorn for those with the munchies.

Most refreshingly, there's no pressure to impress at the bar. Wear a dress, a tie or a ratty old T-shirt. No one cares, and you'll fit in either way.

The crowd

Although Bunker's is the kind of bar you'd expect to see regulars saddled up to at all hours of the night and day, that's not the case, said bartender John.

Regulars stick around during the day, but they make themselves scarce at night when the bands and crowds come out. Crowd loyalties are tied mostly to the performing band.

Mondays and Wednesdays are the busiest, he added. Patrons range in age from barely legal 21 to 40, 50 and up.

Drinks and hours

Bunker's loses the down-home, Wisconsin beer-shack feel when it comes to drink prices. They're not that outrageous, just in-line with the trendy First Avenue bars and clubs that tack on extra for being able to hang out with the coolest of the cool.

It's about $4-$5 for a beer or mixed drink at night, after 7 p.m. The happy hour specials are pretty good -- rail drinks and pints or bottles of domestic beer are $2.25, imports are $2.75, and wine, $3.Happy hour runs Monday-Friday, 3-7 p.m.

Cover charge is usually $5. Tuesday nights it's usually free to get in.

The verdict

Check it out if you haven't been. Bunker's hole-in-the-wall charm will grab you, while the music makes you stay.