What to do downtown after work
A passport to summer
There’s a new kind of passport that will have you traveling and enjoying all that summer has to offer, but your trips won’t be far.
These passports are from the Passport Program, a Colorado-based events company whose $20 field guides will get you two-for-one deals and other discounts at 40 restaurants and bars across Minneapolis.
City Manager Sara Timmer, who operates the local program, said the summer passports, which are valid through Labor Day weekend, serve as pocket-sized bar guides to some of the best establishments in the city.
“It encourages locals and visitors to explore different regions of different cities. It’s an extra incentive to get people to go explore our awesome bars and restaurants,” said Timmer, who just left her post as the bar manager of Bardo — one of the available destinations — to move back to Colorado. “This makes it fun to get out of our bubble.”
The passports are available online at thepassportprogram.com/Minneapolis and can be shipped for about $3. They’re also available to pick up in person at Greater Goods, at 2515 Nicollet Ave., and Hi-Lo Diner, 4020 E. Lake St. If you miss out on the summer passport, don’t worry, because another will run of guides will come out this winter.
Many of the restaurants are likely already regular destinations for downtown and Northeast residents.
Across downtown, there is Borough and Parlour, the Freehouse, Tullibee, Dalton & Wade, Hell’s Kitchen, Mercury Dining Room & Rail, 4 Bells and Constantine. In Northeast, the program includes Al’s Place, Draft Horse, Hai Hai, Red Stag Supperclub, Bardo and Tattersall Distilling.
A few “field trips,” what the guide calls a few of the bars in St. Paul, include Can Can Wonderland, Pajarito and Heirloom Kitchen & Bar.
At $20, Timmer said the passports make up the cost in just a couple visits to these establishments.
“It pretty much pays for itself in one or two spots,” she said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
The one-time discounts include two-for-one cocktails, wine or beers, or sometimes a specific house beverage. At Bardo, for example, the bar offers featured cocktails that change weekly under the program.
Timmer said she encourages the venues to showcase something that they’re proud of. Ultimately, the program should “complement the bar and not complicate it,” she added.
There’s also something in it for the businesses, Timmer said. They know that if dinners are exploring the city, checking out new places and grabbing discounted drinks, they’ll probably order food as well.
But for those already planning to wine and dine, Timmer said the passports are a fun activity on top of the food and drink. Especially for indecisive eaters, she said the passport narrows the range restaurant of options in a city packed with new and exciting bars.
“I call it a treasure map,” she said.
This is the first season the passports have been available in Minneapolis, and Timmer has said it’s been a “huge success.” The Passport Program printed 6,000 of the booklets and, as of mid-June, Timmer said it has sold more than 1,000 locally and given hundreds more away to 40 sites and through programs like No Kid Hungry.
Having a passport is also a ticket to pop-ups, giveaways and private parties organized by the Passport Program. Previous events have included free tours and tasting at Du Nord Craft Spirits, one of the local sites.
For fans of the program, other cities have their own $20–$25 passports to check out across the country. There are several programs in Colorado (Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and a “Mountain” passport for greater Colorado), Kansas City, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis.
So far, I have two stamps on my passport and I’m looking forward to checking out at least a few more spots before the summer has come and gone. Cheers!
The music isn’t the only thing that’s underground at one of downtown’s newest venues.
The Basement Bar opened late last year below its main-level counterpart, Nolo’s Kitchen, in the former Gardner Hardware building, now the Maytag building.
The North Loop bar is a quirky place filled with video games, darts and leather lounge furniture — even a giant license plate with the bar’s address. There are plenty of local beers on tap, including some from the neighborhood’s Modist Brewing, Fulton Beer and Pryes Brewing, as well as tacos, pizza and broasted chicken on the menu.
There are several reasons to check out Basement Bar, from Tuesday night trivia to drag queen bingo on Wednesday nights from 7 p.m.–9 p.m. with hosts Onya Deek and Alana Chapelle. On top of bands and live DJ nights on the weekend, there are ‘80s-style Neon Nights with DJ The Electric Touch and other themed events each month.
One event to look out for is a free, 21-plus show from Static Panic, whose ‘80s synth-pop tunes I detailed back in May. The local rockers will bring songs from their newly debuted EP “Chrome” on Saturday, July 7 at the Basement Bar, 511 Washington Ave. N.