It's time once again for a quasi-historical tour of the dive bars of the Twin Cities. This time we'll be zooming in on the Green Line.
As it turns out, dive bars are unevenly distributed along University Avenue, the vast majority of them occupying the amazing stretch of blocks on the Northeast corner of Snelling and University. Perhaps this part of the street is so dense because of the dearth across the way, the former streetcar barns and warehouses that have become the city's largest collection of big-boxes, parking lots, and strip malls.
Dives also abound elsewhere in the neighborhood, scattered throughout Frogtown and points North along Thomas and Minnehaha Avenues. But that is the subject of another tour...
The rich vein of Green Line dives lies begins just East of Snelling Avenue and extends to the edge of the industrial areas to the West. Measured in miles, the voyage might not seem daunting. But measured in the depth, the expedition will plumb the souls of even the most world-weary. I have lingered in the chambers of University, and listened to the songs of old bricks. I will share with you what historical pearls I have gleaned. Together we will make what we can from the dust.
Legendary Saint Paul musician, restless soul, sometime taxi driver, and everyman historian of the underbelly Mike Gunther will be joining us to share tales of pre-light rail University. Brace yourself for February, get on the Green Line, and enter the world of the Midway.
What: A walking and train tour of some noteworthy dive bars of University Avenue.
When: Thursday, February 19th; departing at 6:30.
Where: Begins at Trend Bar and proceeds West.
How much: Free, but please drop a buck or two into the tip jar if you are able.
A: This is a walking and train tour taking place in Saint Paul called "Noteworthy Dive Bars of the Green Line."
Q: What is a Dive Bar?
A: Cleanly defining a dive bar is difficult, precisely because dives are not very clean. It's a bit like Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity. Here's what we know...
Windows - These are a minus. Dives eschew fenestration. What happens in the dive, stays in the dive.
Staff - Ideally, there's only one staff. Maybe someone works in the back. The more staff, the less divey.
Regulars - A must. When you walk into a dive, people should stop talking like in a wild west saloon and look at you a bit funny. Unless you are a regular, you really don't belong.
Pull Tabs - 90%. Meat raffles are also good. Best is when there's a pot of some sort of free food sitting on a table.
Nonchalance - Dives can't be trying too hard to make money. If they are, they're not dives any more. No fancy menus. No fancy paint jobs, etc.
Cleanliness - Nope.
"Craft Beer" - Not generally, unless its brewed within the same city as the dive.
Food - Almost always greasy or nothing. Heggie's Pizza is the hallmark of a dive.
Q: Do I need a bike?
A: No, not at all.
Q: It's February, you idiot.
A: The train is warm and near. You will have to walk about a mile, in total, but not all at once.
Q: Can I come for part of it, but not hang out with you the entire goddam time?
A: Yes. I will be tweeting locations, there will be a quasi-schedule, and you can always call (if you're lucky enough to have my digits) to find out where the tour is at. Come just for one dive, or enjoy the whole diving expedition.