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Best New Bars of 2011


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The issue of Minnesota Monthly on newsstands now celebrates the best new restaurants of the year—but what about all the new bars? It was a significant year for new and improved drinking in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Here’s my top three:

1. Marvel Bar (Beneath The Bachelor Farmer)
Culinary cocktails have been one of the most amusing and enjoyable trends of the last few years, and bartender Pip Hansen’s showcase Marvel Bar (impossible to find, and beneath the impossible to get into The Bachelor Farmer) takes the amusement and enjoyment up a notch. Try the Borealis, a variation on a sweet martini, made with rhubarb bitters and luster dust, or the variation on a Tom Collins brightened with pickle brine. Marvel Bar, 50 2nd Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3929

2. Amsterdam Bar and Hall
Belgian ales have long had pockets of cult enthusiasm throughout the Twin Cities (the Bryant Lake Bowl, for instance, springs to mind). But a bar with a whole Low Country focus is entirely new. Fries with garlic mayo and a tangy Rodenbach in a footed goblet? Now that’s a Dutch treat. Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 6 W. 6th St., St. Paul, 651-222-3990

3. Zen Box Izakaya
Izakayas are Japanese bar food specialists, and this new one on Washington, near the Guthrie, is better truly Japanese drinking than we’ve ever had in Minnesota before. Asahi draft on tap, Hitachino white ale on tap—those are rare beers. Add the area’s best shochu and sake list, and a truly craveable version of Japanese fried chicken (the chicken Kara-Age), and Minnesota has something brand new: Tokyo-class Japanese drinking. Zen Box Izakaya, 602 Washington Ave S., Mpls., 612-332-3936

Tell me what you think. And tell the truth: Was it a crime to leave off Meritage’s revamped oyster bar?

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