by Andy Birkey • At the same time queer owned and operated Pi Bar and restaurant was hosting its last raucous night in southeast Minneapolis, a new gay bar was quietly opening its doors in the northeast part of town. Tickles Bar and Restaurant debuts as Minneapolis’s newest LGBT establishment, adding a community gathering space in a neighborhood with a high LGBT population but few places to call home.
Minneapolis’s Northeast neighborhood was in the midst of a gay boom five years ago when three gay bars opened their doors near Central Avenue, the main street through the area. Margarita Bella, a bar catering to the Twin Cities LGBT latino community, the upscale bar Boom!, the Wilde Roast Cafe and the posh restaurant-martini bar combo Bobino and Starlight Lounge made Northeast a popular spot for gays. Northeast, and the Central Avenue corridor in particular, was being looked at as the new gayborhood in Minneapolis.
But by 2007, only Wilde Roast Cafe remained as the rest had closed their doors forever.
Tickles hopes to fill the void in Northeast—and literally. The piano lounge occupies the space that once held Margarita Bella just off Central Avenue near Spring Street. Tickles kept the floor to ceiling windows that made Margarita Bella an open space. Plenty of cocktail tables with ample seating surround the baby grand piano at the front of the lounge and booths line the walls opposite the bar. A pool table is tucked in behind the bar and food service window for those that want billiards with their live piano. Low lighting makes for an intimate space.
The kitchen, open until 10 pm, caters to a bar crowd. The menu features nachos, chicken wings, and burgers and fries but also includes a few classier bits such as chicken pomodori and prime rib. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm and features four styles of omelet and ample breakfast combos.
At a Wednesday evening happy hour — a two-for-one special on any drink in the house — there was already a decent crowd by 6 pm. My drinking companion, Meefers’ own Marge Pederson sampled the taco salad, a giant plate of Tex-Mex goodness. It was served in the traditional style with taco ingredients over mixed greens — Tickles knows not to mess with something that works. The drinks, even without the happy hour special, were comparably priced. Our server, Thomas, was excellent.
The piano keys don’t get “tickled” on Wednesday nights, so we missed the bar’s signature entertainment. But, piano aficionados can catch the entertainment Thursday through Saturday from 9 pm to close, and in the first few weeks, the bar is already bringing in talent such as composer/performer Eugene Huddleston from Chicago.
1032 3rd Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
On the web: www.ticklesbar.com
(originally published at Meefers.com.)