Sep 8, 2023

A commoner drinks (and dines) at Neumann’s Bar, North St. Paul, Minn.

To be a well-traveled commoner, one’s travel research beforehand may come from many different places.  For instance, when I began researching my first solo road trip in many years to drive the length of U.S. 83 (aka “The Road To Nowhere”) from the Great Plains to the Mexican border, I knew I might have to use some unconventional resources to find a few good pitstops on my way to my jumping off point in Minot, N.D. 

Fortunately, I had received a book called “Bucket List Bars” as a gift – a great guide to historic dive bars across the United States.  Within that book, one pub in particular in North St. Paul, Minn., spoke to me due to its historical connections to Hamm’s beer.  So, I knew I couldn’t pass through the Minneapolis-St. Paul area without stopping at Neumann’s Bar.      

Serving since 1887 (yes, even during Prohibition when the “official” drink was “near beer” and the speakeasy upstairs provided other options), Neumann’s was founded for the main purpose of supporting the nearby Hamm’s Brewery.  It was common practice in the 19th Century for breweries to support or even operate their own saloons to sell their own products.  Good way to cut your distribution costs, no doubt. 

Today, Neumann’s Bar claims to be Minnesota’s oldest continuously operating bar, and I’m extremely happy to report from first-hand experience that their support of Hamm’s beer remains very strong.  

With Neumann’s being as old as North St. Paul itself, it’s pretty easy to find if you just head toward North St. Paul’s downtown area.  That probably means you’re using Interstate 694, the northern bypass around the Twin Cities.  Once you hit Exit 51, go south on Highway 120, just past Highway 36, and take a right on 7th Street.  In about three blocks, you’ll see Neumann’s on the right.

Sure enough, at the top of the menu board of beer options hanging from the ceiling is Hamm’s.  Of course, Neumann’s offers many more beer options as well.  But what most impressed me about the list was its ultimate lack of pretentiousness.  Yes, the selections are diverse, but you won’t find too many bougie small craft beers on it.  Rather, the focus is on regional and national favorites.  From Leinenkugel to Grain Belt to Michelob Golden Light, there’s an easy-drinking beer here for everybody. 

But with that said, your first beer at Neumann’s really should be a Hamm’s draft.  You are partaking in more than 130 years of tradition, after all. 

Speaking of history, the original back bar at Neumann’s is still in great shape and loaded with inventory. 

Neumann’s also retains its original long bar layout with plenty of stools for seating beside the bar and several tables for group seating or for when the bar is fully occupied.    

One of my favorite things about Neumann’s is how easy it can be to lose track of time just roaming the place and checking out some of the original fixtures, along with other classic bits of bar décor.  The moose head, for example, is always on watch above the back hallway leading to the restrooms. 

If it does happen to get a little crowded inside Neumann’s, or if the weather happens to be perfect as it was the day I showed up, you might want to step out into the bar’s surprisingly spacious beer garden along the side of the building.   

I would imagine the outside bar, although less charming than the one inside, is open and pretty busy on weekends.  

But the most unique feature at Neumann’s may be the one you could easily overlook as you enter – the frog pond in the front window. It wasn’t feeding time when I visited, so they must have all been in hiding.  

All of this still makes Neumann’s Bar a great spot to throw down a few drinks, but the food they serve is worth the trip as well.  It’s classic grill food as you’d expect, but it’s quality stuff and still very affordable.  Fortunately, while I missed a frog sighting, I was just in time for lunch.

As fate would have it, the Sunday special was two Coney dogs and hand-cut fries for $8.50.  No, really!  I mentioned how affordable the food was, right? 

And this was everything a good Coney dog should be – the bar’s signature chili over a grilled dog and topped with plenty of shredded cheese, chopped onion and mustard.  All ingredients perfectly portioned to not overpower anything.  I felt like I had already had one of the best meals of my trip, and I hadn’t even reached my starting point yet.  

I felt very fortunate to have had enough time to enjoy lunch and a few beverages at Neumann’s Bar before continuing on my way.  I am unapologetically a Hamm’s beer enthusiast, and visiting Neumann’s should go on your to-do list if you are one, too.  It’s also easy to figure out why Neumann’s has withstood the test of time and remains a local treasure of North St. Paul, Minn.  I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the Twin Cities area.   

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