While St. Paul’s 6th Street is nowhere near as lively as the legendary 6th Street in Austin, Texas, the mainline running through the heart of downtown has slowly become one of the more consistent nightlife stretches in the city.
By car, 6th Street is a one-way heading west to the freeway. It's much better on foot. Head east from the Landmark Center, St. Paul’s cultural hub home to the Schubert Club, Gallery of Wood Art, Anita’s Cafe, and host to a myriad of events throughout the year, and head toward Mears Park in Lowertown.
You'll first hit Kincaid’s Restaurant. Bordered by St. Peter and 6th Street, the restaurant and lounge features upscale steaks and seafood, cocktails, beer, and wine. On any given night Kincaid's is packed with people enjoying dinner, or one of the best late-night happy hours in town.
Just down the block you’ll run into Amsterdam Bar and Hall at 6th and Wabasha. Keeping St. Paul up at night since its opening in 2011, Amsterdam is an always reliable venue for live music, supplemented by other unique events like Books & Bars, Trivia Mafia and after-parties for downtown events.
The enormous Macy’s shell across the street from Amsterdam thankfully has a potential buyer, which, depending on what they do with the space, could further help the development on 6th Street.
Hunan Garden lies on the next block at 6th and Cedar. Appetizers are served until 1:30am, and it’s the only place in downtown you can find the "Volcano", a giant flaming punch bowl drink a la those served at Psycho Suzi's. The entertainment continues at Hunan with old-school R&B, Hip Hop and Rap spun on Saturdays, and the talented "One Man Band" Ray Evangelista taking the stage on Thursdays.
The Minnesota Saloon is two blocks down at 6th and Robert Street. All beer on tap is Minnesotan, and they have some of the better wings and burgers in downtown, also sourced from local suppliers. There is a game room in the back with a pool table, darts, skee ball, shuffle board and more, and they often feature live music and themed parties as well. Since upgrading from the dismal Bullpen, this sports bar has gotten positive reviews and added its name to the list of veritable downtown nightlife establishments.
And just a little further down the road you'll find yourself in Lowertown. Pass the hulking Galtier Towers, home to FACES restaurant, bakery, bar and bottle shop that turns nightclub on Fridays and Saturdays, to reach the edge of Mears Park.
Bin is the first of the 3 B's overlooking the park. A trendy wine bar with intimate atmosphere, quirky small plates, cocktails, beer and a creative, extensive wine list, Bin is the go-to for a quieter, more sophisticated evening in Lowertown.
Known as a dancehall on Friday and Saturday nights, Barrio Tequila Bar's real draw lies in its extensive collection of tequilas and tasty tapas and street tacos. During the week its a great place for happy hour, or a light dinner before a show. On the weekend, you better be ready to get rowdy with the crowds.
The Bulldog next door is packed with all types: Wild fans in before or after a game, groups of friends out to get wasted, and locals just out to enjoy surprisingly good pub food and something from the impressive beer list.
When the weather warms again, Bin, Barrio and Bulldog will all have large patios added to their expanse, currently under construction.
And at the end of 6th Street lies A’Bulae. The shiny new event center in Lowertown, A' Bulae is a state of the art space designed to fit any occasion. Almost every night of the week you can see the flashing lights of the various events, from weddings and receptions, to corporate gigs, to launch parties, hosted there.
While Saint Paul has had trouble creating a critical mass of bars, clubs and restaurants in downtown, this half-mile stretch is easily walkable and offers a variety of entertainment options. But it’s not all the way there yet. 6th Street cuts right through the dead zone, and there is a need for more businesses in the area around 6th and Minnesota, especially on the first level of the Alliance Bank Center. We need to give Hunan Garden and Minnesota Saloon some company and fill in the gaps.
6th Street offers a prime opportunity for a vibrant stretch of nightlife options in downtown St. Paul. Maybe someday our 6th Street will look a little more like its Austin counterpart.