Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge
Taps: 12 / Bottles: 50
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 53 | Reviews: 49 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by spoots:
4.3/5 rDev -0.7%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4 | food: 5 | $$
This review is long overdue. I first discovered Blue Nile in October thanks to some positive BeerFly reviews. I used to frequent this joint as a college student in the early 80s when it was a Mexican cantina and I was a broke kid looking for cheap beer and even cheaper food. It's taken 20 years for me to return to this spot and boy am I happy I did!
[In case you don't already know, the prima bartender is BA's own Feloniousmonk--and Al (Mr. Monk) is the kind of person you would hope that all BA regulars are like--friendly, open, willing to answer dumb questions, and so encyclopedic in his knowledge about beer that it makes your head spin (more so even than the Hop Wallop he serves on tap).]
The aesthetics at Blue Nile haven't changed dramatically since the cantina days. As somebody who doesn't mind being reminded of his past, I consider this a good thing. But if you're looking for a cozy bar with pretentions of grandeur, this is not going to scratch your itch. The bar side of Blue Nile is actually pretty expansive, but it feels dark and small, and Al works within a space that I suspect is a little cramped for him (especially on busy nights). He mentioned that the owners are considering a remodeling, and I certainly hope that he gets the additional space he so richly deserves.
Anyhow, the Blue Nile serves some stunningly good Ethiopian food, and even without Al and his incredible beer selection, this is an essential stop on your Twin Cities tour. The sampler platters are revelatory, and if you have no experience with Ethiopian food, you will be gobsmacked by the huge flavors and textures of that nation's cuisine. I brought some friends here in late December and the meal nearly brought tears to their eyes--it was that good.
But what about the beer? Ah, yes, the beer. Al is like a DJ who has about 10 records in his box, but they are the 10 best records in the city and he spins them with a level of expertise that makes your jaw drop. His 10 or so taps are perfectly selected, and I'd wager that most BAs would be very happy to work their way down the line. He also has a ton of interesting beers by the bottle, but I'm sorry to say I've pretty much ignored the bottles thanks to the great stuff on tap.
And speaking of taps, in just four visits to Blue Nile, I've enjoyed Urthel Hop-It (which my wife says completely changed her outlook on beer), Jewbilation, Bell's Two Hearted Ale, SN Celebration Ale, Victory Hop Wallop, Delirium Tremens, and Pauwel Kwak. Al obviously takes a lot of pride in serving beers correctly, and the glassware is perfectly matched to the brew. There's a definite value in that (and a certain feel-good karma in his approach to the beerman's art that makes me want to return frequently).
Do yourself a favor and give Al and Blue Nile a try next time you head out in search of great beer and great food in the Twin Cities. I promise you it will be worth the trip.
01-08-2006 06:18:40 | More by spoots
More User Reviews:
4.71/5 rDev +8.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.75 | food: 4.5 | $
Great food, awesome ever-changing beer selection, cool atmosphere, 2-4-1 happy hour taps, eclectic world music and good jazz playing overhead, good service. What else needs to be said about The Blue Nile? The selection although not massive (a dozen taps) is full of unique rotating options. They get a lot of rare beers from both local breweries, and breweries as far away as Belgium and Sri Lanka. They also put on great special events, and release parties.
09-15-2013 15:46:06 | More by KarlHungus
4.1/5 rDev -5.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 2.75 | $
I love Blue Nile, I really do. Virtually all of my "drinking out" dollars go there. That said, it has some drawbacks that visitors should keep in mind.
Atmosphere: (Note: I am not planning to review the restaurant or the non-beer beverage selection) This is a hermit-crab establishment through and through. A great beer bar nestled in the husk of an Ethiopian restaurant, itself occupying the shell of a Mexican restaurant. If you're confused, join the crowd. It's dark, and the bar stools are of dubious integrity. The roof leaks when it rains. Patrons are a mix of neighborhood residents and beer geeks. And more, depending on what's on stage.
Yeah, there's a stage and dance floor. If there's a Reggae or Death Metal band, there's a $10 cover charge and a crowd to match the music. You can avoid the cover by getting there before 9 PM or so, which dovetails nicely with the 8-10 happy hour (more on that later). If there is no stage act, the music is likely to be jazz, especially in the afternoon.
Quality/Selection: The bar manager is fellow BA feloniousmonk: ask for Al. Al maintains 12 tap lines, of which none are wasted. Typically, 6 are dedicated to pints (mostly local), and 6 to the more expensive beers. The latter typically include some hard-to-find Belgians and special releases from local breweries. As proud owner of Surly invoice #3 and Harriet invoice #1, Blue Nile has an unsurpassed relationship with those two breweries, and only takes their beers off-tap during special events.
The bottle list is not huge, but it has some gems, and you never get gouged on price. I drank more than my share of barrel-aged Gonzo at $6.25 a bottle last year.
Service: The staff love customers who love beer. They are as friendly as you are. Chat them up, and you'll get great service.
Food: There is a restaurant menu and a bar menu. I consider the Ethiopian fare acceptable, but below par for the city. The bar menu has two gems, however: the Shwarma sandwich and the wings. Big and meaty, these are not BW3 wings.
Value: Blue Nile has two happy hours every day: 4-6 PM and 8-10 PM. Buy any draft beer and get one of the pints for free. As in: Buy a Cuvée Des Jacobins Rouge for $7, get a free pint of Furious. That kind of thing.
All-in-all, it's a great place to drink and talk beer. Plus, it's quite close to a light rail station, in case you have one too many.
08-13-2013 05:17:57 | More by DaveAnderson
4.31/5 rDev -0.5%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.75 | food: 4.75 | $$$
The Blue Nile doesn't have a ton of beer options. Other places in town such as Stubs or the Happy Gnome have a lot more choice. With that said, the Nile has some great quality in their tap list and they are always moving through to new and more interesting options. The food is also fantastic if you are up for Ethiopian. Definitely a fun place to visit if you are from out of town.
01-24-2013 03:32:08 | More by Hopsiam14
4.33/5 rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5 | $$
Had an excellent couple of brews here couple with the same quality service, food, and music. Lights were a bit bright, but other wise great setting. Waitress had a great attitude, fast, and helpful with food. Didn’t speak much of beer. Food was exemplarary though a touch pricey. Beers were good and of good value; although, the draft selection was weighted towards Belgians and IPAs. Bottle selections are similar; however, there are some pale lagers, wheat brews, and some dark, rich choices. I’ll return someday. Was a perfect celebration for the renewal of my passport!
08-02-2012 22:54:23 | More by drpimento
4/5 rDev -7.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$
Solid, fun place to get a few beers or have some good food.
The atmosphere is that of an Ethiopian restaurant, so it is fairly standard for what I imagine an Ethiopian restaurant to be. That said, it is pretty damn cool overall.
The quality and selection is great, always interesting things on tap. Not a huge selection but always the specialty Surly beers and a nice rotation of Belgians. One thing I really like is that they do alot of theme nights with their taps (like a stout and porter fest which was awesome, among others like Belgian fest and a IPA/hops fest). Unusual stuff pops up all the time their too.
Service is average usually I have had a few nights where it has taken a long time to get a beer. That said, I do tend to go when it is busy. Service on release nights tends to be gruff and poor, though.
Food is good from what I remember. I only had it once but it was solid.
I like that they host parties for local brewery releases and they have all sorts of music and entertainment most nights of the week.
01-30-2012 08:24:23 | More by sacrelicio
Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge in Minneapolis, MN
95 out of 100 based on 53 ratings.