An Honest Guide to the Best Bars in Duluth, MN (Ranked)

best bars duluth mn

I don’t think there’s any better way to get a know a place than through its bars.

That’s why, on my many… many… trips to and through Duluth, I’ve made a habit of checking out all the most popular (or most secret) bars in town.

And while I’ve haven’t been to every single one (yet!) I sure have gotten really close.

Whether you’re looking for authentic Irish pubs, laid back lounges, or ramped up nightclubs, here are my choices for the best bars in Duluth. 

Map of My Best Bars in Duluth

Best Dive Bar: Anchor Bar

Okay, technically Anchor Bar is in Superior, Wisconsin, but that’s only 5 minutes across the bridge, so quit your belly achin’ and grab a cheap beer at the best dive bar in the area.

And when I say cheap, I mean it! Beers here cost about $5… for a whole pitcher!

The atmosphere is nice and authentic too, since the whole place is housed in an old Schlitz Brewery warehouse from the 1800s.

Oh, and the burgers are legit. So good, they were featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!

  • Address: 413 Tower Ave, Superior, WI 54880
  • Website: Anchor Bar

Best English Pub: Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake

This little English pub is absolutely packed with character. From the moment you see its quaint, all-brick exterior adorned with multiple British flags, you know you’re in for a good time.

For the cold winter days, the interior has a warm, cozy, and homey vibe, and for the nicer summer ones, there’s even a cute outdoor patio area with glimpses of Lake Superior.

They also have some great food (shoutout to the sandwiches) and on one visit, even some live Celtic music!

Best martini bar: Black Water Lounge

If you’re looking for that classic Martini bar vibe, maybe even with some live jazz music mixed in, then Black Water Lounge is definitely your best bet in Duluth. Imagine dim lighting, plush booths, a beautiful bar, and a throwback vibe that will make you want to stay the whole night.

Best distillery: Vikre Distillery

The only craft distillery in Duluth, Vikre is located near all the action around Canal Park. Inside, you’ll find a trendy atmosphere and tons of options. Vikre makes it own gin, Vokda, Aquavit, Whiskey, and Liquors, and this tasting room has a big menu filled with flights and craft cocktails designed to show off the flavors of these spirits. Definitely one of the coolest spots in Duluth.

Best margaritas: Mexico Lindo

I’ve got to include Mexico Lindo on this list for two reasons:

  1. They’re one of the few Mexican bars in town, and my personal pick for the best Margarita in Duluth.
  2. They have a fantastic location attached to the Fitger’s Building. The views of Lake Superior from the deck are some of the best around!

Definitely one of Duluth’s most unique bars, and definitely worth a visit!

  • Address: 600 E Superior St #201, Duluth, MN 55802
  • Website: Mexico Lindo

Best Speakeasy: The Rathskeller

I’m a total sucker for a speakeasy. So, you can imagine how excited I was to stumble through The Rathskeller’s bright red door and descend into the basement of this 1800s courthouse.

There, you’ll find an incredible space, complete with massive stone and brick walls and more cocktails then you’ll ever be able to decide on. If we’re going off location and atmosphere alone, this might be the coolest in all of Duluth.

The Tourist’s Favorite: Grandmas Saloon

Grandma’s is definitely the most popular bar in Duluth for visitors. And contrary to most tourist traps, I can’t exactly blame them – the upstairs area has a fantastic view of the Aerial Lift Bridge, which just might be the most iconic landmark in town. Definitely a worthy spot to grab a beer and watch the ships go by.

For pour your own beer: Duluth Tap Exchange

This newer spot is the first place in Duluth to offer pour your own beer. Here’s how it works.

You open a tab, they give you a fancy RFID wristband, and then you grab a glass, choose from an impressive collection of 40+ local craft beers, and pour your own. The wristband automatically tracks your ounces as you pour.

As a bonus, this is the only place in town where you can relive your childhood, with an adult spin, by creating a suicide mix of tons of different beers in the same glass. Not that I’ve ever drank enough to think that’s a good idea…

Best neighborhood pub, with a clean vibe: Boreal House

Boreal House is just a solid bar with a great vibe. They have a great selection of craft beers and cocktails, all in an approachable atmosphere that includes a cool, clean indoor space and even a nice patio area. If I had to describe Boreal House in a goofy buzzword way, and since I’m writing this article I guess I should, I’d call Boreal House a a “modern neighborhood pub.”

Best Bars with Night Club Vibes for Dancing

In some ways, Duluth is college town. (Between U of M Duluth, Lake Superior College, St. Scholastica, and University of Wisconsin Superior, Duluth houses nearly 15,000 college students.)

So, if you’re looking for a younger crowd that’s ready to dance, Duluth has a few options. Depending on the day of the week, these three spots are popular with the college crews.

Spurs on First

Spurs of First has long been Duluth’s country bar, although in recent years they’ve expanded the options with some dance music. Either way, this place lures in the under-35 crowd with affordable drinks and occasional DJs.

The Flame Nightclub

The Flame is technically a gay bar, but as one local hilariously put it – this nightclub is often overrun with straight women looking to avoid straight guys, and straight guys hoping to find straight women avoiding straight guys.

In any case, The Flame offers what’s probably the best dance floor in Duluth, plus some darts and pool tables for mingling.

Aces on First

With local DJs, a dance floor, and lots of drink specials, Aces definitely caters to the college crowd. They pride themselves on showcasing local DJs in the nightclub, where the party starts at 10 PM every night.

Best Irish Bars in Duluth

Once upon a time I read that 10% of Duluth is Irish.

I have no idea if that is accurate, but it would explain the multiple options for great Irish bars in town. Which include:

Carmody Irish Pub

Carmody is classic Irish vibes. You’ll find a wooden bar and plenty of flags adorning the ceiling. Add in live music multiple night per week, 20+ Irish whiskies and 30+ beers, and you’ve got the recipe for a great Irish pub.

This spot also has some pretty cool Duluth history – The Carmody family were Irish immigrants to Duluth in the 1800s who eventually ran a local restaurant, multiple Duluth hotels, and even a post-prohibition brewery. 

Dubh Linn Brew Pub

Overall, Dubh Linn might be the most popular Irish bar in town. They’ve got a really solid food menu that includes Irish favorites like Rueben Egg Rolls, Fish and Chips, and even Wisconsin Cheese Curds. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t an Irish favorite, but it’s definitely true to the local roots!

They also claim to have the largest selection of Whiskey in Minnesota. And while I think that might be a stretch considering that some of the best Irish bars in the Twin Cities have 400+ whiskeys, their collection of 50+ different Whiskeys is still impressive.

R.T. Quinlan’s Saloon

R.T. Quinlan’s is an unassuming dive bar between Superior Street and Michigan Street. From the outside, you’ll find a tiny storefront with a door and a green awning. Open that door and head down the stairs, and you’ll find a cozy bar offering daily specials, live music, and a basic beer and whiskey selection.

Nothing fancy, but sometimes, that’s exactly what makes the best local bars!

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