The Fine Line Music Cafe has been sitting strong at its 1st Avenue location in downtown Minneapolis for nearly 30 years. The venue, opened in 1987, has matured into a respected room that hosts a balanced assortment of touring and local acts. Although the Fine Line does not quite embody the history and spirit of Minneapolis like its street-sharing counterpart First Avenue, it stands as a polished space that gives music lovers one more reason to make a trip downtown.
The venue’s charm comes from the weathered brick facade that extends to the interior walls, and the unique intimacy between performer and audience that comes with a low stage and one single, open, stage entry point. With a minimal seating supply in the form of a handful of high-top tables in the rear, the focus is naturally directed towards the stage. Drink prices are pretty standard for downtown, but on the higher end of the venue spectrum.
For those looking for a more intimate “date-worthy” experience, there is a second level with table seating that can be reserved for a slightly higher ticket price, and offers some of the best views of the stage. The Fine Line doesn’t have a food menu, but a private table can offer respite from a packed house of standing attendees below, as well as second bar.
If you’re trying to avoid parking downtown (honestly why even try?), public transportation is the easiest and cheapest way to get to the venue. With a number of buses stopping nearby on Hennepin Avenue, and a light rail station less than two blocks away, Metro Transit is a great option, and who doesn’t love people watching on a bus? Normal fares are $1.75 per ride (bus and light rail).
If a bus stop or light rail station isn’t nearby, chances are a Nice Ride bicycle rack is, which gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace all via pedal power. You can grab a bike for just $4 for a half hour.
Uber or Lyft is always an easy and affordable option to get to and from downtown, just beware of late night surcharges on a Friday or Saturday night, or if it’s raining.
Grab a Bite
The good thing about downtown venues is that there are no shortages of places to grab some good food beforehand. For those looking for something quick, Pizza Luce is right around the corner and offers slices to go, or seating to order a full ‘za. Luce is also a great choice for a post-show refuel since they’re always open late. For those looking for a more formal dining experience, there are also plenty of restaurants within a 5-10 minute walk from the Fine Line, such as Saffron Restaurant, Jackson’s Hole, Gluek’s, Murray’s, Ike’s, and Rosa Mexicano, all downtown staples.
If there’s a long wait at the bar, head upstairs to grab a drink, where there’s usually much fewer people.
For supporters of Minneapolis college radio, the music lovers card from Radio K (University of Minnesota) is good for a free drink each time you see a show at the Fine Line.
There’s no re-entry to the venue, but there’s an open alley accessible from a door to the right of the stage if you need some fresh air.
Clean and basic. Bad news for the shy guys, but you’re going to be looking at a trough for #1. On busy nights or sold out performances, the Fine Line hires restroom attendants, who take care of all your gum, mint, tobacco, and hand towel needs. Be sure to tip!