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Food & Drink

5 Things to Know About Bina’s, Centro Restaurant Group’s New ‘Dive Bar’

They have a hell of a good food and drink menu, but Jimmy’s it ain’t.

Joel Swenson

Welcome back to "5 Things," Viraluae’s recurring rundown of new, new-to-us, or otherwise notable Twin Cities restaurants.

This time around, we’re checking out Bina’s, the new “dive bar” concept from the team behind Centro, Vivir, Hippo Pockets, and Everywhen Burger Bar. Bina’s is named after Centro owner Jami Olson’s grandparents (whose photos lovingly hang behind the bar, aww), and it occupies the space adjacent to the OG Centro location in northeast Minneapolis. 

Here are five things you should know before you belly up to Bina’s padded bar rail.

The bathrooms are... *chef's kiss*Joel Swenson

1. What’s in a Dive Bar?

If there’s one thing northeast Minneapolis knows well, it’s dive bars. Jimmy’s, Dusty’s, Grumpy’s—these beloved institutions (among many others) have been around for decades and have the storied regulars and comforting, grimy aura to prove it. So, how does a new spot with a divey aesthetic fit in amongst the ol' standbys? Well, it doesn’t really. Bina’s is a great place, and you should absolutely check it out, but don’t expect to suddenly feel like you’re in one of the dimly lit dives that surround it. (It reminds me of a coworker I used to have who gave himself the nickname “the Toddfather.” Trying to force a moniker like that only makes people more resistant to using it.)

The team at Bina’s brought in a pool table, darts, an old NBA Jam arcade game, and (coming soon) pull tabs. The only problem with these divey accoutrements—even with the bar and padded rail, a Bauer Brothers salvage—is that everything feels a bit too curated, too sterile. The pool table and dart board are brand-spankin' new, so neither has that gritty luster that only comes with years of hard use and spilled beer. Above the pull tabs booth is a bright pink neon light that says “pull tabs,” a design choice that screams interior design bar.

Bina’s may look like a dive if you squint, but aesthetics alone do not a dive bar make. For that, you need history, random stains on the ceiling, and a barstool patina that only thousands upon thousands of asses can provide.

2. Decor Galore

Speaking of aesthetics, they really do nail it: Bina’s has no shortage of great artwork, cheap beer memorabilia, and other tchotchkes adorning its walls (and ceiling, and shelves). There’s a cozy lounge area with some couches and chairs right when you walk in. There’s a disco ball dangling from the ceiling, a claw machine (actually a White Claw claw machine), and an inoperable old phone booth nestled in a corner.

But in Bina’s bathrooms, the decor shines the brightest—literally and figuratively. Both are plastered from floor to ceiling with Christmas decorations. As someone with a clown bathroom, I love a themed throne room, and Bina’s festive facilities go above and beyond to capture the Christmas spirit. 

Joel Swenson

3. A Wagyu Butter Burger? In This Economy??

We’re pretty fortunate to have a ton of really great burgers in these Twin Cities. One bite of the Bina’s burger skyrocketed it up my list of favorites. Beginning with some fatty Wagyu beef, the perfectly seasoned burg gets smashed down onto the grill along with some paper-thin onion slices, similar to an Oklahoma burger. The fat renders out and caramelizes the onions while leaving behind a perfect crust on the meat. Finished with American cheese, pickles, Bina’s sauce (A1 steak sauce, mayo, and spices), and a healthily buttered bun, the Bina’s burger is every bit as indulgent as you’d expect. The first two words of the menu description may be “Wagyu” and “butter,” but it still manages not to be too over-the-top. It’s a goddamn masterpiece, and considering the quality of its main ingredient, is a steal at $14. 

Like Bina’s other sandwiches, the burger comes with chips, but the upgrade to fries is worth the extra $2. Unlike most bars, Bina’s fries are little potato petals with super crispy edges and tender, fluffy insides. This burger and fries combo is so good that I already returned for another. As for the rest of Bina’s sandwich menu, they’ve got all the melts you can ask for (chicken tender, tuna, grilled cheese) as well a Rachel, a tuna salad, and a vegan sloppy Joe made with house-made vegan chorizo and hot giardiniera. The Joe is another particularly tasty little number.

4. Don’t Sleep on the Bar Snacks

In addition to all the delicious sammies, Bina’s menu totes a ton of bar snacks of both the hot and cold varieties. On the hot side, there are the aforementioned potato petal fries, as well as hot wings, pickle fries, chicken tenders, and mozzarella sticks. Now, despite my undying love of cheese curds, I don’t usually opt for mozz sticks, but thankfully, a basket of them was passed to me, and I tried one. It was fantastic: crispy, gooey, salty, and with a nice creamy tang thanks to a dunk in the tomato soup that Bina’s serves with the sticks instead of the traditional marinara sauce.

The colder side includes a Wisconsin charcuterie board (smoky cheese ball, pickled sausages and egg, Ritz crackers, mustard), chips and dip (dill and French onion, respectively), deviled eggs, and Nordeast sushi. That last item, more commonly known as pickle roll-ups or MN sushi, has been popping up on a lot of menus lately, and the Bina’s version tastes like every family gathering from mine and every other Midwesterner’s childhood. Thick slices of cucumber are brined just right, while a thin layer of cream cheese brings some richness to the party, and the ham meatily keeps things together. As good as the roll-ups are, the deviled eggs are even better. These delightful little bites feature a classic filling but are topped with a dill pickle potato chip for some added crunch. At $6 for six egg halves, they’re a steal; for two bucks more, you can add some pickled herring.

In fact, everything on the Bina’s menu is reasonably priced compared to most other trendy new spots. On one of my recent visits, I paid for deviled eggs (without the herring upgrade), Nordeast sushi, a burger with fries, three cocktails, and a High Life, and my bill was $69 (nice). Sure, that’s a lot for a dive bar, but we’ve already established that Bina’s ain’t that.

Cocktails and ClawsJoel Swenson

5. Classic Cocktails Done Exceptionally Well

If there’s one thing that really separates Bina’s from, say, Shaws, it’s the cocktail menu. Featuring well-executed takes on an old fashioned (both classic and sour Wisconsin style), a Cosmopolitan, a gimlet, and even an espresso martini, Bina’s bar program is a standout of the Centro portfolio. The Wisconsin Old Fashioned is a very close approximation of the real thing, while the Cosmo has that signature cranberry tang we Cosmo lovers crave. There’s a subtle hint of poblano heat in the Cowboy Gimlet due to the inclusion of Ancho Reyes Verde, and the espresso martini balances a buzz with a chocolatey creaminess that almost forces you to order a second one.

In addition to the fancy cocktail offerings, Bina’s has a few taps, bottles, cans, and tall boys, and a short but well-curated wine list. Also, they’ve got jello shots (cherry Fireball and grape blackberry brandy) and house shots (grape ape, jackalope, pinky promise). While I can’t speak to all of them personally, I can say that Bina’s grape ape tastes extra purple, and it’s worth suckin’ one (or seven) down. 

Address: 1404 Quincy St. NE, Minneapolis
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m.–12 a.m.; Friday/Saturday: 11 a.m.–1 a.m.

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