118 1st Ave. SE.
Minot North Dakota 58701United States
Catch a game on TV or live music at this little downtown smoke-free watering hole owned by a modern cowboy artist.
Tradesmen grabbing a beer on their way home from work pretty much characterized the guys here a late Friday afternoon in August when we visited on a whim. The crowd gets considerably younger later, when bands roll in for live music. Erected in 1907, the building is the last wood-frame one in downtown Minot. During the 1950s, it was known as the Tick Tock Tavern. Modernist cowboy artist Walter Piehl, who has taught art at Minot State University since 1970, bought it in 1993 and fixed it up, giving his grown sons a place to work until they landed elsewhere. He named the bar Blue Rider because he wanted a name that dealt with rodeos and the German "Der Blaue Reiter" school of art, which influenced his work. "This bar has always struggled. Bars have trends," Walter says. "What saved us was every other Sunday night, we have live rock music and indie bands. It's exposed us to a whole new clientele." The first smoke-free bar in North Dakota, the Blue Rider has room for maybe three-dozen patrons and is not the place to order a cosmo. But it is the place to come to catch a game on TV or for the annual Testicle Festival, the deep-fried appetizer known across the prairie as Rocky Mountain oysters (bull testicles). You can even get a T-shirt. (Sorry, Walter, we gave ours to charity.)