The north side of Minneapolis is about to get another new drinking establishment, just as soon as the owners finish getting all the carpet off the walls.
Robb Jones, former bar director for Gavin Kaysen’s restaurants, and Spoon & Stable bartender Elliot Manthey, are opening Meteor Bar sometime in December (check facebook.com/meteor.bar for an opening announcement). That’s good news for cocktail lovers, frequenters of the burgeoning fine-drinking district beyond the North Loop, and, well, just about everybody.
The idea was simmering for at least eight years. Whenever Jones or Manthey traveled around the country, they’d hit up the ‘it’ lounges in other cities, Jones said.
“They all have their fancy cocktail bars, and it’s a very ritualistic thing, there’s a lot of song and dance to it,” Jones said. “And the places we modeled this after, our favorite bars, are the bars that the people that worked at those places go to when they get off work. The elevated dive bar.”
Industry haunts, insider favorites, the places your high-end restaurant bartenders drink at themselves. Something all these bars had in common was the lack of “pomp and circumstance surrounding the cocktail culture,” Jones said. “You just go and hang out and have a really great cocktail.”
To that end, Meteor is keeping it simple. Classic cocktails — daiquiris, manhattans — at around $8; a “higher concept” section (“We’ll do some weird stuff, too,” Jones said); and a thoughtful pairing list of the perennial beer and a bump. The prices are inclusive of tax, by the way.
Food is minimal: frozen pizzas are all that’s guaranteed as of now.
The bar takes over a turn-of-the-last-century building, at 2027 N. 2nd St., that previously hosted Stand Up Franks, Donnie Dirk’s Zombie Den, and most recently, the immersive cocktail party/art installation Mr. Steven’s Snuggery.
“This bar has been a lot of different things over 120 years. But it’s always been a bar,” Manthey said.
The last inhabitant’s somewhat R-rated design left Jones and Manthey some work to do.
“It had a naughty 1970s Austin Powers sex vibe,” Manthey said. Carpet on the walls needed to be stripped away down to the original brick.
They’re doing all the rehabbing themselves, showing off the gold ceiling, installing an antique back bar from a tavern in Gaylord, Minn., and adding some modern lighting.
“We want it to feel like it’s always been here, with a couple of modern touches,” Manthey said. “We’re just embracing and not fighting the wrinkles. This building has beautiful wrinkles and we like that.”
And in a way, it has always been there. And the neighborhood has always been a nightlife district, however downtrodden (consider BJ’s topless bar nearby).
“People have been drinking in the area for a long time,” Jones said, “and we’re just bringing what we do to it.” But with natural wine bar Bar Brava opening around the corner, the area is getting some new notice.
“When we heard that was happening, we were like, if they can open a natural wine bar, we’ll be ok opening a dive bar,” Jones said.