I had set up a dinner meeting with one of my dealers in Minneapolis on a recent trip to the Twin Cities. I asked him where he wanted to meet up and he said there was sort of a hip urban diner near the Uptown neighborhood not far from his house. When he told me it was The Lowry, I immediately said, "I'll meet you there!" I had driven past The Lowry a handful of times over the past couple of years and had wanted to give it a try.
The other reason I wanted to eat at The Lowry was that it's part of the Blue Plate restaurant group which includes the Edina Grill, 3 Squares, and the Longfellow Grill. I had learned about the partnership between Stephanie Shimp and David Burley when I was doing some background work on the origins of the Red Cow gourmet burger/eclectic beer tavern in Minneapolis. (Click here to see my entry on Red Cow.) Red Cow owner Luke Shimp - Stephanie Shimp's brother - was the former C.F.O. for the Blue Plate restaurant group who went off on his own to start his own place. Many of the Blue Plate restaurants sounded interesting, a few of them I knew about and have on my "restaurants to visit" list - most notably the Groveland Tap in St. Paul which I've heard has a good "Juicy Lucy" stuffed cheeseburger.
Stephanie Shimp and David Burley had worked together in the restaurant business for a number of years before they decided to partner up and open their first restaurant - the Highland Grill - in a former neighborhood ice cream parlor in St. Paul. The two then purchased the Groveland Tap and put their own imprint on the place.
In August of 2011, Shimp and Burley (along with Luke Shimp) opened The Lowry on Hennepin Ave. in what was a former Hollywood Video location. Even though "Burgers, Oysters and Eggs" are featured on the logo for The Lowry, they designed the business to be "drinks first" with a number of eclectic beers on tap, a number of bourbons, Scotches and whiskeys, as well as a unique wine-tap system that literally pumps wine out of bottles that are stored in a temperature controlled room below the bar.
Technically, the Lowry is located in the Lowry Hill neighborhood in between Uptown and Downtown Minneapolis - hence, the name. I pulled into the parking lot at 2112 Hennepin (see map) just before our 7 p.m. meeting time. I had called my dealer just a moment before and said that I was almost there. He said, "I live three minutes away. I'm on my way." I took a seat in a booth in the bar and my dealer joined me moments later.
The bar area features a series of booths along the glass windows that look out onto Hennepin Ave. and a number of high tables between the bar and the booths. The walls and ceiling featured dark wood paneling with subdued lighting. It was sort of cozy in the bar area.
The main dining room was long and narrow with some high-backed booths along the window, two person tables in the middle and alcove-style booths along the other side. It, too, featured a lot of dark wood paneling on the walls, floor and ceiling.
When the hostess guided me to the booth, she had dropped off a couple dinner menus for us. After settling in, we were sitting and talking and our server for the evening, an effervescent hipster-gal by the name of Bri came over to greet us and take our drink order. I got a Bell's Two Hearted pale ale while my guest stuck with water.
The Lowry has an extensive breakfast/lunch menu that is served from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. Their evening menu begins at 4:00 p.m. and they serve up to and past 11 p.m. some nights. However, The Lowry serves their buttermilk pancakes all day long, as well a number of breakfast items including an American breakfast plate with eggs, hashbrowns, bacon or ham, and toast; and a Spinach Frittata that came with, naturally, spinach, Brie cheese, herbs, roasted tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and a spinach and basil chiffonade with hashbrowns and toast. But I was there for dinner that night, so I concentrated on the main entrees for the evening.
But the oysters on the appetizer menu were calling my name. I asked my guest if he liked oysters and he said, "Oh, absolutely! They have some great baked oysters here, but I like the raw ones, too." We ended up ordering a half-dozen each of the baked oysters with the pesto topping, and a half-dozen of the raw oysters that came with cocktail sauce and Tabasco.
The raw oysters came out first and we devoured them. So quickly that I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the plate. But I made sure that my camera was ready when the baked oysters came out. They came out with a roasted half of lemon and had cooked down considerably form the size of the meaty raw oysters we had earlier. They were good and tasty with a hint of pesto mixed in.
We were talking business and Bri kept coming back to check on us and see if we were ready. She ended up stopping back three or four times before we decided it was time we stepped up and figured out what we were going to get for dinner.
The meat loaf plate jumped out at me as I perused the menu. It came with mashed potatoes and green beans and was served with chipotle ketchup. The braised-beef crepes also sounded good - it featured chunks of beef with a mix of veggies and potato croquettes with horseradish wrapped in a crepe. But then I saw it - fish tacos. The fish tacos featured blackened tilapia, sliced avocados, black bean and sweet corn salsa, and topped off with shredded cabbage. My mine was made up.
My guest went with the meat loaf, although he was telling me their beer-battered fish was pretty good, too. We apologized to Bri for making her come back so many times and she said, "Oh, hey. No problem. I'm here all night."
When Bri brought our food out, I was ready to eat. The fish tacos were hidden under mound of shredded cabbage and a drizzle of a chipotle-mayo sauce. Finding the tacos under all that yielded three soft shells filled with chunks of blackened tilapia, slices of avocados and the bean/corn salsa. The fish had a great flavor, but they put way too much cabbage on the tacos. They were messy to eat and the cabbage was falling all over the place. But the tacos, overall, were scrumptious.
My guest's meat loaf told me that I wouldn't have gone wrong by ordering that. It featured two slabs of meat loaf that had been grilled before serving with a pile of fresh green beans on a mound of mashed potatoes. I didn't really need comfort food that particular evening, so that's why I leaned to the fish tacos instead of the meat loaf. My guest said, "Oh, yeah, I've had this before. This is a winner."
I'd like to get back to The Lowry for breakfast at some point. But their dinner menu was equally impressive. Things worked out where I could have a good business meeting over a good meal at The Lowry. And I have to say that Bri did an exceptional job of taking care of us that evening. Even if you just want to go in for a drink, I don't think you'll be disappointed in the least.