Up in Minneapolis earlier this year, I was looking for a new place to try for lunch. Actually, I had honed in a place along Nicollet Ave. - known as Eat Street for all the restaurants up and down the street for blocks - but when I went to go in, it was packed. I looked across the street at a place that had a sign that said "Burgers - Beers - Brunch". But the name alone was interesting enough for me to check out, so I went to The Lowbrow for lunch instead.
Heather Bray and Jodi Ayers met when both were working at the Birchwood Cafe in east Minneapolis over 15 years ago. Both became interested in the farm-to-fork movement while working at the Birchwood and when they went off in different directions - Bray to Lucia's To Go and Ike's Food & Cocktails; and Ayers at the Wedge Community Co-op and Moose and Sadie's. They continued to promote farm fresh foods where they worked and they had ideas of their own restaurant they would like to do someday.
That day came in 2010 when they found a space along S. Nicollet in Minneapolis' Kingfield neighborhood. Opening their restaurant in late January 2011, the name they chose was definitely a misnomer for the food they were serving. Burgers made from locally sourced grass-fed beef, Wisconsin cheeses, organically grown turkey and chicken, and vegetarian options from locally-grown farms were the core of the foods they had. On Sunday, the Lowbrow serves what they call a "Wisconsin Style" brunch with traditional items such as pancakes, classic eggs and bacon, and breakfast sandwiches, as well as unique items such as a jalapeño hash, a smoked salmon scrambled egg plate, chorizo breakfast tacos with jack cheese and scrambled eggs, and a good ol' grilled cheese sandwich where you can add bacon, avocado, tomatoes and jalapeños to the sandwich.
Walking into The Lowbrow I found an open space with a high ceiling featuring exposed ductwork. There was a small bar up front and a number of tables in the middle of the space with booths along the north wall. It was far from a dive that the name Lowbrow might connote to most people.
Along the wall on the north side was a large mural featuring the Lowbrow logo, bear with the name of the place across its face. It was sort of a surreal Northern woods winter scene. But it was a great mural.
I took a seat at the bar and was greeted by the bartender/server Krista. She gave me a menu and asked what I wanted to drink. The Lowbrow features only Minnesota craft brews and I ordered up a Fulton Lonely Blonde Ale.
Actually the first thing that caught my eye were the vintage baseball cards from the 1960's, 70's and 80's that were under a polyurethane topping on the bar. I immediately recognized a handful of baseball cards that I had when I was a little kid, as well as many of the players that would be obscure to most people sitting at the bar.
Looking through the menu, there's a number of burgers and sandwiches to choose from. They only featured three entrees on the menu, but I understand that they have nightly specials. I thought about getting the turkey reuben for a moment, but I ended up getting the "Shrooms and Swiss" burger - a grass-fed burger patty topped with sautéed mushrooms and Wisconsin Swiss cheese. It also came with a garlic aioli spread and I asked Krista if I could get a couple pieces of bacon on it.
The burger was thick, juicy and delicious. The garlic aioli gave a light hint of garlic, but it wasn't overpowering. The bun - which is a big key to a good burger - was light and spongy, but it held together well with the juiciness of the burger patty. The thick slice of Swiss cheese was melted onto the top of the burger giving it a gooey consistency and it had a very rich flavor. The mushrooms were sautéed in butter and were a great addition to the burger. This was a very, very good burger. A large order of fries came with the burger as a side, but I may have had only three or four as I concentrated on finishing the rather large burger.
The Lowbrow was a great find for me. It was a good thing the original restaurant I wanted to go to was full or I wouldn't have walked into The Lowbrow that day. I probably would have found it sooner than later, but I'm glad I found it sooner. The burger was excellent, the atmosphere was fun and laid back, and the service I received was prompt, cheerful and efficient. I would have no problem recommending The Lowbrow for a burger or a sandwich if you're in the area.