Pat McDonough and Jeremy Woerner of the Blue Door Pub, along with James Brown and Mike Smith of Forage Modern Workshop and Brownsmith Restoration, opened Hi-Lo Diner on a vacated Taco Bell lot. Originally named the Venus Diner, which was located in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, the iconic 1955 Fodero Diner was restored, delivered to Minneapolis in two-separate pieces on trucks, and precociously perched on E. Lake Street.
The idea was simple: reimagine the glamour and spirit of authentic 1950s diner food and drink using modern techniques and local ingredients, elevate into the modern era. Chef Heidi Marsh – previously of Stillwater’s Chilkoot Café and Minneapolis’s Aster Café and others– has taken breakfast-lunch-dinner fare beyond the confines of a bygone era with Hi-Tops, fried dough fabrications resembling a face-swap between a fry bread and puffy brioche. Modern renditions of midcentury libations run parallel to crafted ice-cream cocktails while crystal, Bermuda turquoise tiki drinks round out the robust menu. Head bartenders, Ryan Barott and Simeon Priest, craft decadent, refreshing mélanges that revitalize classic concoctions into sleek and sophisticated beverages.
We had the chance to visit Barott and Priest at the Hi-Lo Diner and experience a medley of drink and food pairings. The drinks and fare were sublime. Here are our thoughts about their classic beverages and cooking with a modern twist.
Back in the 1950s, tiki drinks – tall, rum-heavy faux-tropical concoctions of great complication and decadence – were backyard staples. Housed in hollowed out elongated skulls embroidered with deified ancestors of Polynesian descent but alas, no longer! The Fjord Fiesta is a postmodern tropical take on a classic tiki drink, standing tall in all its electric blue glory supported by a Tattersal Aquavit backbone with complex caraway botanicals leading the charge. A blend of lemon, cinnamon, pineapple, and aperitif wine accent the overall summer vibe.
Food pairing: Venus Pie Trap
Oaxacan In Memphis
Mezcal, like its cousin tequila, is made from agave making it part of the asparageles botanical order, a distilled aguardiente – or “fiery water.” The people of Oaxaca say, “Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, también” (for every ill, Mezcal, and for every good as well). The mezcal plays the foil to a bold George Dickel 12 Tennessee Whiskey that extenuates the subtle smoky, smooth traces of a light bodied drink, rich in flavor and almost meaty in feel. The squat sniffer is pulled tightly together with a swirl of honey and garnered with a sprig of thyme tincture, perfect for spring.
Food pairing: Gary Coop’er
The Hi-Lo-Ma is on tap. Through a process called forced carbonation, the pre-mixed tequila cocktail produces carbolic acid, intensifying the habanero bitters and making the Tattersall Grapefruit Crema and lime citrus undertones more acute. The ratio of sour to sweet is reset, giving the drink the perfect amount of effervescence – without overdoing it.
Food pairing: stands alone