First look: The Lowbrow

Over the last 10 years, something interesting seems to be happening to neighborhood businesses in the Twin Cities: As the record stores and video stores have struggled and shuttered, those funky, creative people who would have stood behind the counter and made obscure recommendations have gone and opened restaurants.

God bless these indie/art-school hippies and hipsters, who have given us food hangouts like the new Lowbrow in south Minneapolis.

Just down the block from the Grandma's-rec-room feel of Curran's, owners Heather Bray and Jodi Ayres have created a completely different kind of vibe with the Lowbrow. It's the kind of place where the stereo plays music from the staff's iPod, which consists mostly of decent to excellent tracks by bands you couldn't name.

The crowd was pretty thin during the Oscar telecast on Sunday. At the bar, one of the two flatscreens was tuned to the awards, the other to basketball. No one was really watching the basketball. This seems like more a place for people who could draw the team logos from memory but couldn't tell you where the team finished in the standings.

Speaking of team logos, the Lowbrow graphic could easily be mistaken for one: a googly-eyed bruin frozen in either a perpetual yawn or a perpetual snarl. This character is prominently featured on a mural covering one of the walls inside. The mural is lonely, though. The other walls are blank pastel colors, only one of which holds some framed art crammed closely together.

We expressed these sentiments (more art!) to the bartender, Nick, a pleasant fellow with a tidy Van Dyke. After promising to pass along the word, he let us sample some of the Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison, a smooth, blond, wheaty brew on tap. We ordered a pint of it to go along with the Fire Breather, a burger rubbed with chili and topped with jalapenos, chipotle gouda, and guacamole.

The burger was served with a side of fresh-cut fries, almost shoestring thin. They were serviceable, though they won't win any awards. The burger was quite good, just greasy enough, and sandwiched in a crispy toasted bun. The jalapenos are fresh and green, not canned and gray. A word to the spicy-food fans: Order extra jalapenos. The cool creaminess of the guacamole offsets the burn of the jalapeno too well if one is hoping for the burger to live up to its name.

All told, the Lowbrow is a thoroughly acceptable hangout with good burgers and a list of beers to suit any taste. Taking into consideration the outdoor patio that has been promised to open in summer, this could be a hopping little joint come June.

4244 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
612.208.0720; Lowbrow website

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