If you’re closing your tab at Meteor and the bartender hands you an empty High Life, don’t take it.
Meteor Bar started slinging drinks in mid-December, about a month after Bar Brava opened mere steps away. And so many people have been killing time on the former’s barstools before their table is ready at the latter that Meteor co-owner Robb Jones says it’s become something of a running joke: What if we gave people a beer can and told them they’d need it to be seated around the corner?
(The spots are not related, for the record—please don’t bring empties from Meteor or elsewhere with you when heading to Brava.)
Proximity and the occasional shared patrons aside, the two are very different drinking establishments. Bar Brava is a natural wine bar, Minneapolis’s first; Meteor is a good old-fashioned neighborhood haunt. Brava is all white tile, white brick, stainless-steel countertops; Meteor has dark black booths lining one wall, an old wooden rail on the other. At one bar, you can order fried cephalopods and masa dumplings in pasilla broth from chef/co-owner Nick Anderson, former sous chef at San Francisco’s trendy, utensil-less cocktail hotspot ABV. The other has Mucci’s frozen pizza.
Let’s start with Bar Brava, which—all due respect to the folks doing a Meteor-then-Brava bang-bang—is where you should start. (Brava closes at 11 or 12, depending on the day of the week, and Meteor’s open ’til 2 nightly. Just sayin’.) This bar comes from co-owner Dan Rice—Apple Valley-born finance student turned NYC investment banker turned natural wine guy—along with Anderson and sommelier Jill Mott.
In the simplest terms, “natural wine” has been farmed organically and made without adding or removing anything in the cellar. It’s the big wine trend of the moment, “a source of indie social capital,” per a recent and succinct Vox explainer. You can’t get it everywhere—it’s hard to find outside of major cities, and even in major cities, only some wine shops carry it. (Henry and Son is the Twin Cities’ go-to.) But walking into Brava, you’ll pass a giant fridge packed full of them: juicy orange and pink wines with brightly colored labels beckoning through the glass.
If you aren’t super familiar with natty wine—and even if you are—Brava’s bottle list might seem a little daunting. That bad boy is long, with a lot of stuff you just can’t find anywhere else in the Twin Cities. But plenty of bottles are in the $60 to $70 range, and if you’d rather start small, there are rotating by-the-glass options, plus a few tap ciders and some beers.
Don’t know a La Boutanche Pet Nat from a Petit Carlania? Are you Googling those words to see if I made them up? Honestly, that’s fine! Bartenders were more than happy to handle our (numerous) questions, even sneaking off to the back to grab a journal full of handwritten notes from a recent tasting.
Food-wise, stuff here changes often—sometimes daily. But given the opportunity, you need to order the Kofta Meatballs: bite-sized, herb-y Mediterranean morsels with olives and labneh so good you’ll want to order another plate the second you polish them off. Also, get the Winter Toast, with a bed of house kimchi topped by a truly hefty helping of fried octopus... somehow for only $13? The ribs have an interesting natty wine barbecue sauce, and though ours were on the dry side, the chochoyotes (a Mexican corn dumpling soup) more than compensated for it.
When you’re full of wine and snacks, walk the .2 miles to Meteor and hop onto one of those barstools. Co-owners Robb Jones (former bar director for Gavin Kaysen’s restaurants) and Elliot Manthey (former Spoon and Stable bartender) made Meteor in the image of the after-hours industry haunts servers and bartenders frequent: intimate and unfussy, with good energy and cheap drinks. The building has been a bar for more than 100 years; it once housed the infamously dive-y Stand Up Frank’s.
Standard cocktails here are $8, and Meteor creations are $12. Of those, we really dug the predictably pineapple-y Pineapple Pineapple Pineapple and the Cloud City—turns out Aquavit, Absinthe, root beer, and egg white make a mean winter drink.
But it’s the Boiler list where you’ll have the most fun. Meteor’s curated a selection of beer-and-a-bump pairings that are a little more interesting than your tried-and-trues: Think Montucky Cold Snack with a shot of Jim Beam Black (“Stable Boyz”) or Lawless Fernet alongside a hearty stout (“Cabin in the Woods”). “Misty Eyed” matches Del Maguey Vida mezcal and a can of Tecate, which arrives garnished with a handful of Doritos.
If you’re still hungry, have the bartenders throw a Mucci’s frozen pizza in the oven behind the bar. Get it Meteor style if you want it topped with an egg, pepperoncinis, and chili flakes, plus a little drizzle of balsamic.
What Meteor and Bar Brava have in common, beyond their postal code, is that laid-back, effortless playfulness that makes them... just generally nice places to hang out. Meteor is like Grumpy’s, if Grumpy’s juiced its own pineapples for cocktails. They’ve got Japanese whiskey paired with Hefeweizen—but if you want a Hamm’s and a shot of Jameson, well shoot, you can get that too.
Meanwhile, if your eyes reflexively roll at the phrase “natural wine bar,” know that Bar Brava isn’t a place where you’re shamed for not knowing who Ruth Lewandowski is. Its menus bear the aphorism “Keep it natty, keep it nice,” and beneath a few lines explaining just what natural wine is, there’s a simplification: “Nothing added, nothing removed, just fucking juice.”
Actually, the more I think about it, the more the two bars have in common. Both are kinda fancied-up, but comfortable. Both are doing things like almost no one in town, be it natural wine or uncommon spirits. It’s almost like they meet in the middle—Meteor a dive bar, but elevated; Brava a wine bar, but cheeky.
And they’re both very, very good.
Click here to see a photo slidehow of Bar Brava and Meteor Bar
1914 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis
2027 N. Second St., Minneapolis