Restaurant Reviews

The Lowbrow

4244 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-208-0720,

I must confess, I love it when I hear that some industry workers have pulled it together enough to open their own restaurant. Who hasn’t had a late-night rail session after a shift where you talk about the kind of place you’d open if you only had the bank? Well, that’s exactly what co-owners Heather Bray and Jodi Ayres have done, opening The Lowbrow in the Kingfield neighborhood. The industry vets met while working at Birchwood CafĂ© and decided that it was time to live the dream.

Launching a restaurant from a “vanilla shell” is much harder than taking over a dead restaurant with all the nuts and bolts intact, but that’s just what the duo did in the former Rau + Barber warehouse space on Nicollet. One of the best things they have going for them is the quirky design sense employed in their bear head logo signage and the “paint-by-number” mural wall in the open room anchored by the bar and kitchen.

The Lowbrow menu is small but intriguing, and it’s quite affordable, with only one dish more than $10. Also, there are a few nice nods to vegetarians in the form of a pinto quinoa burger and tempeh Reuben. Real jalapeno poppers, stuffed with oozy cheese, were fried crisply and righteously, leagues above any freezer-living bar option. The Southern fried tofu sticks—nicely flavored and crispy—came with a zippy homemade BBQ sauce. The pulled pork sandwich carried the same sauce and was soft and tender with a lovely squishy bun. My burger was perfectly medium and had a nice crackling edge and good beefiness, although it might have been even nicer had I received it with the bacon and cheese I ordered.

There were disappointments: the soggy mess of cheese fries, the lackluster deviled eggs, and a winter citrus salad that consisted of a small plate of greens, grapefruit, and nothing else. Brunch brought mushy pancakes but also a potentially winning egg sandwich (if they ease up on the oozing mayo).

All in all, I have to say I’m rooting for this place. It’s a cool neighborhood eatery that is kid-friendly, beer-friendly, and veg-friendly. The owners seem to have a good sense of humor and truly friendly hospitality. I’m more apt to give them a little leeway, because I think they need a bit more time than our average wait. They have ideas that sparkle and a sense of what the neighborhood wants; they just need to jam it on execution. In fact, I left brunch thinking The Lowbrow reminded me of how I felt about Blackbird just after its first month. And I think it has the potential to garner the same kind of loyalists if it continues to evolve.

Stephanie’s rating: 75 See The Lowbrow’s RestaurantRater score at