The Bad Waitress is set to unveil its second location this week, showing off sparkling new digs, a full bar and a major Twin Cities name shaking and stirring the drinks.
The new iteration of the casual Eat Street diner, at 700 Central Ave. in northeast Minneapolis, will feature many of the favorites from the original, including omelets, scrambles, sandwiches and burgers with a focus on local and sustainable ingredients. The grand opening is Friday.
But the biggest sell might be the familiar face manning the bar.
Johnny Michaels, considered by many the godfather of the modern cocktail movement in Minnesota from his days at the former La Bell Vie, has returned to the Twin Cities after a stint at a White Bear Lake bar.
And he’s bringing with him a sprawling drink list that he hopes will toe the line between crafted, fussy cocktails and quick drinks. Twenty-eight of the concoctions, made hot or over ice, are mostly premixed and stored in bottles to allow for quick serving.
“You’ve got to make them fast and they’ve got to be consistent,” Michaels said. “If you do the extra prep, it’s almost like pouring a Captain [Morgan rum] and Coke. You get to have a mega list like this but the bartender will have time to talk with you and help guide you.
“It’s like a dating service for people and cocktails, that’s really what we’re doing here.”
A window into his newest creative outlets? How about the Knife in the Water, a muddled blood orange rye Old Fashioned with a splash of sharp herbal gin cutting through the smoke and wood.
Or, for a sweeter sensation, the Meow Mix – a sparkling salty caramel orange-lemon drop topped with a lemon foam.
On the brighter end, Michaels presents Strong Vibes, a gin and tonic with grapefruit, peppermint, green Chartreuse and sage.
And there are savory takes as well, notably the Warsaw, based with a roasted beet Polish vodka with a hint of horseradish and a skewer of potato, cornichon and Ukrainian sausage.
And fans of La Belle Vie will have the opportunity to sip on nostalgia: a handful of the cocktails on the Bad Waitress’ new list are either from or inspired by his time at the dining institution – including the Old Cuban, which Michaels said his former patrons went nuts for.
Owner Andy Cohen, who bought the first Bad Waitress with his wife, Mary, in 2013, says he emailed Michaels out of the blue and eventually they found a time to chat – for both sides, it seemed, the match made sense.
“When I talked with him, he just seemed to jive with everything we were doing,” Cohen said.
The menu expands from hash browns and eggs Benedict as well. Comfort food items like a melt-in-your-mouth braised beef brisket and mac and cheese sporting brie, gouda, cheddar, bread crumbs and bacon find their way onto the main menu as well as a handful of other dishes. There are new bar-specific offerings – pork or beef sliders and crostini topped by the diner’s choice of bruschetta-like add-ons, among other plates. And the dessert menu grows as well, most intriguingly with a lineup of inventive dessert-alcohol pairings. Look for golden raisin infused Scotch with sherry and bitters alongside butterscotch oatmeal cookies, a coffee stout served with a shot of caramel rum and a scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream and an espresso with a hazelnut brandy and a housemade truffle.
How about these braised beef with bacon grits and Brussels sprouts?
A favorite scramble that makes the move across town: the Super Nova Kale with goat cheese, red onion, avocado and cilantro.