Carrie McCabe-Johnston and husband Jasha Johnston are debuting their new hot dog-and-pinball bar, Tilt next week.
But already, they’re setting their sights ahead on a pair of new projects.
“More projects,” McCabe-Johnston said with a laugh this week.
But before you choke on your coffee, she wants you to know one thing: She and Johnston aren't changing much. At least not yet.
“We have no intent to make big changes at either of these places,” said McCabe-Johnston, who also owns Uptown’s Nightingale (a cocktail and small plates lounge) with her husband. “We love dive bars and so we don’t want to change that.”
McCabe-Johnston feels the need to say these things because as scruffy as the duo of bars are, they’re considered institutions in Minneapolis and are beloved by many.
As an original Northeast native, McCabe-Johnston knows Dusty’s has a particularly loyal following. It's famous for its dago sandwiches, pictured above.
“People are freaking out,” she said. “But we’re not taking away anybody’s dago.
“People are afraid we’re going to turn it into Uptown; we’re not doing that.”
Yep – they’re keeping the dagos, as well as the gumbo and other items. But McCabe-Johnston also plans to add her own flair in the form of po’boys with beans and rice and other Southern-inspired dishes “that will work well with beer.”
Before any of that, though, the two want to just learn the restaurant and get to know the patrons first.
“We want to get in there, meet the customers, find out what people love about it and go from there,” McCabe-Johnston said.
As for Mortimer’s – a place where Jasha has bartended for 20 years, doing so one night a week even after the pair opened Nightingale – the plan is to ramp up a limited menu with burgers, nachos, smoked brisket sandwiches and buckets of fried chicken, among other things. They’ll keep the pizza.
“Most people don’t even know they have a kitchen there,” McCabe-Johnston said. “It’s pretty under-utilized. We’re going to do bar food but done with a little more thought and care.”
They’ll make minor upgrades to the space, including adding booths to break up the space.
The plan is to keep both bars open throughout the process with maybe a day or two of closures eventually for the bulk of any renovations. McCabe-Johnston said they plan to re-debut Mortimer’s in September.
In the meantime, she feels the need to keep the legions of loyal bargoers at both locations at ease.
“We’re not doing cocktail lists, we’re not doing small plates,” she said of Dusty’s. “It’s going to be a neighborhood bar. We’re just going to breathe new life into it.”