Many a late night in La Belle Vie’s elegant lounge ended with a pair of mini lamb burgers peppered with a spicy kick of ras el hanout. The Moroccan-inspired sliders were the perfect foil to the craft cocktails coming out of the bar — long before craft cocktails were even a thing.
Now that the storied space near Loring Park is back — as P.S. Steak — so are those lamb burgers.
They’re just one of the lounge’s tributes to the history of 510 Groveland Av.
An entire “Respects” page on the cocktail menu pays homage to the bartenders who put the Twin Cities cocktail scene on the map from behind that beautiful marble-topped bar.
When Jeff Rogers and Jesse Held, co-bar directors for Jester Concepts, were designing the drink menu for P.S. Steak, Rogers wanted to add a section acknowledging people who influenced their careers.
“It can’t be, ‘Well, Prince influenced me through his music and then this is my Prince cocktail.’ A lot of people have done that,” Rogers said. “I wanted to put a shoutout to the people who actually helped us get to where we are today.”
Though the drink selections will change seasonally, the Respects page is “a permanent fixture of our menu,” Rogers said.
For the first go-round, “it was obvious that we had to do the nod to La Belle Vie first,” Rogers said. Three drinks call out former La Belle Vie bartenders, Adam Gorski (now at Young Joni), Jon Olson (at Esker Grove) and the legendary barman Pip Hanson.
Rogers didn’t want to recreate drinks from those cocktailiers’ portfolios, though.
“I think that would do a disservice to what they did during that time,” he said. Instead, “we started talking about what if we took our favorite people and we just made them into a cocktail? I literally took Adam Gorski and I said, how can I put Adam Gorski into a glass?”
Gorski is known for his Collins-style cocktails, and his favorite spirit is Calvados, so Rogers crafted a Collins out of apple brandy, honey, baking spices, lemon and seltzer. Because Gorski is a fly fisherman who plays the banjo, Rogers named it Fly Fishin’ & Finger Pickin’. A Swedish Fish candy hangs off the straw by a rope.
For the Not That Olson Twin, Rogers honored the bearded Olson with a “bright and hairy” spirit-forward cocktail made with “rough” Rhum Agricole, demerara and lime, plus a tincture of caraway to nod to Olson’s love of aquavit.
The Obi Pip Kenobi refers to Hanson’s English roots and time spent in Japan. It combines both Japanese and London gin with extra dry vermouth, orange and lemon bitters. It’s served ice cold, the way Hanson likes his martinis.
Rogers and Held got the men’s permission to use their names, but the drinks were all their original creations, like fan fiction in cocktail form.
They credit the La Belle Vie bar masters for setting the stage for the craft cocktail boom to come.
“Jesse and I were both working at places where we were doing cocktails, but they weren’t well known and people kind of made fun of us for what we were doing, because at the time it wasn’t the norm. So people are like, ‘Why are you juicing? That comes on your gun.’” But as word spread around town about the cocktail magic coming from La Belle Vie bar legend Johnny Michaels, customers’ interest began to change. “It instantly justified us,” Rogers said.
Their lounge menu is essentially a love letter to those industry innovators.
“We loved the people that worked here so much,” he said. “It was such an industry hangout. The lounge had a lore all of its own, that it was just something special to be in here.”
Now to be the one behind the bar? “It’s surreal,” Rogers said. “It really is.”