Inside the remade Mortimer’s (2001 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., — a dive bar that has rooted the corner of Lyndale and Franklin for decades — patrons still gather with beer at early hours. Pinball machines still illuminate the walls with bright blinking lights. But the term “hole in the wall,” used liberally in the bar’s former life, no longer applies.

Nightingale owners Carrie McCabe Johnston and Jasha Johnston (who bartended there for many years) bought the place last year and have debuted a polished version of the mainstay, complete with classic cocktails, a ramped-up menu of eats and a new identity as a music venue.

The result is a brighter, cleaner and more approachable bar. A few windows have been added to lend light to the darker corners. And Mortimer’s, long a cash-only joint, now takes credit cards, too.

Some favorites have made the transition: two-for-ones are still offered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. And the familiar pizza has found a home on the new menu. But the pies, and everything else on the substantially expanded menu — burgers, sandwiches and small plates such as deviled eggs and buffalo cauliflower — will be made with the same craft touch as at Nightingale, and in a sparkling new kitchen. There’s a new brunch lineup, too, sporting mimosa “pints,” breakfast nachos and fried chicken and waffles, and perhaps soon, jazz brunch to go with it.

The Johnstons installed a wall dividing the once gaping space into two. The side closest to the entrance boasts the square bar and the pinball machines; the other, a dining area and a newly constructed stage, with programming nearly every night — karaoke, trivia, DJs and live music (some shows are free; some are ticketed).

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects for those who haven’t frequented Mortimer’s previous iteration is the tiny annex behind the stage area. With leather furniture, a stunning wooden back bar and an intricate stained glass ceiling, it’s more speakeasy than dive. And the hidden gem, a relic of the 1970s, is now open daily at 5 (it was previously open only on weekends).

New to the cocktail menu, meanwhile, are the likes of martinis, Manhattans and margaritas, with a focus on local spirits. “Nothing too fancy,” the website promises. “Just good and strong.”

New indie coffee shop in the skyway

The Minneapolis skyway has a scenic new coffee shop with family ownership and a big heart for pooches.

Beancounter Coffeehouse (101 S. 5th St., Mpls.), the second location of an Iowa-based shop, debuted in the Soo Line Building last week — introducing downtown coffee drinkers to its housemade pastries, turquoise-tinged decor and coffee for a cause.

Dogs are core to the shop’s theme — despite that there aren’t many of them roaming around the skyways. Framed photos of the Wells family’s dogs from over the years line walls that are painted a deep turquoise with white tile wainscoting. Large block lettering spelling out “Coffee & Dogs” rests on the counter.

But the love doesn’t stop there. Twenty percent of coffee sales go to no-kill dog shelters, via Grounds & Hounds, an organic, fair-trade coffee company that partners with various organizations nationwide.

As for the coffee menu, Beancounter covers the craft coffee basics: espresso drinks, tea, matcha and cold brew, while also offering smoothies, Italian sodas, a caramel cider and a modest menu of breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and wraps. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

And soon, tacos

Los Ocampo (, one of the Twin Cities most beloved taquerias, is opening an express version of their shop in downtown Minneapolis, according to signage on the exterior of the space.

The chain debuted in the Lake Plaza building on E. Lake Street in 2003, touting authentic street-style tacos and more, and has been expanding ever since. The location in the skyway level of the City Center building would be Los Ocampo’s fifth location.

Hopkins switcheroo

The Big 10 Bar and Restaurant (1106 Mainstreet, Hopkins,, a popular sports bar, is saying goodbye after 22 years. The owners have a remake up their sleeves.

After Big 10 closes at the end of the day on May 13, owners Todd DuPont and Tom Hutsell will have the space remodeled with the intention of reopening as Thirty Bales ( — a nod to the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox — in late June. The new restaurant will feature fresh interpretations of regional Midwestern dishes, using techniques such as hay roasting, smoking and pickling, as well as a full bar.