Jasha Johnston and Carrie Mccabe-Johnston are the married couple behind the darling Nightingale in Uptown, the elegant New Orleans around-the-edges spot that constantly gets accolades for its late night eats.
They've just announced a partnership with the real estate group CPM, which is putting up new apartment buildings at the corners of 26th and Stevens, as well as Franklin and Lyndale avenues in Uptown.
TILT at 26th and Stevens will be a pinball and hot dog bar with the kitchen run by Carrie and the bar by Jasha, as things have always been done at Nightingale. They'll serve a simple menu of eight all-beef hot dogs by local purveyor Peterson, topped with a bunch of house-made garnishes, including kimchee, kraut, caraway-beer mustard, and the like, plus a chip and dip section with smoked French onion, housemade potato chips, hummus and pita, pimento cheese, more!
There will be a full liquor license, probably some wine in a can, all-local taps, and 15 to 18 pinball machines, some of them throwback.
In equally exciting news, the couple is taking over the longtime south Minneapolis dive Mortimer's, where Jasha has worked for over 20 years and continues to do so, even throughout the existence of Nightingale. Carrie’s dad, who managed the place, hired her future husband when he was just 21 years old. Jasha grew up there, and he knows the bar as well as anyone.
He doesn’t want to change things too much, and in fact, it’s thanks to him that the bar will survive. He’s known the partners in the real estate business since high school, and he appealed to them. The sacrifice is Gringo’s, the bar's little infamous annex, and “after a lot of finagling” Mortimer's and their other annex, Olivers, will stay. Three cheers for Jasha.
"It's not my favorite thing either," he says. "I love Gringo's. But the real estate is just too valuable."
(He reminds me that all of this is contingent on the city’s approval of the apartment building; otherwise, back to the drawing board.)
He will keep things at Mortimer's largely the same. That means no fancy cocktail lists, and the beer-by-the-pitcher will stay in full effect, an amenity that tends to fall by the wayside at trendier spots. “I don’t want to mess with it too much, It will be neighborhood focused, with maybe a bit of a facelift and clean it up outside a bit. I’ve thought a lot of times ‘why don’t we do this better?’ and now I’ll get my chance.”
Carrie will take over the kitchen, which she describes as the one of the largest, cleanest kitchens she’s ever seen, and will try to see that it doesn’t go so underutilized. Again, nothing too fancy, with just “slightly elevated” bar food: chicken wings, burgers, maybe a bit of a southern bent.
“I see people sharing a bucket of fried chicken and a pitcher of beer at Mortimer's.”
We do, too. Try not to get grease on the pinball machines.
TILT is slated to open April 1
113 E. 26th St., Minneapolis
Mortimer’s ownership change is in June
2001 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
More from Food & Drink