TOWN TALK DINER
2707 1/2 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
THE TOWN TALK DINER'S GOT SOME SERIOUSLY tasty vittles, make no mistake, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. Although do yourself a favor and try the cheese curds, which are dipped in scallion and caper batter and served with housemade ketchup that takes me back to Home in New York. I'm here to talk drinks, which are quite the highlight at this recently renovated and re-opened (Feb. 17, 2006) diner.
First things first: What I didn't get. You have to love a bar that provides beer in sizes from 7 oz. (Miller High Life and Heineken) all the way up to 40 oz. (Mickey's, Schlitz and Miller High Life). Not to mention they serve the 40s in champagne buckets with ice. They've got a solid selection of beers in bottles and cans (including a selection of Bell's, Anchor Steam and my personal favorite, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown in bottles and local brew heros Surly in cans) and they also have an amazing selection of what they term adult malts/floats. These things looked great every time they came flying by our table on servers' trays-- almost too good. Too much to have with dinner, for sure, but just picture this: Guinness with vanilla ice cream in it. You've got the drift.
I like a bar that prides itself on its traditional drinks, and Town Talk has plenty of suggestions for you, from the Manhattan to the Stilleto, and they put the options for your martini right on the menu for you: Up, Rocks, Gibson, Gimlet. Rail martinis (which I don't recommend-- what you save your wallet will come out of your head the next morning) will only run you $4, but even for top shelf it's only $6.
My first stop was a Tom Collins, which is gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and sparkling water. The Town Talk garnishes it not with a Maraschino cherry, but with some kind of alcohol-soaked cherry. It's a little unexpected, but quite tasty. I remember this great place in Bennington, VT, called the Brasserie, which I believe is no longer around, but which made their lemonade with Tom Collins mix, so I have a joyful childhood association with the drink that bears little similarity to what it is in its full-on alcoholic mode. They'll make it with either gin or vodka, and I went with Reyka vodka, which is my current fave. One thing I like about old school cocktails is how they're not super sweet, even if they have sugar in them. It's more about taking alcohol and adding soda, lemon and a little sweetness to make them easier to drink, it seems, and Town Talk's Tom Collins fits the bill just right.
My lovely dining companion got a Stilleto, which is mostly bourbon, a little amaretto and a whole bunch of fresh lemon juice. The amaretto eases up the bourbon a bit, while the lemon counterbalances the sweetness of the amaretto. It's one of those exceedingly simple drinks that it seems has disappeared from most bars. Maybe you can walk into a lot of bars, tell 'em you want a Stinger, and you'll get what you want, but it sure doesn't seem like it.
Lastly, I tried a gin fizz, which I was getting confused with a flip. Really, I was gunning for something with a raw egg in it, which I want to try, but am kind of scared of. So the gin fizz is gin (I picked Hendrick's, natch), lemon juice, sugar and sparkling water. So I guess not all that different than a Tom Collins, but I found it more refreshingly lemon-y than the Tom Collins. It seemed whipped and, well, fizzier, which is all to the good. Calley said if she had to drink gin, this would be the way she would do it.
We had drinks with dinner, but there is an actual bar portion which has been converted from the original diner. So instead of a high, wooden bar, you get a low-slung counter with swiveling seats, not unlike the one at Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown. So, it's a bit novel, and it looks like it gets a bit crowded around the bar on the weekend nights, what with people waiting for tables and all. Still, the atmoshpere is convivial, and not rushed or harried. There's plenty of staff, which makes everything run super-smoothly, it seems. (McPHERSON)