I was at the Hi-Lo Diner, on Lake St. in Minneapolis. I had, a couple hours earlier, cursed this street for its lack of gas stations. I eventually found one, though it took a 15-minute wait and a little car contortion to actually get to a pump, but my car was safely fueled and I had quit cursing Lake St.
Now here I was, with another empty tank, standing in a restaurant that was driven? Airlifted? Somethinged out here from Pennsylvania. I took another look around and all I could do was mouth “Nooooo shit!” to myself.
Every surface in the place offered reflection — metal up there, glass over there, a shiny table in front of me — and I got a really good view of myself. My hair was disheveled and wet. I was in one of my … less sexy … beard phases.
I was told I was looking at a 20-minute wait, even dining solo, but I was in a seat at the bar counter before I could even decide what I would have gotten had I decided to stay, which I hadn’t even decided if I was going to but I wasn’t quite willing to go back into the rain. I found warmth, in a few forms, at the Hi-Lo Diner that night.
It began with an ice cream cocktail.
The Basics: Look at those hours! The menus and location can all be found right there on the website. It’s easy to navigate: about, menu, shop, done. It’s got everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
They sell double cheeseburgers, sandwiches, breakfast wares and a few other diner staples, but what you need to have is a Hi-Top. These are meals, served on donuts. I waffled between the Yum Yum Yum and the Maine Squeeze, and asked my waitress for help.
“The yum yum yum was the first food item any of us knew about coming into the job,” she said, “so you could imagine seeing that like whaaaaat!”
I ordered that, and an Aaron Brrrr. The Brrrr was well-blended and easy to drink. Think back to when you were young, waterside on a sunny day, with a banana split from an ice cream shop nearby. Now take that split, stuff in into a blender, and pour in a good helping of booze. Rain or shine, you’ll have a good friend in Aaron Brrrr.
The short rib pulled apart like butter, savory, marvelous. The slaw was crispy, with just a little zing. The donut and its glaze didn’t butt in. The Viking in me would have wanted more pork, but I’d say that about a silo full of pork. So good was the Hi-Top, I ordered a Venus Pie Trap to bring home to my wife.
The two high tops, tax, and a good tip landed me right at $40 and I was okay with that price. Service was excellent; the hostess and my waitress both knew the history of the place and guided me well.
I walked past a table of big-bearded, slick-haired hipsters, past a family crammed into a booth, and thanked my hostess again at the front. I buttoned my jacket’s fourth button (my third one is still dismembered, on my desk back at home), stroked my unfortunate facial hair, and stepped back out into the rain.
Editor’s note: My nickname for hipsters was replaced by the word “hipsters” shortly after publication. It was an inside joke few would’ve gotten.