10 Bars for 2020: Meteor

A no-frills neighborhood bar reaches back to its craft cocktail roots to weather the storm 

Robb Jones, left, Elliot Manthey and Tyler Kleinow pose for a portrait at the Meteor Bar // Photo by Tj Turner

This article is part of our “10 Bars for 2020” feature. Read more stories of bars that are defining this moment in drinking. 

We just want to be a dive bar and have good cocktails, and the situation is not allowing for that,” says Robb Jones. “We have space for 24 people if we distance everyone six feet. If we did that—and had 24 people in there for two hours and everybody ordered two Hamm’s—we’d go out of business. We just can’t be in the same place that we were.”

When Jones and business partner Elliot Manthey opened Meteor last December, the concept was simple: Take a space that has been a legendary barroom since the early 1900s, hire a group of talented bartenders with whom they had worked at several Metro-defining cocktail bars, and serve up solid $8 drinks and cheap beer in a cozy atmosphere where their service industry friends could congregate.

By March, that business plan was thrown out with their waffle maker.

“Nobody cares about waffles, man,” Jones laughs. “I thought everyone would want waffles.” Instead, as the weeks of shutdown turned into months, and with the clock ticking on their PPP loan, Jones and company had to get creative.

“We were already thinking about doing hot dogs before the shutdown,” he says. “So I bought a hot dog roller. It was $140 and it paid for itself in the first three days. People went hot dog crazy. Not so much now that other places are open […] but there was like three weeks there where people thought we were a hot dog restaurant. It was great. It worked, and we’ll continue the hot dogs once we reopen.”

It was just one of the several pivots Jones found himself making, simply to stay in the conversation. “We weren’t making money, we were just staying relevant,” he admits. Besides hot dogs, they partnered with Minnesota Clear Ice to sell slushies, and a couple different liquor stores to sell cocktail kits.

But the next pivot is a brand new concept to reopen Meteor for cocktail service: a $60, curated three-cocktail experience. Guests will receive an aperitif, have a choice for their more over-the-top main cocktail, plus a dessert sip, all paired with small bites and a presentation about the spirit, history, and process of the cocktails they’re being served.

“It’s definitely temporary, but it’ll make the guests feel a little more at ease,” he says. “You’ll come in, you’re assigned a space, we’re going to take care of you the best we can. We can focus our attention on people because it won’t be three-deep with everyone calling for shots. And it’s something where my team can feel safe, too. We can control almost everything about the experience at that point. You have one choice to make, and everyone gets the same thing otherwise. We can pre-prepare things as much as possible—we don’t have to spend as much time right in front of guests. It will be fun and memorable, too. I think, hopefully, people are looking for an experience. That’s what we’ve been missing these last four months.”   

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.