New restaurant at Nicollet and 43rd aims for cozy, local dining experience

Heather Bray and Jodi Ayres have worked at fine restaurants with expensive food and a stuffy feel.

They want their new restaurant to be different; they want to provide a comfortable, neighborhood-dining experience that offers the ingredients of a “highbrow” establishment but the prices of a small pub.

So they’re calling their new restaurant Lowbrow, which will be in leased space next to rau + barber photography at 4244 Nicollet Ave. S.

“It’s the opposite of highbrow,” Bray said. “It’s where highbrow taste meets lowbrow style. The idea is that we just want to create a really accessible neighborhood restaurant with really fun, kind of reinvented classic tavern food, and we want to do it all from scratch.”

Bray is a shift supervisor at Ike’s Food and Cocktails in downtown and previously managed Lucia’s To Go in Uptown.

Ayres will run the kitchen. She previously cooked at Moose&Sadie’s downtown.

Ayres and Bray met working at the Birchwood Café in the Seward neighborhood. That’s where they were inspired by the idea of creating a small, neighborhood restaurant.

Before that, Ayres worked for several years in fine restaurant in Madison, Wis.

“I’ve really tried to get away from the fine dining world and more into comfortable scratch cooking, which is what I love to do,” she said.

Lowbrow will seat 73 and serve local beer and small-grower wine.

The menu?

“Jodi’s an amazing cook, and so she’s going to cook all this really great sort of classic tavern food, like burgers and fries, pork tacos and fish sticks. But all from scratch, nothing from freezer bags,” Bray said. “We’re also going to do it all from — whenever possible — locally sourced, family-farmed ingredients.”

As for the design, Bray and Ayres are taking advantage of a beautiful remodel that rau + barber did in 2007. The first-time restauraneurs are leasing half of rau +barber’s 8,600 feet that has hardwood floors and big windows.

“It’s a modern take on the classic, northwoods style bar/supper club,” Ayres said. “Those were the places I was in love with when I was a kid. Those small, little spots off the side of the highway when you’re up north”

Ayres and Bray expect Lowbrow to open in January.

Rau- + barber fans need not worry. The studio will remain open in the remaining space, said owner John Barber.