SPEAKEASY NIGHTS AT YOUNG JONI
Follow the glowing red neon light to Young Joni’s Back Bar, a speakeasy hidden within an alley in Northeast Minneapolis
Images by TJ Turner/Minnesota Monthly
By Aubrey Schield
Chances are good that you’ve heard of the latest nightlife craze: the speakeasy. You’ve probably seen coded posts on social media and heard friends talk about their unforgettable night at “this underground bar in the alley behind McDonalds”. Perhaps you’ve even walked past one unwittingly, not noticing the unassuming lantern or specially-colored door acting as the secretive club’s storefront.
We all know where the speakeasy concept comes from—America’s great noble experiment, Prohibition. Well, long after that experiment failed miserably, speakeasies are still a big hit. We have several here in the Twin Cities, and each one offers a different spin on the underground (literally and figuratively) cocktail lounge. One of the newest ones that I am particularly excited about is Young Joni’s Back Bar.
Inside Young Joni’s speakeasy, the Back Bar.
To find the Back Bar, you’ll have to head to the alley between Chef Ann Kim’s latest dining conquest, Young Joni, and Dangerous Man Brewing Co. If you find yourself staring somewhat cluelessly down an empty alley, they’re closed. Sorry, come back another time. But, if you see a long strip lit with neon red, you’re in luck! The Back Bar is open.
Inside the slightly unfinished space that reminds one of their grandmother’s basement, bartenders sling drinks inspired by characters from the screen and our beloved Prince—I highly recommend the Paisley Park—and you can order one of Kim’s signature wood-fired pizzas off a modest menu of four options: cheese, pepperoni, sausage and sausage and pepperoni. And with the likes of mixologist extraordinaire Adam Gorski behind the bar, you can rest assured that every cocktail on the menu will be a hit.
The comfortable ambiance (think thrift-store-bought glassware, warmly dim lighting, comfy couches and a delightfully gaudy floral wallpaper backdrop) makes the Back Bar the perfect speakeasy to gather with friends and family. While these under-the-radar spots run the risk of being snooty, reserved-for-the-upper-brass hideouts for folks who want to show off their paychecks, the Back Bar is approachable, laid back and fun.
A Note on Young Joni
The third installment in Chef Ann Kim’s arsenal makes fine dining friendly and approachable. You’ll find the signature wood-fired pizzas
Kim is known for given the popularity of Hello Pizza and Pizzeria Lola alongside inventive twists on traditional favorites. A James Beard Best Chef Midwest semifinalist, Kim takes comfort foods from around the globe and presents them in enticing plates. Try the Korean beef short ribs with zesty chimichurri sauce, the meatballs served with kimchi, or the grilled wings accented with salsa, lime and cilantro. Try a bite of anything and it won’t take you long to understand why GQ named Young Joni one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in America this year.