This week the lights switched on at a familiar façade on East Lake Street. The Town Talk Diner was originally built in 1946 and fed nearby factory workers. The restaurant has experienced several incarnations in the ensuing years and this week, the lightbulbs set into the turquoise sign switched on again. This time, the restaurant lives as Le Town Talk Diner and Drinkery.
The restaurant is owned by husband and wife team Emilie Cellai Johnson and Ben Johnson, both of whom are industry veterans. Emilie has a degree in restaurant and hotel management that she earned in her native Marseilles. She once worked at a restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower and was a part of the opening team for Patrick’s Bakery. Ben has worked with D’Amico & Partners.
If you’re going to include the word “drinkery” in your name and exist with the ghosts of the Minnesota craft cocktail scene that haunt this bar, you had better nail down the cocktail list. The menu lists classics all served with a bit of a twist. A julep is mixed with Prosecco and Calvados, the Manhattan takes a detour through Wisconsin and is served with brandy. The best I sampled was the PS I Love You, a summery little kiss.
Gin is mixed with lemon verbena syrup, fresh lemon juice and a twist of cucumber, served on a toothpick like vegetal ribbon candy. For $7 is a perfect balance of sweet, tart and crisp flavors. The coup glass allows the nose to ruminate over the verdant perfume. On the tongue and palate the gin skips across the tongue, as the sweetness snakes over your taste buds while the lemon tickles the edge of your palate. It’s the perfect cocktail for these warm, early autumn evenings.