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With Jam Cocktails and Snacky Delights, Luna & the Bear Brightens its Eat Street Address

OK, fine, its *26th Street* address.

Facebook: Luna & the Bear

This summer simply refuses to end, and you know what? That’s no problem. We’re going to make the best of it. We’re going to drink fun gin cocktails on the patio alllll through October.

Such was the impetus for a recent visit to Luna & the Bear, the new bar and restaurant in the home of the former Eat Street Social (18 W. 26th St., Minneapolis), which closed in March after 11 years. 

Open since July, Luna & the Bear comes from partners Eli Wollenzien and Deacon Eells, whose restaurant portfolio includes the underrated south Minneapolis bar Buster's on 28th in addition to the two Coalition Restaurants. You can see that lineage at L&TB—it’s laid-back and neighborhoody, but with a slightly more sophisticated vibe. The servers might be in aprons, but they have the same warmth and hospitality you’d expect to meet you over on 28th.

Em Cassel

So, about those gin drinks. Luna & the Bear’s clever cocktail menu includes a selection of “Gin & Jams” ($13), a mix-and-match situation that lets you choose from a column of gins and a column of jams to create a cocktail that’s all yours. Shaken with simple syrup and fresh lemon juice and served with a bump of jam, no two are quite alike—the sweet and hot piquillo pepper jam lent a different flavor to Jin Jiji India Dry Gin than it did Corsair Distillery’s Barrelled Gin, and peach jam, paired with either, was a wholly different experience. The result of each is kind of gimlet-adjacent— simple, but with a little more depth. 

We also liked the Bear Paw ($14), which matches Jeppson’s Bourbon—did you know Jeppson’s did more than Malört?—with maple, chai, and mint for a refreshing and more autumnal drink. The Best Friends Forever Daiquiri ($14) was so good (and so strong) that we ordered a round for the table. 

Around this time, as storm clouds rolled in and lightning flashed ominously in the distance, we asked if we might relocate to a table under a roof. (“I could just get you an umbrella?” our server quipped.) Indoors, we took in the minimally updated space, which feels lighter and brighter than its predecessor. The dining room has been painted in a hue some might uncharitably call Millennial Gray, but it still feels inviting. There’s a little den-like nook, one of a few places where a splash of wallpaper adds warmth to the room, and a pair of dog portraits decorate one wall; that’s Luna and the Bear, from whom the restaurant gets its Portlandia-esque name. 

Em Cassel

It’s a perfect place in which to enjoy a bunch of snacky appetizers—and how we enjoyed those snacky appetizers. Pickled jalapeño poppers ($14) were mild in heat but bursting with flavor, good dunked in mixed-berry jam, but ideal slathered with bacon cream cheese. If your vibe is a little cheffier than “bacon cream cheese,” there’s a decadent steak tartare ($19.50), dotted with briny capers and snappy sprouts, that’s heaven on a slice of crusty bread.

Things fell apart a little once we moved on to more substantial fare. A top sirloin with bearnaise ($28) arrived with broccolini that had been overcooked to near inedibility (though the steak itself was tender and expertly seasoned); roasted carrots served alongside the blackened catfish and shrimp ($21.50) weren’t close to cooked enough (though the cheesy grits that made the bed of that dish were one of the better things we ate). 

At that price point, those things matter… though, not enough to prevent us planning a return trip. 

Sure, our croque monsieur ($15.50) may have been more like a simple grilled ham and cheese than the cheese-encrusted, béchamel-filled sandwich we were expecting, but I was already full after wolfing down most of a basket of peppery “house-cut” fries. Advertised accompanied by a sauce trio, the perfectly crispy, just-thicker-than-average fries in fact came with a sauce quad… perhaps ketchup is too standard to count? 

No matter. We ended up dunking them in the leftover bacon cream cheese anyway.

Luna & the Bear
18 W. 26th St., Minneapolis
Monday - Friday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

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