The former Lyndale Grill and Grocery long offended local copy editors and graphic designers with signage that featured schlocky clip art and advertised “Medeterenian” cuisine.
Its replacement, the Nightingale, gives the space a trendier, more upscale aesthetic, with exposed-brick walls, tufted-leather booths, and moody lighting. In terms of ambiance, the new bar/restaurant is classier than co-owner Jasha Johnston’s former place of employment (Mortimer’s) but more casual than his wife/business partner Carrie McCabe-Johnston’s (Restaurant Alma). The Nightingale’s nightlife beats to a quicker pulse than the nearby dive bars and chalkboard-menu cafés. But it also draws an unexpectedly mature crowd—I’ve never seen so much silver hair in the neighborhood, outside of a 6 a.m. yoga class at the Y.
McCabe-Johnston’s menu is designed for contemporary diners, who tend to reserve $28 entrées for special occasions and, for everyday eating, spread the same sum across a small plate, a salad, and a craft cocktail. These mix-and-match items are often excellent—the grilled bread topped with a rich white-bean spread, smoked pork shoulder with grits and roasted red pepper, a well-seasoned burger—but can misfire, as was the case with the grainy pot de crème and the greasy, under-salted onion rings. (Kudos to our savvy server who offered, unprompted, to take them off the bill.)
The kitchen’s daring flavor pairings can hit off notes—the crab-chorizo-leek bruschetta had an oddly bitter flavor—but, more often, they create innovative harmonies. Steak tartare pairs seamlessly with a sunchoke’s grassy, vegetal flavor; shredded duck confit and earthy beets are smartly accented with the sharpness of arugula and pumpernickel; a market salad combines fresh figs, shaved fennel, and jack cheese. The scallops receive the most creative treatment, partnered with green grapes and a creamy almond purée, inspired by Spanish white gazpacho. The flavors really sing.
2551 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-7060