At south Minneapolis’ new café/food incubator, will the eats live up to the looks?
Brioche with avocado and vegetables
photos by terry brennan
Jason: Is there a more photographed restaurant than the Lynhall, on Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis? Who can resist the urban farmhouse chic, with reclaimed wood tables and grooved wooden boards on the walls?
Joy: It’s like an episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper brought to life.
Jason: The concept is all-encompassing: part all-day neighborhood café; part TV kitchen studio for aspiring YouTubers to rent to make videos; part commercial kitchen where hopeful entrepreneurs can perfect their granola and kombucha; and part event space for foodie-minded celebrations.
Joy: It’s an ambitious idea to serve the food community on so many fronts. I couldn’t help but wonder if there were too many businesses-within-a-business to execute successfully.
Jason: My initial experience with the Lynhall café’s takeout had me fearful that the place was all looks and no substance. Both the kale salad with turmeric couscous and dried apricot and the beet farro salad with goat cheese and snap peas reminded me of something I’d get at a grocery store deli counter. Not bad, but not great. Not enough flavor, zip, or excitement.
Joy: When I visited, most staffers had the fearful look of a new employee not certain how things work. And helpful explanations were lacking. A German pilsner, for example, was described only as being “a light-yellow color.”
Molasses-roasted carrots savory tart
Jason: By my second visit, they’d amped up the seasonings. The savory tart with molasses-roasted carrots had beautiful contrasting flavors and a lovely crust.
Joy: The pistou soup was another vegetable-based dish I loved, especially its bright-green, Instagram-ready color. But I had a bad experience with what the menu described as a steamed bun—the large dough ball was overly chewy, as was the pork belly inside.
Jason: The rotisserie meats are great for takeout. There’s a juicy, tender roast chicken at $15 for half a bird. The roasted lamb leg seasoned with the North African spice mixture ras el hanout seemed expensive at $19 for a half pound, but it was tender, rich, and perfectly cooked.
Lemon custard with fresh berries
Joy: I thought $15 was a lot to pay for half of a rotisserie chicken that had the same texture as one from a supermarket. Salt was the only seasoning I tasted on the skin, which was so leathery I could have fashioned a saddle out of it. Where’s my crispy chicken skin?
Jason: There are also service issues. The room feels like it was designed by a graphic artist, not a restaurant person, so traffic flow is confusing. (Do I walk to the register to order? Do I order in front of the glass case displaying the baked goods?) And the too-cute table numbers are on short stands that make them almost invisible to the food runners. Also, the bar was way understaffed on my dinner visit, so our cocktails didn’t arrive until we had already been eating for 15 minutes.
Joy: The Lynhall has some kinks to work out, but it’s promising.
The Lynhall Quick Tips
Who’s Using It: Ad agencies are renting the kitchen studio, as are chefs videotaping live cooking classes. The event space is popular with small weddings and grooms’ dinners.
Drinks: Bittercube wrote the menu and pre-mixes the cocktails. Bartenders pour and garnish.
2640 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-870-2640, thelynhall.com