Not so long ago, our most culinarily ambitious restaurants were concentrated in downtown Minneapolis: Aquavit, Goodfellow’s, D’Amico Cucina. But the balance of power has shifted. Between Tilia, Piccolo, and Corner Table, and their ilk, the city’s neighborhood eateries have largely outstripped in interest those in its core.
Heyday follows this trend, as chef/co-owner Jim Christiansen, a veteran of several Tim McKee restaurants, left Union’s glass-enclosed pedestal on Ninth and Hennepin for more modest Lyn-Lake digs. Leaving behind big-business bosses (Union is owned by the Crave empire) and two levels of dining rooms has freed Christiansen to create a more intimate, personal experience. The concept can go too far, as when one zealous server kept addressing her customers as “friends”—a term that should be reserved for someone you really click with, not just someone whose picture you clicked. But overall, the rustic-chic space, where burnished wood meets sparkly chandeliers, has a cozy-but-hip vibe. (Long gone is the sticky trace of Sunnyside Up, whose over-easy attitude extended to the staff’s lax approach to wiping the syrup off the oilcloth table covers.)
Heyday’s menu reads almost short enough for an ambitious cook’s home dinner party, and many plates function as midsize, mini-entrées versus full-meal mains. Christiansen has a delicate touch with the chili-dusted lamb tartare and cold asparagus with Parmesan, but the chicken liver tart is the must-order appetizer, delightful for its ethereal, mousse-like texture and rhubarb-compote topping. Christiansen incorporates unusual ingredients—lamb belly, pork neck, nettles—without seeming showy and creates pairings whose simplicity belies their ingenuity (branzino with avocado and pistachio; monkfish with yogurt and pine nuts; a beet-and-tequila cocktail). He’s figured out how to make sophistication look easy, a hallmark of popular success.
2700 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-200-9369 • heydayeats.com