The Lyndale Tap House in Uptown, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Uptown’s newly opened Lyndale Tap House seems to exist not so much as a casual pub-grub eatery, but as a middle finger extended toward Danny Schwartzman of Common Roots, whose eco-everything establishment does business right down the block. Despite having “tap house” in its name, only two of the Lyndale’s 17 draft beers are local (three if you count Leinie’s). The fish and chips is made with Atlantic cod, which rates an all caps red AVOID on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. And the atmosphere is a too-dark, too-loud typhoon of “dude-brah.” If I’d been given a quarter for every time the guy at the table next to me said the word “blowjob,” I could’ve bought a $4.50 Mich Ultra for the already sozzled fratern-o-winner at the bar who was attempting to force innocent bystanders to join him in a semi-coherent sing-along to “Rock With You.”

In fact, the Lyndale Tap House has, in the few short weeks since its opening, already developed an atmosphere as toe-tappingly cretinous as that of Cowboy Slim’s. This is no doubt a tribute to the business plan for this restaurant, which seems to be a sound one in principle — pack ‘em in, crank the tunes, dim the lights, and keep the beer flowing.

If this doesn’t turn you off — if you are, in fact, thinking: “Thank God, the last thing we need is the return of Cafe Agri,” then you’ll probably be pleased to hear that food at the Lyndale Tap House is absolutely within the target demographic’s comfort zone, and that some of it actually works quite well.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

House-made pretzel batons ($5) may be the best thing on the menu, and that’s no knock. They’re presented like flowers in a vase, served with an over-sweet mustard and a ravishingly creamy cheddar-ale dip. They’ve got a great crispy-chewy exterior, a balanced level of salt, and a nice substantial interior crumb. These are carbs of a truly high order.

The Tap House hamburger ($8) is also surprisingly solid — a harmonious balance between meat, bun, and toppings, decent char on the meat, a bit of pink in the interior, and, overall, an unpretentious, old-school bar-food dinner experience.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

For all the hubbub (prime menu placement and online chatter) about the Baltimore-style Pit Beef ($9), the sandwich itself is disappointing. Here’s a likely series of events: Excited by the “moist and delicious” buzz, you order the Pit Beef. It arrives. You take a bite, acknowledge, yep, that’s a roast beef sandwich, and then regret not ordering the hamburger. If you’re sold on the Pit Beef mystique, a better move is to order the Philly (also $9); the addition of cheddar cheese sauce and grilled red peppers brings a great deal of needed zip and interest.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Messy plating was sometimes a problem at the Lyndale. Both the Maple Glazed Pork Belly ($7.50) and Garlic Sausage Bite ($8) appetizers involve crostini and wet sides (spicy peach marmalade and pickled bric-a-brac, respectively). But in both cases, the plates seemed to have stuff strewn about almost at random, and the Maple Glazed Pork plate was swimming in a pool of marmalade juice. Neither was more than the sum of its (relatively likable) parts. And both seemed a little highbrow for their surroundings, no doubt secretly longing to have been properly prepared and served over at The Craftsman.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

That was the Good, and the Ugly. Now for the Bad: When I ordered the Ale Chicken, it was a $14 disaster that our waiter was kind enough to remove from the bill. A topping of dry, limp coleslaw did nothing to rescue a dry-as-a-bone interior and damn-near-flavorless skin. Say what you want about opening month jitters; cooking a chicken properly ain’t biogenetics. In theory, the idea and appeal of this dish was a head-scratcher, and in practice, it was a disaster.

Normally at this type of establishment, you can count on dessert to be a saving grace — but although the Oatmeal Apple Toffee Crisp with Barley Malt Ice Cream ($6) sounded pretty scrumptious, it came out tasting like a soggy, oatmeal-heavy run-of-the-mill crisp, with little apple, toffee, or barley malt flavor in evidence.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Peaches & Cream Bread Pudding ($6) was far worse. Featuring big hunks of bread (and not much in the way of peaches or cream), this stuff seemed as though it’d been microwaved before being presented — the bread, far from being soft and yielding, gave an audible and comic “clonk” when tapped with a spoon. And if you have the courage to journey to the center of one of these golfball-sized croutons, you will reach a dry and forgotten place where none of the “dessert” actually managed to penetrate — regular old bread, in other words.

In short: It’s hard to tell what’s actually going on at Lyndale Tap House, and how things are going to play out in the months to come. It’s clear that certain aspects of the restaurant (the beer list, the loud, sometimes terrible music, the indifferently or poorly prepared menu items) don’t square up with other aspects (an ambitious and locally unique overall menu concept, a friendly and efficient waitstaff, the occasional culinary moment of clarity such as the pretzels).

Lyndale Tap House could easily go a couple of ways — it could straighten out and fly right, emerging as a chic bar eatery resembling the glory days of Bulldog NE… or it could wallow in its status as a pricey off-campus student bar for nitwits, conveniently located near the condos of Uptown. A basic  understanding of entropy suggests a tragic outcome, but hope springs eternal.

BEST BET: The pretzels. They’re original, they’re house-made, and they’re dead on.

The Lyndale Tap House
½☆☆☆ (Flawed)

2937 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612.825.6150
OWNER: Gene Suh
HOURS:
Mon-Fri 4pm-2am
Sat-Sun 11am-2am
BAR: Full
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-15

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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37 Comments

  1. Nicely written review, I’ll be sure to not check this place out.

  2. Swineheart10/26/2009Reply

    Biogenetics? Do you mean Genetics, a term that by definition refers to biology?

  3. Great review Jim. While I probably would have been interested in giving the place a go last week (Emilysaysso loves it), the last thing I need in my life is a bar full of douchebags and shitty beer. Pass.

  4. Jim, awesome review. So well written, and with so much fun and flavor. I feel like I’ve been to this place several times, and I know exactly what to expect if I take a wrong turn and end up there. I’d feel worse about it, if not for the Atlantic cod – sheesh! Great pictures too, Becca!

    Thanks also for the nods to a couple of my absolute favorite places nearby, Common Roots (they’re doing more Surly specials this week) and the Craftsman.

  5. Wow, only two local beers on draught? Out of 17 lines? That’s incredibly disappointing. I was actually excited to check these guys out soon, but no longer. Thanks for saving me the trip.

  6. Lyndale Tap House doesn’t know what it wants to be. Everything is a little off, from the food, to the music choices and volume, to the servers. In that sense it’s a lot like Loring Kitchen . . . a place with more investor money than vision. That people continue to line up in the rain for fish and chips in NE yet this place is less than busy even on weekends is evidence that it’s confusing potential customers as well.

  7. Wow! I really think this is a bit unfair. Living in the neighborhood, we have been to the Tap House several times. Yes, I agree they should carry more local beers. In fact, we mentioned this to them. They did try to get Surly, but there is a two year waiting list. They are new and plan on changing the beers they have on tap. Give them a chance. And as for the food, don’t eat the fish and chips then! They have a lot of very good food. None of our friends have complained about it. Guess I’m just a douchebag!

  8. Author

    The way I’ve heard “biogenetics” used is to differentiate the actual manipulation of DNA and other genetic material from the study of it. But “genetic engineering” would have been a better choice.

  9. It’s true that we foodies know, like, everything about good food and stuff. But what % of the buying public are we? I have yet to go to Williams or Cowboy Slims or Sneaky Petes or Bootleggers, which I’ve heard are largely populated by these same backward-hatted early – 20’s douchebags, but they seem to be PRINTING money based on liquor sales and head counts.

    I suppose I’ll have to check this place out myself to see whether it’s really this offensively bad. Maybe then I can decide for myself whether the naysayers (James Norton and Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl among them) are more highly evolved beings, or if they just suffer from stick-in-the-mud-itis.

  10. A friend and I visited on Wednesday independently of this review. Thought it was interesting the guys that came up to the bar next to me ordering rounds of shots that should only be made and served at bachelorette parties. On a Wednesday.

    And the pretzels, despite a dissenting point of view, are indeed pretty darn good.

    They are doing something right: went to neighboring Sauce afterwards and it was comparatively empty. Perhaps it’ll tone down after the newness wears off.

  11. I guess I should lump Adam Platt in that highly-evolved category as well. C’mon, people…douchebags are people, too.

  12. This review is a real surprise to me.I live in the neighborhood,am
    46 and at least I dont think im a d b.
    i have been in twice and only once was the crowd too loud for my
    tastes.That may have been because of the kickball teams that were there.The food I have had has all been very good.The pit pork i had
    was a little messy but very tasty.
    I also dont see any way to relate this place to Common Roots.
    Totallly different concept.One is a bar\restaurant.The other is
    a coffee shop\restaurant that also has beer and wine.I for one
    like both places and hope both succeed.

  13. Sheesh Mr. Norton- undies in a twist? I have been to the tap house 4 times, do not believe I am a douchebag, ( but perhaps that is the hallmark of douchebaggery- not sure)and am confident that the place has potential. Yes- its a pub, with a pub feel and girlies on the walls. The food is, however, excellent- each time I have found a new favorite- Shells and Cheese anyone? I would have to say- no food writer worth his proverbial salt, should go just once to a restaurant and poop all over the food and atmosphere. Try it again. On a different night. See if you missed anything. I bet you did.

  14. Oh yes, shells and cheese would be my number one thing to order when I’m out for dinner!

  15. Author

    Angela — I went twice, bringing guests along both times. No food writer worth his or her proverbial salt could have experienced what we did and not put together a mixed-to-critical review. Also, and this is just a brief aside, I haven’t used the word “douchebag” at all… beyond, of course, this comment. I didn’t mention the shells and cheese in my review because they were prepared at a Noodles and Company level — totally acceptable melted cheese-based comfort food, but not a lot to talk about.

  16. This could be akin to when foodies descend upon Lyndale Tap House…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi72SzPgzs0

    :D

  17. Do we think anyone actually considers themselves a douchebag?

  18. No. You didn’t use the word “douchebag,” but is nitwit really much better??

  19. I think ‘douchebag’ rolls off the tongue much better than ‘nitwit’ but ‘douchebag’ is my word of choice when it comes to people who believe that a loud bar serving mediocre food should be hailed by everyone who walks through its doors–especially when it can be compared to such high-class establishments as Noodles and Co–so you shouldn’t really listen to what I have to say on this particular subject.

  20. I’d really like it if when people were trying to come up with a good word to insult men, that they didn’t use a word that is super degrading to women. Actually it would be better if none of us tried to insult each other, nice concept, right?

  21. Can I just say that I’m proud to be the first person to bring the word douchebag to this comment stream? Sorry Jim :)

  22. Shogunmoon10/26/2009Reply

    Whether a place is high brow enough or not doesn’t matter. Not every place needs to serve Surly. I can choose to go someplace that does easily enough.

    However, justifying the genocidal overfishing of certain species under the guise of “personal choice” is hardly fair, and selfish in the extreme. It is MY personal choice that my children have the opportunity to be able to eat fish in fifty years. Unfortunately, if restaurants are still doing this crap in 2009, that will be impossible.

  23. becareful it’s a fine line between a foodie and a food snob.

  24. cocobanana10/27/2009Reply

    This review rocks because this place needs to know what’s wrong and do something about it. I live in the neighborhood and had hoped for something as good as JP once was, even though I expected it to be different – and thought to myself “this is close to awesome, minus the douchebaggery!”.

  25. Just in the interest of balance, I just want to offer my praise of your reviews. I appreciate that you are willing to be honest about your experience, and not resort to bland platitudes and wishy-washy commentary just to please a few nitwits and douchebags who think you shouldn’t use words like that.
    I walked in the place once with a friend and it was wall-to-wall frat boys so we bailed and ended up at Sauce, was surprisingly much less douche-y. Who knew?

  26. Ok review, but I think it misses the point: the Lyndale Tap House is a thoughtfully crafted, extra slick simulation of a great neighborhood bar/restaurant. If you could put it in one of those pseudo-downtown/malls or Las Vegas it would be perfect.

    I’ve been twice.

    First time: Great service (really, top notch), hit and miss on the food and WTF is up with the beer list? This place actually has “Tap House” in the name and I’m looking at a beer list that Hooters would be embarrassed about (assuming such a thing is possible). Douchey? Sure, but no more douchey than say, Bulldog, which I assume this place is trying to be an approximation of.

    Second time: Ok, we’re in the neighborhood and meaty bar food sounds good. Service? So bad that after waiting (at the bar, with menus in hand) while the hip, attractive, douchey bartender flirted with hipper, more attractive and, one can only assume, more douchey patrons than us, we decided to go catch happy hour at Herkimer.

  27. We visited Lyndale Tap House on the Saturday of opening week. We were impressed that they carry Cane and Ebel beer from Two Brothers in Warrenville, IL…. absolutely top-drawer beer. And like a previous comment says, not every place has to serve Surly. That said, the beer list was fairly uninteresting, especially given the name of the establishment (which makes one think of lots and lots of interesting lines to choose from).

    As for the food… I had the pit pork, which was good but not over-the-top, except for portion size, which was OBSCENE. No one needs to have a mound of meat that size, and there are no options to order a smaller portion. Ridiculous. My companions had the pit beef, and both spent a good part of the meal pulling large chunks of inedible gristle or fatty/slimy tissue out of their sandwiches… one plate had probably a third of the total weight of the sandwich (also an obscene amount of food) in inedible stuff. And these guys are not shy about eating the tough bit of meat or occasional vein of gristle, but this was way out of line. The server didn’t seem to notice the huge piles of cast-off crap on their plates. Yes, we should have complained, but after shouting at each other throughout the entire meal in order to be heard, we didn’t feel like shouting at the server to complain.

    The problems we had were not the type that one expects with the first week of a restaurant… in other words, the gristly meat, excessive portions and weak beer line are not something that will become more smooth over time. Well, maybe those portions… I don’t see how they can continue to pile on that amount of meat for the price. Seems like it would break the bank.

  28. 1. I haven’t seen this much disdain for the unwashed masses since the RNC was in town.

    2. Maybe the Maple Glazed Pork isn’t the supercilious prig that you are and is thus not yearning to be at the Craftsman.

    3. Sozzled? I guess “sotted” and “soused” are entirely too pedestrian for people who drink nothing less than Surly — heaving forbid “drunk” or “wasted.” Dude-brah!

    4. While you’re bagging on the Atlantic cod, let me ask: How did you get to the Lyndale Tap House? The number 4? By bike? Let me guess: you drove! (I’ll bet the “cretinous” tenants from Blue at least walked over.)

  29. How about you drop that word from your vocabulary. People are people so get over it. It is uptown as well, so what kind of people do you expect?? The thing that I would have liked to see is a better vision in the design. There was a team hired to make this bar/restaurant happen, and it just looks like they were making decisions day by day. I went there one time and will go back for good reason. The mussel dish was good, and was the only dish we had. The cocktails were par. I happen to think the beer selection is just fine, but then again, I am not a fanatic. The staff is was great, but definitely had a slims vibe to them. I DO have to say that while they do not have everything together, they are a new establishment. Things have to be weeded out, and things should change, just give it time.

  30. Allan Prosser11/09/2009Reply

    This is the dumbest review I’ve ever read. I don’t agree with the author’s premise, sure, but the critique makes no sense. How does this place serve as a middle finger to Common Roots? Common Roots is four blocks away, is always well lit and is more of a place to hang out and maybe get a beer while reading or studying. It’s not a restaurant where you might stay for cocktails. Anyone looking for Common Roots won’t be looking for LTH. I’ve had a lot of the food there and some is good and some isn’t. I think the pit meats are fantastic, the fries are great and the shells & cheese are great. The burgers are burgers, greasy and tasty. The food is cheap and the happy hour specials are great. I’m not sure what the author was looking for in terms of a crowd, but it’s not full of younger twenties “douchebags.” It’s filled with late twenties to early thirties folks looking to have dinner and drink some beers. The music might get a bit loud later so maybe that’s something the staff can work on correcting. Overall it was a bar with great, cheap food. Nothing more nothing less. Plus you can order some 40 beers as opposed to the seven awful homebrews across the street.

  31. I have to say, I disagree. I have been to the Lyndale Tap House several times, and have never heard “douchebag” or “blowjob” while I was there. It is true that there is always sports on the TVs, but the people are friendly – and it is a (very good) sportsbar – just don’t go there when the Twins are playing a tiebeaker game in the ADLS series (as we did the first time!) The staff was friendly and helpful and the food was wonderful. Burgers and pit beef are both soooo good (as were fries), it was hard to choose between the two – which made the pit beef burger even better! And we are not beef eaters normally so are very careful about the beef we eat (I HATE gristle or poor-quality meat, etc.)! My husband is a big fan of IPAs and found the best one he has ever had there – I can’t remember the name, but one of two – and the beet salad was, although way too big, perfect – the beets were done perfectly, the cheese added a lovely salty-sour-creamy tang, and the vinaigrette dressing added the perfect sharp note. In the end, please just think of it as a really good meat-centered sports bar and then decide whether you want to go. Oh, and we found that as long as there isn’t something wildly popular on the TV, you CAN hold a decent conversation there!

  32. What a pathetic joint this place is. They really should control/keep an eye open for their drunk owners.

    All was fairly well but then went south when a guy fell back and stepped on my girlfriends foot. She asked for an apology and he wouldn’t give one. Then his friend which I could tell was a douchebag, also drunk, proceeded to demonstrate it all over again. It then turns out that this guy says he is an owner which I proceeded to ask for an apology. He was drunk and could hardly stand up but then he said he was going to kick us out. You could tell from the getgo that this guy had Napoleon Syndrome and it wasn’t going to go anywhere. We asked for a simple apology he wouldn’t give it.

    We left on our own and one of the bouncers said he (the “big” owner) does this every weekend. He is probably one of those guys that chip in a couple of bucks from Mom & Dad, then places his name on the minority ownership list. I believe his name was Anoob, but not quite sure.

    After reading reviews on other sites, this place has issues with customer service and rude staff it seems.

    Don’t go calling yourself the Tap House when you have a lot of junk on tap. The layout is horrible and your better off spending time at another establishment.

  33. Well I dont believe Anoob is an owner, but a partner actually if anything. Gene Suh would be that person. Sorry that you had a bad experience there. The place does kind of seem on the drab/confused side and I dont honestly see it being open past a year. Best of holiday to you..
    – Show quoted text -

  34. Bob Dobolina01/15/2010Reply

    I’ve been to college and it sucked. So I think I’ll skip the part where I hang around with people who are currently in college. I did that already (when I was in college) and I didn’t enjoy it. I suspect I’d enjoy it even less nowadays. Thanks for the heads-up. Over on the Google reviews site, someone said the place was entirely populated by “d-bags”. Not sure what the “d” stands for, but I suspect it’s not a good thing. Pass.

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