PHOTOGRAPHY BY BECCA DILLEY / HEAVY TABLE; ILLUSTRATIONS BY WACSO / HEAVY TABLE
This story is one of five capsule reviews from the Lyndale Avenue Checklist published in last Friday’s edition of the Heavy Table Churn newsletter. The other reviews include Five Watt Coffee, Bob’s Java Hut, Third Space Cafe, and Vegan East. To get the Churn (and three other original newsletters) every Friday, back the Heavy Table on Patreon.
Our Kitchen | 813 W. 36th Street | 612.825.3718
In a world that so often feels like it’s burning to the ground, we need more diners. Cozy, sunny places where constant clank and clatter and sizzle from a flattop can temporarily drown out hullaballoo outside. Where strangers can sit elbow to elbow at the counter and all agree on one thing: Breakfast is the happiest place on Earth.
In this regard, Our Kitchen has us covered. It’s tiny. About 18 people fit inside. (If you need more space, or you’re just not feeling the happy humanity vibes, you can sit at one of the tables outside.) The decor is…well, it’s a diner. You got your Formica counter, chrome trimmed stools, art-deco lighting—you know the drill. It’s bright and cheerful and buzzing with character. (And characters.)
Our Kitchen is a neighborhood institution. They’ve been flipping flapjacks here for 70 some odd years. And it operates the way these places have since the dawn of time. The servers call you “Sweetie” and “Hon” in that all-business, grandmotherly way that says, “I’m gonna take care of you, but don’t cross me.” There’s a single cook slinging every order of hash in the joint.
Related to this, a sign out front suggests, in a not-subtle way, that if you’re in a hurry, you may want to look elsewhere for your morning fix. But why would you be in a hurry to get out and face the world? Just stay here, soak up the sun and some greasy “World’s Best Hash Browns,” and for an hour or so, pretend all is right with the world. – M.C. Cronin
The rule of the house at Our Kitchen is: “Let the customer salt their own food.” Everything we tried that might regularly be seasoned (or overseasoned) – French fries, hash browns, a breakfast sandwich – was presented practically naked in terms of salt. With that important caveat, every food we tried, once salted, ranged from good to delicious, and it’s easy enough to shake that shaker when the time comes.
Sure, our California Burger and French Fries ($7.75) was an odd choice for breakfast, but it turned out to be really delicious. The fries reminded us of those at Five Guys (some of our favorites) – a lot of creamy potato flavor inside a crispy, textured exterior. Just add salt for a perfect bite! The burger itself was as basic as they come, but the American cheese added a perfect level of seasoning, the tomatoes were fresh and flavorful, the mayo was thick without being oppressive, and the whole package was unpretentious, nourishing and delicious.
The restaurant’s Pancakes ($11 for three) could not be more basic – fluffy, robust, voluminous, mild and retiring in flavor, and a terrific, absorbant vehicle for the ersatz maple syrup that comes standard at every table. I tend to like pancakes with a little more backstory and a troubled past, but these were big-hearted and trusting, and absolutely perfect for kids.
The restaurant’s Denver Breakfast Sandwich ($8 for an English muffin or toast with cheese, ham, onions, and green peppers) was satisfying in a classic American diner way – a good balance of meat, veg, dairy, and bread, with enough substance to launch and sustain you through a busy morning. Add salt.
And the Hashbrowns ($7 fully loaded with cheese, onion, tomatoes, green peppers, and jalapenos or mushrooms) were similarly substantial, with the added appeal of being truly crispy brown on the outside while retaining some internal creaminess. – James Norton