The newly opened The Lynn on Bryant, as a whole, is part of a Really Good Trend that city diners should be federally mandated to embrace. It’s one of a number of new restaurants firmly rooted in a neighborhood (in this case, Lynnhurst) that serve their neighbors and friends breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but strive for an excellence that transcends boundaries. Think The Kenwood, think Blackbird Cafe, think Wise Acre Eatery — it’s good stuff.
Based on the elegantly crafted menu, the “so classic it’s up-to-the-minute” signage, and the bright, polished sheen of the crisp New Nordic-esque interior, Owner Jay Peterson and Chef / Owner Peter Ireland clearly thought things through before opening the doors.
Meals at The Lynn on Bryant have revealed the following pieces of information:
2) The restaurant’s long-term success or failure may hinge on the tricky and sometimes explosive question of “value.”
3) Depending upon your personal taste, it may be currently making the best dessert in the Twin Cities.
One at a time, then.
The Lynn’s chef, Ireland, comes from a distinguished background including stints at Daniel in New York City, Gramercy Tavern, and Blackbird in Chicago. His mastery of technique shines in dishes such as a black cod with pickled pears, parsnip puree, and kale ($26), which was cooked to perfection — it’s easy for fish to taste dried out, or watery, or gamey, or any number of other deficiencies, and this particular piece was exactly as it should be, gently nudged into greatness by the fruit, puree, and greens that shared the plate.
And The Lynn dazzled with the roasted shoulder and sauteed tenderloin of pork with green cabbage, apples, and polenta in a spiced cider broth ($22), one of the best straight-up pork-focused dishes not incorporating pork belly or barbecue we’ve had in a long time. The crispy cabbage, poached fruit, and bright, tangy broth contrasted and supported the tender, savory pork.
A baby pumpkin with chestnut custard entree ($19) was a bit more of a puzzler, but it was ultimately a delight — by dipping the accompanying sauteed spinach, kaniwa, and / or roasted cauliflower into the custard, the diner could enjoy a novel, miniature fondue-like experience.
We were impressed also with the restaurant’s fricassee of escargots appetizer ($9, below), which used tasteful visual presentation to highlight delicately cooked snails that had an earthy, almost mushroom-like flavor and a pleasingly snappy texture. The escargots also served admirably as vehicles for the accompanying garlic and parsley purees.
Second, the question of value. It’s not a thing for a table of four to spend $200 for dinner, particularly when the dishes that hit the plates are as consistent and finely polished as those being served at the Lynn. It is, perhaps, a thing for a table of three to spend $70 for brunch. Our croque madame was $14. Keep in mind: It’s a ham and cheese sandwich.
Sure, the cheese is gruyere and the dish comes with a small salad and a fried egg. And yes, it was ably executed. But it’s still nothing more than a ham sandwich, markedly but not profoundly tastier or more nourishing than the English muffin with peanut butter and jam that I scored at The Lowry a couple weeks later for a couple of bucks.
And what kind of burger should you get for $13 or $14? Can it really be decisively tastier than the ones served up at the Nook, or Vincent’s at happy hour prices ($8)? No. The price is an assault on the sensible diner’s concept of fair commerce. The Lynn Burger ($14*) had little flavor beyond the (admittedly fine Grass Run Farms) beef, and the homemade English muffin and bearnaise were both overwhelmed by the meat’s massive, nearly half-pound size. It’s easier to be charitable about this sort of thing when the price is a bit lower, naturally.
*And here’s the twist. Just yesterday, The Lynn’s website removed its prices. I emailed Jay Peterson about it. He let me know that the restaurant was adjusting its approach.
“We’re playing around with pricing a bit based partly on conversations we’ve had with some of our neighbors and also on feedback we’ve received from our staff,” he wrote. “We’ve made changes on both the cafe menu and the dining room menu. For instance, we were serving the burgers with fries AND a salad (a pretty sizable portion), but we’ve lowered the price [to $10 for the Lynn, $9 for the Bryant] and we’re now offering the salad as an ala carte option.”
“Ultimately, we want folks from the neighborhood to feel comfortable stopping in for lunch or dinner on a frequent basis. But we also need to do a better job of stating that it’s grass fed beef, on a house-made English Muffin, with hand-cut fries.”
So: kudos to the Lynn, doing what every restaurant can, should, and must do — listening to its customers, and explaining its approach in clear and simple terms.
Finally, that dessert.
We tried and fell deeply in love with The Lynn on Bryant’s rustic fruit tart ($8). The damned thing cannot be improved upon. It comes out looking gorgeous, which immediately arouses suspicion, but then it goes on to prove that it’s not merely smart, but soulful, too — a perfectly balanced equation of flavor and texture, not too sweet or tart or soft or crunchy, every element working with willing accomplices to create light, flavorful, delicately spiced, and transportive mouthfuls of crispy pastry crust, thinly-sliced and butter-basted apples, and walnut praline. There may be other desserts as good as this somewhere in the state, but there can’t possibly be anything better. Housemade vanilla ice cream tops it off with a flourish. Lynn on Bryant Pastry Chef Abby Boone (formerly of Lucia’s and Trotter’s to Go) is clearly keeping up with the rest of the team.
There’s no question that The Lynn on Bryant is a worthy heir to Heidi’s and Blackbird, the restaurants that occupied this block before being burned out in a fire in 2010. And there’s no question that Chef Ireland as his team can turn out beautifully wrought food. I’d planned to wrap this review up with a question as to whether The Lynn on Bryant could keep its eye on the basic value prospect that drives especially breakfast and lunch customers, but the restaurant was a step ahead of me with the clear and steady answer of “affirmative.”
The Lynn on Bryant
Bistro in Lynnhurst, Minneapolis
5003 Bryant Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
CHEF AND OWNER: Jay Peterson and Peter Ireland
RESERVATIONS: Yes for dinner
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE PRICE: $19-26