The former jP American Bistro is now the Lyndale Tap House.
By Rick Nelson, Star Tribune
“This place is beginning to grow on me,” said my friend, as we both looked around the animated, wall-to-wall opening-night crowd at the Lyndale Tap House.
I could see why. Despite a wacked-out heating and air conditioning system – it was a chilly-one-moment-toasty-the-next kind of evening – the former jP American Bistro has sprung back to life in a big way. Was a gastropub what Lyn-Lake needed all along?
To set his shop apart from all the other burgers-and-beer joints springing up all over town, owner Gene Suh has installed a charcoal-fired pit grill, where the kitchen crew (headed by chef Phil Dvorak) slow-roast beef and pork and slip the delicious results into a half-dozen sandwiches. The menu’s signature item takes a tall stack of that lusciously rare, slow-roasted beef, shaved thin and stacked high on a toasted bun and finished with a generous dollop of punchy horseradish sauce and tangy onions. It is, in a word, fantastic.
The menu also features five variations on the burger (including a blue cheese-bacon combo, grilled peppers-jalapeno aioli and a black bean-mushroom for vegetarians), fish and chips, beer-battered chicken, a turkey Sloppy Joe, a Waldorf salad flecked with wild rice, a sausage-pickle plate, pretzels with mustard and other rustic fare. It’s tough to find a price over $9.
A few modest design tweaks have smoothed over jP’s awkward floor plan. Walls have been removed, revealing a wide-open space flanked by a long, energetic bar (the layout reminds me a bit of the new Barrio in Lowertown St. Paul). Suh has dressed the space by commissioning paintings from Twin Cities artist Jason Dorweiller and, most notably, a series of color photographs by Viva Van Story, who channels a kind of modern-day Vargas Girl vibe.
Van Story's site-specific works (shot at a family-owned Black Angus farm near Annandale, Minn., so I suppose a person could toss in the locavore angle) feature leggy women in staged-for-maximum-silliness situations. While it might have been more amusing to feature male beefcake rather than female cheesecake -- the kitchen’s specialty is, after all, slow-roasted beef -- the images’ tongue-in-cheek quality are no more exploitative than, say, the slightly salacious female images that City Pages has trotted out for its “Best of the Twin Cities” issues over the years. My only complaint is that Van Story’s pinups-on-the-prairie have to compete, eyeballs-wise, with the visual cacophony that comes with a handful of giant flat-screen TVs.
Suh was originally going to call the place the Anchor; I wonder if the opening-any-second-now fish-and-chips shop of the same name in northeast Minneapolis had anything to do with his change of heart? For his first food-and-drink venture, Suh has wisely joined hands with Barrio partners Ryan Burnet, Tim Rooney and Josh Thoma (surely one of the busiest restaurateurs in town, what with his Solera-La Belle Vie-Smalley’s-Barrio collaboration with Tim McKee, not to mention Bar La Grassa, his soon-to-open partnership with 112 Eatery’s Isaac Becker), and these guys know how to deal with opening-night jitters.
I have hit my share of restaurant opening nights, and Tuesday's debut seemed to go off without a huge hitch. Value prices, big smiles, tons of beer choices and a knockout roast beef sandwich. Yeah, the Lyndale could definitely grow on me.
(Check it out: The Lyndale Tap House, 2937 Lyndale Avenue S., Minneapolis, 612-825-6150. Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday).