The three most heart-thumping words in the English language, I’ll contend, are not those on your Valentine card. It’s these: meat and three.
Nothin’ says lovin’ like that short-order concept celebrated in the Deep South, wherein you step up to the counter, choose your protein, point to the sides of your particular persuasion, then sink your teeth into soul food straight from Heaven.
Lynhall, the Lyn-Lake food emporium, doesn’t give its menu that homespun label, but that’s the concept. Yessir!
You enter the white, bright, ultra-inviting dining room, amble up to the counter and parlay your choice of homey cuts of meat to the cashier ($14–$19), choose your sides (three for $15 or $6 each, definitely sized for sharing) and pick out a table at which to enjoy a relaxing beverage. (And here’s the Minnesota improvement on the scheme: You don’t have to settle for “Co’Cola” or sweet tea. Beer, wine and craft cocktails are part of the picture.)
Add a salad ($10) if you like: Cobb, beet & arugula or root vegetable. We did and had to bow under pressure and beg for a doggie bag.
Yummy? You bet: batons of roasted winter veggies frolicking with cubes of cheddar and crunchy candied walnuts, all subtly sweetened by stewed winter fruits, then brightened with mustard vinaigrette. A meal in itself.
Back to the real deal: Choose roast chicken, garlic pork shoulder or braised short ribs. The boneless beef proved pull-apart tender, radiant with the sweet-savory impact of caramelized onion jus and bass note of balsamic, my pick. My pal voted for the pork, massaged with a rosemary-garlic marinade, then roasted until it, too, melted at the mere sight of a fork. Each comes with “house bread”: this night, a shiny glazed dinner roll as big as a grapefruit, good for mopping the succulent juices.
Now comes the hard part.
You’d think picking three out of eight possible sides would be a task a grown woman could master without a meltdown, but … pass the Kleenex. The Parmesan polenta is a definite must, creamy as porridge thanks to a dash of olive oil (but sparing on cheese, which turned out to be OK; the mild corn flavor carried the day). The crispy Brussels sprouts were another slam dunk, their gently blackened leaves enriched, masterfully, with bits of salty blue cheese, sweet roasted garlic and more of the winter fruits. We fought over this one, too.
The mac and cheese — his choice — provided tender, almost filmy torchio pasta enrobed in a light Parmesan fondue under garlic breadcrumbs. OK, but not four-star. A dish of white beans stewed with kale, livened with preserved tomato, olive oil and the kitchen’s mirepoix proved too salty to linger over. (That’s more than three, you wise guys are wagging your fingers? Well, just too bad!)
Next time, the staff’s overlooked recommendation of roasted mushrooms. Or maple-braised collard greens. Fried new potatoes with cheesy Grana Padano and chili flakes. Or frites, if you really must.
Soups also are on offer ($5 cup) as well as elegant desserts from the in-house pastry maven, but that’ll have to wait for next time, too.
Plenty of reasons to return. And that includes the welcoming atmosphere, where couples, groups — book clubs, revolution planners, whatever — are encouraged to sit themselves down and linger.
2640 Lyndale Ave. S.