“Maven” crept into our lingo from the Yiddish — a word meaning “trusted advisor,” as I strive to be for you when it comes to eating out.
It’s that role a trio of owners professes to undertake on the subject Jewish deli food at the new Meyvn (original spelling) in LynLake.
I have no idea what their grandmothers cooked for them, but I do know that their combined resumes in the local hospitality industry are long and strong. (Among them, Tim Niver was the cocktail genius at the original Town Talk, then, along with his current partners, invigorated St. Paul with Strip Club, Saint Dinette and Muccci’s Italian.) They’re not averse to planting the flag in hitherto-unexplored culinary terrain in our towns.
So, what’s the deal this round?
For starters, don’t expect a redux of the venerated Lincoln Del — the closest the city has come to introducing local Norwegians to scary stuff like schmaltz and chopped liver. But bagels, yes, and wood-fired.
Because I stopped in for dinner, I’ve yet to taste them. But for the record, my gold standard is the chewy Montreal variety.
Instead, we started with matzo ball soup (small plates $5–$13). Of course your bubbe’s is the best, but second to that, this version is, in a word, comforting.
The cure-all bowl steams with a clear, herb-enriched broth lapping egg noodles, bits of carrot and such and generous shards of chicken. But the big challenge is, of course, the matzo ball. This kitchen’s is firmly packed, yet yields to a spoon.
Latkes? Of course.
The menu offers those plump, come-hither potato pancakes served with crème fraiche (in lieu of plain-old sour cream), apple butter and beets. And that’s what we should have ordered.
Instead, a special Hanukkah menu touted truffled latkes, which we summoned. Who’s to kvetch? Me, that’s who. They arrived shaped like dominoes — thin and crisp and not much else.
Next, pierogies — here, tinier than the usual format (just because, I guess), stuffed with mild farmers cheese and topped with explosive little bubbles of herring roe for welcome, slightly salty, contrast. Bigger, in this case, would definitely be better. (Okay, so I’m greedy.)
It gets even better.
The shakshouka — Israel’s answer to morning-after food — is mighty tasty. Feisty, too, roiling with sweet stewed tomatoes sparked with chewy chickpeas and contrastingly savory bits of feta, all lapping a buxom pair of perfectly poached eggs. House-made pita, given a glisten from a brush of oil, accompanies the dish.
Share, also, if you’re feeling generous, the two-piece plate of fried chicken — ultra-moist beneath its irresistibly crispy skin, seasoned “Israeli hot” (as the menu notes) with peppers, then cooled with creamy tzatziki, served in way, way too tiny paper cups and short on the usual garlic. It’s also sided with the appealing crunch of “cucumber salad,” which amounts, alas, to a few well-seasoned rounds.
Next time I’ll be up for the fried cauliflower, too. And maybe a sandwich ($13–$15, with choice of sides): Reuben, Rachel, pastrami, egg and cheeseburger.
And next time, for dessert, maybe the milk and chocolate chip cookies or the carrot cake ($7). Definitely not the maple crème brulee, which arrived at our table in near-liquid form beneath its tepid crust. We had to send it back.
I savored my bourbon-based cocktail, garnished with a cheeky Bit-O-Honey on a toothpick, while my companion ordered the Cabernet blend, served in a tiny juice glass.
Service is cheery in these digs, a former Mexican restaurant where soft music and softer lighting fills the space between cement floor and HVAC ceiling. Free parking in the rear, a rarity in Uptown. Open from breakfast through dinner.
Mazel tov, fellas, but keep on tweaking.
901 W. Lake St.