The dish on Lyndale dining

French Meadow at 2610 Lyndale Ave. S. File photo


Lyndale is The Wedge’s premier dining avenue. (We would have called it Eat Street, but that moniker’s already been taken.)

The stretch from Franklin Avenue to Lake Street is home to two dozen eateries (and we’re not even counting the brewpubs and sake sanctuary) as well as perhaps the oldest, best-know co-op in the Twin Cities—the eponymous Wedge. It grew from a humble, bag-it-yourself storefront to an epicenter of just about every food known to man.

What makes Lyndale’s eateries extra-special is that the legendary ones where Dad courted Mom are still going strong, but so’s a whole new generation of trend-setting kitchens. There’s plenty of appetite for both. Hats off to old-timers like Rudolph’s, home of those sultry Valentino photos, where, back in the day, you’d spot a celeb or two in the late hours (Jackson Five, anyone?) while you demolished a rack of ribs, along with that addictive coleslaw and the sauce so good they had to bottle it. Nearby the Red Dragon, longtime purveyor of Chinese food for tentative Midwestern palates, and Leaning Tower of Pizza, sliding crusts into the oven long before kale became a customary topping, still keep their neon glowing. It’s Greek to Me introduced many of us to the joys of souvlaki, phyllo and the chance to abandon decorum and holler “Opa!” And The Egg and I has been flapping jacks and griddling eggs long before breakfast achieved cult status.

Today those dining workhorses now share the avenue with the younger steeplechasers after James Beard awards—the ones that provide name-dropping ops around the office water cooler. Lynn Gordon pioneered healthy eating on the street when she opened French Meadow way back when cutting-edge meant hempseed and trendy clientele wore tie-dyed T-shirts and love beads. She’s kept ahead of the times by widening her scope of healthful ingredients (yes, meat now makes an appearance on the menu) and adding Bluestem aside the Mother Ship for fanciers of small plates born of ethnic inspirations. Common Roots continues the organic/natural mission across the street, where Danny’s chewy bagels reign.

Nightingale led the new breed of chef-driven cafes on the avenue, drawing foodies with clever combos like devilled eggs with Lake Superior herring roe and asparagus with an Asian slant. Also among the New Guard is Muddy Waters, where favorite small plates include fish tacos, pot roast sliders and curried lamb sausage—definitely not your Granddad’s idea of dinner. Heyday’s arrival upped the ante with bold names both in the back and the front of the house, ensuring swell experiences with regional/seasonal small-plates like its justifiably-famous chilled mussels with frozen yogurt and chicken liver tart. Oh, and the bison tartare. And the butter-poached asparagus.

Speaking of bold names, and bold ventures, nobody ventures out of the box as successfully as Sameh Wadi, who parked his food-truck concept of small plates with a global focus at his WSK (World Street Kitchen). His rice bowls—the stuff of dreams—come topped with your choice of Korean barbecued short ribs, caramelized lamb belly and more. For dessert, join the line next door at his new-this-season ice cream shop—flavors unfamiliar to the Baskin Robbins crowd.