Town Talk Diner (Minneapolis, MN)

By Bruce Schneier and Karen Cooper
The Mix
September/October 2006

Ah, the diner. This classic establishment was brought down by chain restaurant aggression and the upmarketing of the American palate. The tiny and charming Town Talk sat empty for too many years.

But a good space is a good space, and the renaissance of Lake Street continues. Nostalgia for the old days shows up in restaurant menus and concepts all over the place, and hey, presto! The Town Talk is open once again.

The tiny old counter serves as the bar now, with precious little room to wait until a table opens in the newly annexed storefront next door. Look for upscale diner food, with old favorites jazzed up and trendy combinations well made. It's all pretty good.

Of the appetizers, we liked the charming stack of thick onion rings and the lightly battered fried pickles called "Frickles," the former served with home-made ketchup and the latter with a mustard dill sauce. The vegetable tart was only OK: deliciously prepared diced vegetables served on a mediocre cracker.

Don't bother with the farmer's platter. It's a fine selection of cheese and sausage, but more interesting choices await you. The soups are generally good. On one visit, for example, they were serving a beet and fennel soup that was intensely flavored and fantastic.

We can definitely recommend Town Talk's burgers. They're big and tasty, and come with a variety of toppings. We liked their "kitchen sink sauce," which is basically Thousand Island dressing with a hint of jalapenos -- delicious all the same.

Their tempeh sandwich was also good. Topped with plenty of avocado and a squeeze of lemon, it's both rich and light. We also liked their barbeque pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich. You can ask for the coleslaw on the side, but we recommend you let them pile it on like they do in Carolina.

All sandwiches come with fries, but you can substitute a garden salad for a bit more.

The half chicken was nicely prepared, with nice-tasting crispy skin. It was served with a delicious succotash. We also liked the pork chops, served with mashed potatoes, a sour chicory hash and cherry sauce.

The chop salad is quite wonderful. Every ingredient is in nicely small pieces, as should be, and the mélange is the perfect antidote to mid-summer boredom with yet-another-salad.

And if you're of age, have yourself an "Adult Malt." Who doesn't want a Monkey Business, with chocolate, banana, peanut butter and bourbon? Or a Cherry Bomb, with cherry Marie Brizzard and crème de cacao? They all come in huge bowl-shaped glasses, and boy, are they good. Town talk also serves beer and wine.

Town Talk doesn't take reservations, so it might be a while before you and your friends can sit down. And the dining room is very noisy. It's so bad that on one visit, our waitress had trouble hearing our orders. But that's a small price to pay for homemade diner goodness.

It's probably silly to name a culinary trend based on one example, however shiny. But here it is, folks: New Diner Food. We loved it and think you will, too.

Town Talk Diner

2707 1/2 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612-722-1312
www.towntalkdiner.com

Cuisine Type: Diner food

Reservations: Not accepted

Diet Choices: Some vegetarian and vegan items on the menu

Price range:
Appetizers $3–$10
Sandwiches $6–$10
Dinner entrees $17-20

earlier review: Naar Grille (Eden Prairie, MN)
later review: Moe's (Mounds View, MN)
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