From the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association – Where Every Story Has Three Sides
Photo and story by Beth Marsh, Wedge Restaurant Reviewer
My companion and I entered Nightingale on a Friday evening to find that only a few patrons were sitting at the bar. Although the tables and generously-sized booths were empty, the server asked whether we had a reservation and then had to consult a reservation list to see whether we could be seated at one of the tables. The rather cold and impersonal server emphasized the importance of calling ahead to make a reservation, but after a brief wait, although there were few patrons, we were seated at a comfortable table.
Nightingale opened in October 2012, and the owner’s aim was to make it a neighborhood food and cocktail lounge. The walls are brick, the floors are wood, and ample seating is provided by tables, large banquette-type booths, and a small bar. The background music was a pleasantly eclectic mix of artists such as Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder and Billie Holiday. The décor and music reminded me of restaurants I patronized in the 70s.
As we viewed the limited food menu, we began the meal with a snack of ultra-crispy onion rings served with slyly spicy house-made ancho ketchup. From the plate menu, I ordered the tender smoked pork, which sat atop a creamy rectangle-shaped grit cake and was decorated with a smattering of sweet red peppers. If only my own home-cooked pork roast or pulled pork could achieve the moistness of Nightingale’s smoked pork, which was without a hint of greasiness. My companion’s selection of calamari with salsa verde and cherry tomatoes was also tasty, but the calamari was a little too rubbery.
Three deserts are offered on the Sweets menu, and we ended our meal by sharing the sea-salt-lined, fudgy Pot de Crème and the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta. The pot de crème was run-of-the-mill, but the panna cotta was outstandingly cheesy and cool, refreshingly topped with chopped pink grapefruit, and layered over citrusy gelatin.
The menu features several seafood dishes, including scallops and oysters. Although few vegetarian dishes are on the menu, the server assured us that most of the dishes could be made vegetarian on request. Food is locally sourced, when possible. The drink menu lists a wide array of beers, including some Minnesota-brewed favorites. Most of the wines available are imported, and the tempting cocktails include some interesting flavor combinations.
Service was prompt and efficient, but totally lacking enthusiasm or warmth. Although the service needs improvement, the food and ambiance are worth the visit. Make plans and reservations for a pleasant evening meal, or drop in for drinks and snacks during Happy Hour. Either way, Nightingale provides a sweet “melody” of flavors and thoughtfully prepared cuisine for its guests.
Beth Marsh is a longtime resident and fan of South Minneapolis. During off-hours from her proofreading and copy-editing day job for an advertising agency, she enjoys movies and creative writing, and she is in the process of illustrating her children’s book.
2551 Lyndale Avenue
Free on Lyndale Avenue South
Beer on tap: $3-$7
Bottled beer: $5-$18
Beer in can: $3-$6
Wines and Bubblies: glass – $7-$10; bottle – $28-$75
(4pm–6pm and 11pm-1am) Several $3 rail drinks, several $2.50-$3 beers, several $5/glass and $20/bottle wines, and several $4-$10 snacks