Ben Rients admits that he did just about everything wrong when he opened his restaurant Lyn 65 two years ago.
He built a menu on pizza, then bought the wrong pizza oven, one that wasn’t NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) approved. It now sits in the basement of the restaurant. Lyn 65 won a lawsuit against the company that sold them the oven, but they never got a dime of their money back.
So, they built another pizza oven themselves.
Rients also built every tabletop, reupholstered every chair from scratch himself. It might sound romantic, but it was a matter of necessity. By the time they opened, he had only $3,000 left in the bank.
“We didn’t have money to buy food (so they bought it, along with the booze, on 30-day credit). We didn't have the money to train our staff or test recipes. We just had to open.”
And they struggled to find good staff because of their location out in Richfield. The first six months were total chaos and mayhem.
“We were putting out pretty bad, inconsistent food.”
But the neighborhood still supported them, such was their devotion to having a good restaurant in Richfield.
“And they got cheated a little bit, to be honest,” says Rients.
It’s a new day at Lyn 65. They’re proving themselves mightily. In celebration of their second anniversary, they’ve got a new menu and a new outook.
“We’re just giving people what they want.”
Are they ever. Rients and his chef/partner Jason Sawicki are two Alma alums, and together they’ve turned a restaurant that was doing many things wrong into something that's doing just about everything right.
And theirs is a very special brand.
Think about the last time you were really and seriously, unpleasantly hungry. What did you have a hankering for? Pizza. Burgers. Fried chicken. Steak.
Well, at Lyn 65 they’ll give all of them to you. And here’s the kicker: It’s all really, really good.
Rients says the’ve worked for it. If it weren't for their two years of hard luck, it's possible that things wouldn't now be this good.
“It’s taken us two years to finally learn how to speak. I look at restaurants like babies. It takes a year to walk, and now we have a new way of communicating with our guests."
The menu is made up of all their "greatest hits," the things that people always want when they come through the door: big, satisfying, high-flavor, high-value things.
Even the hurdles with the pizza have paid off — Rients did his research in Italy (he says he got "obsessed" with how good pizza is there) and he tried to get it as close to the real McCoy as possible.
It’s got great char and great chew, and if you closed your eyes you might think you were eating Burch’s pizza, and that's a real compliment.
The burger, in a town with so many “best” burgers, can stand up to all the big-boy names (Saint Dinette, Revival, Parlour, etc.). It’s the same double smash patty we've come to know and love, only get this — a single is a double, and a double is a triple. How’s that for giving the people what they want?
Rients admits that it’s an homage to the Au Cheval burger in Chicago, the unofficial originator of this style of burger that’s so popular with all the chefs (and eaters) these days. At Lyn 65 they make it their own with the addition of mustard pickles, dill pickles, shallot, and Dijonaise, of all things. It’s as perfect a burger as you’re likely to get in this town, served on a squishy St. Agnes bun. It’s heaven.
As for the fried chicken, there’s been pretty much one name in chicken around here lately, and that’s Revival. I like Lyn 65’s as much as I like Revival’s. Like the restaurant itself, they’ve simplified their preparation of it, and the chicken is now some of the most superior in town.
“We used to overcomplicate it,” says Rients, “curing it for two days in salt and aromatics, then confit the dark meat in duck fat, cool it down, and then re-fry it.”
Now they just brine, dip in buttermilk, dredge in gluten-free batter (did you hear that, gluten-eschewers?), and fry.
It's simply delicious.
You can order it a la carte now, with all the sides, each of which is textbook delicious, right down to the very plain but good mac and cheese, the hard-cooked collards, and smashed potatoes we only wish our grandma could have gotten so good.
But don’t think you can get away without eating your vegetables.“Shaved vegetables should be on every restaurant menu, because people need to be eating vegetables!” says Rients, who, though he deals in salt and fat, also deals in vegetables.
In addition to all the hit-you-in-your-happy-place goodness, there’s also a mess of share plates. (Rients is actually hesitant to use that term, because he knows it gets associated with “three ounces of food and a lot of money.") But these are actually shareable, almost entree-sized portions, and we particularly loved the broccolini with blue cheese, puffed rice, and chili. It’s the kind of dish that has you thinking about broccoli as a treat.
So, here’s a restaurant that serves you nothing but treats, right down to the broccoli.
And get this: Everybody gets a complimentary soft serve ice cream cone at the end of their meal, no questions asked.
Look around, and you’ve got a handsome bistro of diners sitting around licking ice cream cones in between sips of bubbly.
How can you not love this place?
6439 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis