When it closed in 2011, Town Talk Diner, largely considered to be the cradle of the Twin Cities craft cocktail movement, left fans and Longfellow residents grieving. Now the beloved diner gets a shot at winning back its fan base -- this time with a cozy brasserie atmosphere and affordable French standards. Le Town Talk Diner opens today.
Owners Emilie Cellai Johnson and Ben Johnson are bringing Emilie's Provencal roots into the mix at the revamped Town Talk. In addition to the hometown shout-out "Marseille" lighting up one of the dining room walls, the menu clearly conveys the south of France influence: Bouillabaisse, steak frites, even a simple salad of carottes râpées.
The menu is pleasantly uncluttered. Start with one of five small plates ($5-$12), such as mushroom gougeres with a very subtle beer and mustard cream or duck rillette, add a soup or endive salad, and then select an entree from seven surf or turf options ($10-$20). Traditional southern French items are well represented: boudin blanc, brined chicken with ratatouille, and vol au vent, a chicken and lobster puff pastry with cream sauce.
This Gallic diner naturally includes a full wine list and, true to Town Talk tradition, a craft cocktail menu (with non-alcoholic options as well) created by Julien Masson, formerly of Hotel Dieu in Marseille. Dessert options are few, but carefully selected: On our visit, we sampled the simple tarte tatin, one of Emilie's favorites, and a slightly thicker than usual, but still perfectly rich chocolate mousse.
The menu will likely change as the Johnsons settle into the concept. Meanwhile, the revival of a neighborhood institution will bring many curious and nostalgic diners and perhaps a bit of bonne chance.
Le Town Talk Diner 2707 E. Lake St. 612-353-5398
Send your story tips to Hot Dish.