Town Talk's new chef addresses the staff kerfuffle and fresh menu items

Big changes for the diner's menu.

Big changes for the diner's menu.

With all the conjecture flying around the Twin Cities regarding the Town Talk Diner, where many of the staff resigned or were let go last month, the Hot Dish thought we should give the place a ring and talk with the new chef, Charlie Schwandt, who came from 112 Eatery (and Barbette and Bar La Grassa before that). It's been a week since he became the executive chef, and he's had a chance to settle in and rework the menu, which had been in a kind of holding pattern in the interim. But now the dust has settled, and Town Talk will once again return to chef-driven dishes to match the fabulousness of their cocktails.

Here's what we found out from Chef Schwandt about the menu and the future of the East Lake Street fave.


First, Schwandt has taken a few items off the menu that were out of season or not fitting the new concept. For now he's added seven new dishes and plans to expand it even more in the next three to four months. He'd like to double the number of offerings. He felt the salads were especially lacking, so he remedied that with a diver sea scallop on cornbread panzanella with sliced figs, mache, and a molasses vinaigrette, along with a bird's nest salad with a stuffed quail over frisee beet greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette. And not to worry, old faves like the frickles, cheese curds, and brat burger are staying on the menu.

His crew at the Town Talk is a mix of the old and new. Some good prep cooks stayed put, and Schwandt also brought some line cooks with him from 112 Eatery. He told us, "They still work at 112--I got them to quit their second jobs." He also lured the burger chef from the Bulldog NE to his team too. "The management is supportive and clear about keeping it independent and chef-driven," he explained. "I've got room to operate and make decisions." He's also been able to choose his favorite local vendors with sustainable practices, like Six Rivers Market, Wild Acres, and Thousand Hills Cattle Company.

Schwandt loves that the cocktails are as serious as the food menu. "It's fun to watch them make all those adult milkshakes," he says. "No really--it's great to see passionate people who are so professional about crafting cocktails and putting out good product."

And his response to the recent kerfuffle surrounding the change? "A few weeks into the transition they had to turn away from local products because they didn't have anyone who knew how to source them," Schwandt says. "Turnover is the life cycle of any restaurant, and the chefs wanted their own place. That's what happens. Town Talk is going to be fine. We are now putting out a consistent product, and I'm on the line cooking six days a week."

And after eating chef Schwandt's seared scallop salad, we believe.

Town Talk Diner
2707 1/2 E. Lake St., Minneapolis