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Feb 19, 2006 03:29 PM

Town Talk Diner

  • m

The new Town Talk Diner has *finally* opened on Lake Street (near Minnehaha). We went on Saturday, which was only their second day of operation, and very much enjoyed it. The place has real potential, enough to warrant a certain level of pickiness. With a few minor changes the place could be great. So, here goes:

- They have done a wonderful job of preserving the character of the old diner space, with the addition of some appropriate and fun updates - the floor is linoleum, but in various fun colors, the ceiling is tin, but painted silver, etc.
- We ordered the onion rings and were duly impressed by the glorious tower o' onion rings when it arrived. And they were yummy.
- The kitchen sink burger and the pulled pork sandwich were also both excellent. I ordered my burger medium (yes, I know, how gauche) and it arrived rare. It was good enough that I ate it anyway and didn't send it back, but they certainly lost points for that. If you are going to cook all the burgers rare, why even ask me how I want mine done?
- The side salads were tasty and attractive, with mixed baby greens accented by carrots and grape tomatoes (instead of the nasty, anemic winter tomatoes some place deign to serve).
- Each plate was garnished with a skewer of pickled vegetables, a pepperoncini and an olive. The pickles were homemade and fabulous, truly. The store bought pepperoncini and even the olives were an insult to the pickles. Skip the former and give us more pickles!!
- What they call a lemon pudding cake turned out to be something much more special: a disc of lovely, light white cake topped by zingy homemade lemon curd, with a homemade raspberry sauce. Very good.
- The staff all wear unattractive, ill-fitting black blazers reminiscent of cruise ship or hotel uniforms. They certainly don't have any relevance to the whole modern diner thing. And they make everyone look frumpy.
- They are serving Sebastian Joe's, which I know is a beloved Minneapolis institution of ice cream, but I prefer Sonny's, or even Izzy's. I hope they will reconsider.
- The menu consists of appetizers, burgers and hot dogs, sandwiches, only about 2 breakfast items, and some high priced fancy pants entrees, plus malts, cocktails, beer and wine, and alcoholic malts. I like fancy entrees as much as the next person, but I would rather see them expand the comfort food part of the menu instead. How about updated versions of stew, meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, etc.? How about more breakfast items served all day?
- Finally, everyone at the Town Talk needs to *chill* in a big way. Take a deep breath. The concept is good, the food is good, the service is earnest and well-meaning, the decor is fun, everything is good. With some fine tuning, it will be great.

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  1. sounds good, we can't wait to try it.
    Just thought I would add the location to attract more folks to your thorough review.

    1. //I prefer Sonny's, or even Izzy's

      Curiosity question -- has anyone found a cafe or restaurant that serves flavors from either of those two makers, aside from the grocery store distribution and the makers' own ice cream cafes?

      4 Replies
      1. re: KTFoley

        Funny you should ask. I had a bowl of three Izzy's ice creams Saturday night at The Craftsman (43rd and Lake). Guinness, salted caramel, and ***some Irish name*** (sorry, I forgot). The salted caramel was my personal favorite.

        I'm pretty sure that I've seen Izzy's on at least one other menu (Heartland maybe?), but I can't recall which.


        1. re: Bob S.

          Izzy's and Sonny's are served at quite a few places - but it might not be advertised as such.

          When Dara did her writeup on Sonny's a few years ago, she mentioned that they actually provide exclusive ice creams to a few places that claim to have "house made" stuff.

          Here's what she wrote: Dozens of local and Chicago-area restaurants agree, putting Sonny's Ice Cream on their dessert menus--whether they admit it or not. Locally, places that proudly tout the stuff include Big Bowl, La Toscana, Lord Fletcher's, Bar Abilene, the Dakota, Fuji-Ya, Murray's, and others. I couldn't get the names of restaurants that won't admit it, but Gustafson says she has been served ice cream she made with her very own hands by a waiter who insists it was made by the restaurant. Consulting the list of Sonny's custom restaurant flavors, like Champagne-cassis sorbet and cardamom-black-pepper ice cream, I think I've been hoodwinked before, too.

        2. re: KTFoley

          The 128 Cafe serves ice cream from Izzy's -- which seems fitting, since they're neighbors. They credit Izzy's on the menu.

          1. re: KTFoley

            The Craftman serves some flavors of Izzy's. The one I remember was buttermilk.

            I prefer Izzys as a whole, but nothing beats Sabastain Joes Raspberry Chocolate Chip.

            I live 1 block from Town Talk; While I miss the sisters, I am looking forward to trying them out.

          2. Tried it out Saturday night - probably around 9:30PM. They were out of quite a few items on the menu - something that doesn't surprise me so soon after they open. One of the things they were out of were their pickles, so no frickles and no pickles on the side of anything.

            Overall I'd say the meal was very good, but not amazing. Then again, they've only been open for a few weeks, so it's a bit soon to be expecting perfection.

            On to the food. The cheese curd appitizer was awesome. The scallion and caper batter is super light, and the homemade ketchup matched them perfectly. (Curiously, when we were offered ketchup with our fries, we got plain ole Heinz. We were expecting (hoping?) to get the same homemade stuff.)

            The pulled pork had a great slaw on top of it that added a lot to the sandwich - although the pork itsself was unremarkable. The Tempeh Sandwich was also very good, as were the garlic parsley fries (they would do well to cut down on the salt on the fries.)

            For dessert, we had the lemon pudding cake - that was the highlight of the meal. (With the cheese curds in a solid 2nd place.)

            The service was very, very good - the fine dining background of the owners shines through in little things - like the precision of the table settings. It might not be apparent when you sit at your table, but when you see a row of empty tables - it is pretty cool. The way they serve the 40oz beers is also cool, and I was surprised at how many tables had one. (Most sharing the 40 as if it was a pitcher of beer)

            Like M. Hardy, I my biggest dissapointment was the menu (the menus are posted online). If you're going to try to be a "fine dining diner" there needs to be a lot more variety. I grew up going to real diners on the east coast - and there's certain expectations of a diner. I don't need a menu as thick as the bible, but I expect more than the handful of options they offer.