I get a little grumpy every time I set foot inside the Town Talk Diner at 27th and E. Lake in Minneapolis. The decibel level is overwhelming, especially in the bar, which not only makes it hard to have a conversation, but pushes me towards morbid thoughts of how I am becoming one of those cranky old geezers who complains about the noise levels in restaurants. The place is always packed with customers, who don’t seem to mind the decibel level one bit – in fact, they are creating most of it – which only makes me crankier. What on earth was my esteemed former Star Tribune colleague Rick Nelson – whom I usually agree with – thinking when he gave this place three and a half stars?
Then the food shows up, and the three-and-a-half star rating starts to make a little more sense. We only ordered a few dishes, but they were just about perfect: a creamy corn soup with spicy croutons; a citrus and avocado salad sprinkled with pine nuts, and a very simple grilled cheese sandwich with avocado, accompanied by superb hot-from-the-fryer french fries, tossed with garlic and parsley. I’m still not convinced of the three and a half stars, but then again, I am a cranky kind of guy. There’s lots more on the menu I would like to try, including the lamb braised with sumac ($18.95); the pan-roasted chicken breast ($17.95), and the Town Talk Pancakes with maple syrup, butter and bacon ($8.95).
Pretty soon one of the owners, Tim Niver, spots me, so it’s possible that I got a much better grilled cheese sandwich than I would have gotten otherwise, but I doubt it. Niver dishes up a juicy tidbit of info: he and his partners are working on a neighborhood steak house in Saint Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood – to be called The Strip Club. An October opening is planned.
We were actually headed over to the new cafe two doors away, T’s Place, currently the world’s only Ethiopian-Malaysian restaurant. Owner Tee Belachew learned to cook Malaysian dishes from Malaysian chef Kin Lee during their brief partnership at the ill-fated Singapore! restaurant in south Minneapolis. But it turned out that only the Ethiopian side of the menu was available last night – chef Tee had left the restaurant earlier in the evening, when he got word that his wife was giving birth to their first child.
Congratulations, Tee! We’ll be back soon, to try the Ethio-Asian fried rice and Tee’s chicken curry.
Town Talk Diner, 2707 1/2 E. Lake St., Minneapolis,.
T’s Place, 2713 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. (no phone number available.)