Cafe Lynn. Mandeville: 2600 Florida St. 985-624-9007.
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Cafe Lynn has all you could want from a French-Creole bistro: a skillful, original chef, an imaginative menu, many regular customers, and lots of parking. At one time it also had a less appealing aspect: in its first years, it was located in what had been a Burger King. Even after a renovation, the place drew the occasional BK customer, who sometimes were well inside the dining room before they realized that no Whoppers were to be had. This became part of the restaurant’s legend, and even though it’s two years since Cafe Lynn moved into a more auspicious new home, people keep talking about the odd heritage. The contrast could not be more complete or delightful.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
As popular as they are in the city, there aren’t many gourmet French-inspired bistros on the North Shore. Cafe Lynn is one of the best, with an engaging menu just innovative enough to set it apart from the neighborhood restaurant it appears to be at first glance.
The clean blend of French and Creole flavors is kept within the confines of the familiar. Also here are flavors from the South of France, a reflex from the chef’s years as lead cook at La Provence. Whatever the origins of the dishes, you don’t have to study the menu long before you find a dish that sounds great. The emphasis is on fresh local product, prepared without pretentiousness or the making of menu statements. An ideal example of this is soft-shell crab, a specialty done better here than almost anywhere else. Seafood in general is the mainstay of the menu, although your palate will find other places to wander.
The chef-owner is Joey Najolia, the final chef de cuisine at La Provence before founder Chris Kerageorgiou died. When the restaurant was sold to John Besh in 2005, Najolia decided to go on his own. He bought a disused Burger King, renovated as deeply as he could, and opened up. The restaurant moved in 2014 into a rustic new space in the building that once was a produce market. Perfect statement.
The L-shaped room is spacious, dark in its color scheme, and very comfortable with white tablecloths and bistro furnishings. In Mandeville, one is dressed up when he dons a shirt with a collar and sleeves–which is more or less the scene in the French countryside the Cafe Lynn tries to emulate.
More ruminations appear in our Dining Diary. Click on any of the dates below for those reports, each written a few days after a meal at Cafe Lynn.
FULL ONLINE MENU
»French onion soup gratin
Oysters Logan (fried, Napa cabbage slaw, toasted almonds, sherry vinaigrette
Eggplant Gabriel (fried, lump crabmeat, jumbo shrimp, oysters in cream sauce
Crabmeat Nathan (Louisiana crabmeat au gratin)
Fried calamari, remoulade sauce
»Crab cake, panko breaded & fried, remoulade sauce
Fried eggplant fingers, parmesan cheese, tomato sauce
Crab cake salad
Oyster salad, blue cheese
Goat cheese salad
Check the specials before ordering an entree. That’s where the really fine cooking is found.
Fish du jour
»Gulf shrimp au pistou (sautéed with olive oil, herbs & garlic; basil, parsley & olive oil
Pan seared quail, olive oil, herbs & lemon, brown sauce
»Filet mignon, au poivre
»Pannéed bone-in pork chop
Veal scallopini of the day
Lamb chops à la Grecque, lemon juice, brown sauce
Stuffed eggplant with shrimp and crab, casserole style
Chicken amandine, brown butter & toasted almonds
Veal t-bone, mushroom marsala sauce
Vanilla ice cream
Wild berry sorbet
Brownie a la mode
White chocolate bread pudding
FOR BEST RESULTS
The specials are a bit better than the regular menu, and there’s a board full of them. As casual as the place looks, you are well advised to reserve a table. Lots of enthusiastic regulars dine here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The lighting scheme needs to be done over. As is the case in most North Shore restaurants, the service staff is young and less than polished.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended