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.
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. [caption id="attachment_48276" align="alignnone" width="480"] Cafe Lynn's new dining room. It's about three times bigger than it looks. [/caption]
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. [caption id="attachment_48280" align="alignnone" width="480"] Soft-shell crab @ Cafe Lynn. It's a candidate for best soft-shell in town.[/caption]
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.
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.