Having a Heyday

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July 2, 2014 // UPDATED 10:49 am - July 7, 2014
By: Carla Waldemar
The Cucumber Watercress Salad.
Photo by Alicia McCann
Carla Waldemar

It fits the space (and then some) of Lyn-Lake’s former Sunnyside Up Café, but these days it’s even sunnier. Brilliant, in fact. They’re calling it Heyday; I’m calling it Heaven.

Forgive me for gushing, but apparently they got the memo: It’s everything a foodie craves. Start with a warm, comfy and not-too-noisy setting; add affable, informed service; then top it off with a menu of attractively priced small plates. They’re mostlyMidwestern victuals in combos that hit the sweet spot between knockoffs on the beet salad/pork belly/molten chocolate boilerplate and lunatic pairings that would make even an omnivore queasy. My only complaint — let’s get it out of the way — is the pricing of the wine list, less than drinker-friendly.

So, let’s hear it for food. There’s truly not a single dish that doesn’t call my name, so I might as well just leave them my credit card and sell my stove. For instance: a crimson mountain of lamb tartare — sweet and simple, warmed by a soupcon of chilies, served with wisps of dried artichokes, elderberry capers, and thick, brioche-like slabs of toast. Think Bach, not Wagner — a composition pared down to its pure essentials. (Next time: more lamb, as in lamb belly with minted sugar snaps—a rethinking of the so-British leg o’ with jelly?)

Next, a chicken liver tart built upon a tender shell that proves there’s a pastry in the kitchen (who also, I presume, bakes the wondrous, taffy-pull-textured breads). The shell comes filled with livers pureed till almost melting, livened with the sweet-tart duo of toasted shallot hash and perky rhubarb compote.

OK, there IS a beet salad. But like none to cross your lips before. Here, nubile beet cubes in half-inch dice consort with a slick or two of goat cheese, crunchy bits of toasted hazelnuts, and  a powdery shower of dried raspberries—like fairy dust—bringing a nest of newborn greens to life (as does the overly-tart vinaigrette).

We’re getting stuffed, but cannot resist the roasted monkfish, pearly as an heirloom brooch but considerably more juicy (and salty, too, along its crisped exterior), paired with cross-sections of cauliflower, a couple of spears of asparagus (mushy, alas) and scattering of candied pine nuts, which pulls the plate together.

Here’s what I saved for next time: a salad of cucumbers and watercress with mustard, ham and rye bread (the makings of a ham sandwich perched on greens); chicken thighs with caramelized endive, nettles and lemon , my idea of comfort cooking; or simply the chilled asparagus partnered regally with Parmesan, yuzu and basil (small plates mostly $7-16).

For now, dessert. The perfect ending: a frozen coffee parfait — think crystals of espresso — littered with crumbles of bitter chocolate under a slender shard of caramel meringue. But wait! With the bill, some final treats: pliant gummies and a dried-fruit praline.

Choose the spacious bar room or the dining room itself, warmed with salvaged barn wood and marble-topped tables paired with puritanically unpadded wooden camp chairs and pews. Add a kitchen on view and a couple of splashy, I-want-them paintings below pine rafters hung with sparkly chandeliers. It’s the new domain of a couple of industry pros as owners: front man Lorin Zintner (you’ll recognize him from La Belle Vie and Sea Change) and chef Jim Christiansen, who’s cooked — but never like this! — at LBV, Sea Change, and most recently, Union. Now he’s his own master at last, and masterful he is. Diners, start your engines.