Eaton calls the menu “worldly Jewish,” and at lunch, it fits the bill. The sandwiches are served on marbled bread baked by the outstanding P.J. Murphy’s Bakery in St. Paul. The sandwiches our group got – the Hot Pastrami and the Reuben – were excellent.
Both types of meat were thicker cut with just enough fat to add a ton of flavor. The pastrami with stoneground mustard is a classic pairing, but well-executed; there was too much mustard for half our group’s liking, but that was us. On the other hand, the Reuben wasn’t overwhelmed with too much Russian dressing or sauerkraut; you could taste all the elements without the sandwich being weighed down with it.
The latkes were excellent. A thinner version of what Eaton serves at Saint Dinette, it is served with the same crème Fraiche and apple butter (in lieu of the traditional sour cream and applesauce; we gushed over this back in December). It’s also served with a beet puree that was well-received.
The star of our meal was the Shakshuka, a traditional Israeli dish. This version Eaton serves is what you’d expect: slow-roasted tomatoes, feta, and soft-cooked eggs, but he adds the non-traditional (although, arguably, culturally accurate) chickpeas that were perfectly cooked and not too soft. It’s served with homemade pita in the wood-fired oven, which seemed closer in thickness to an Indian naan bread, but was delicious whatever they want to call it.
“What is traditional about the shakshuka is that it’s a comfort food; it’s a stew,” said Eaton. “Without the chickpeas, it doesn’t have a lot of hardiness to it. So adding that to it makes it more of a value. We’re in an urban environment and we want to make sure when we are charging what we are, you get your money’s worth.”
The one big miss on our order was the matzah ball soup. We were split on the consistency of the matzah ball; two prefer light and fluffy; two of us didn’t (although to be transparent, and I’m in the latter group, I don’t really discriminate on matzah ball consistency). This was not light and fluffy. However, consistency of the matzah ball is irrelevant when both the ball and the soup were badly underseasoned. Opening day jitters? Too light a hand? Either way, I’d imagine this is an error that gets cleaned up soon – if it hasn’t been already.
The centerpiece in the former Tinto and Spill The Wine space is Liza – as in Minnelli – the massive wood-fired oven where the Montreal bagels, pita, and for dinner,
split chicken is roasted. When we talked with Eaton for our Who The Folk?! interview late last year, he said that the Montreal bagels were going to be one of the centerpieces when he first talked about the whole idea of Meyvn.
“We’ve been planning this concept for a long time; I’ve been working on the dough for three years,” he said. “We knew places were going to open. Rise and St. Paul Bagelry are super even (in comparison) and I love both, and they execute super well.”
The Montreal bagel is sweeter and denser than New York bagels, typically thinner, and always wood-fired. Our table had everything and plain bagels; one with toasted with butter, one not toasted with cream cheese, and one toasted with lox and cream cheese.
First thing’s first: Get it toasted. It’s always better with a little extra crunch. The everything was terrific. None of the bagels skimp on toppings, so you get a little bit of “everything” in each bite. I took home a seasame (sesame with a hint of sea salt) and the brown sugar. The brown sugar does an excellent job accentuating the sweetness of the bagel. Other flavors are poppy and garlic & onion.
The lox was a little polarizing for our group. While good, the price of $14 was deemed steep by some. The recipe is created by Eaton and the salmon is prepared by Browne Trading Company in Maine and brought in. It will soon also be available at Lunds and Byerlys, and Hy-Vee grocery stores.
“We’re charging what’s fair to charge,” Eaton said. “People look at bagels as not a sandwich. Would you spend $11 on a sandwich? Sure. How is this any different? I think that’s my point I want to get across is: No matter what people dig into the prices we don’t want to gouge people. We want to charge what’s fair.”
On the inside, there are high ceilings, fun light fixtures, a full bar, and a small patio that opens towards the small parking lot (but yes, there is free parking). Plus, there are added touches of the Mediterranean blue on the plates, bowls, and silverware.
“We like to think of it as a Jewish deli by day and sexy Mediterranean café by night,” Elm said. The dinner menu includes the aforementioned roast chicken with harissa, feta and lemon, lamb skewers, and a raw bar. Bagels are for breakfast and lunch only.
“In the area we’re in, it’s very dense and diverse, but it’s also really young and I think housing is pretty expensive, so we need to give people reasonably priced, and more importantly, craveable food,” Eaton said. “Bagels are craveable, but we want to give them more. We need to give them things they can’t live without.
“They’ll think they’re just coming for a sandwich, and that’s our opportunity to just blow them away. There’s a market for simple food executed at a higher level.”
In a busy first week, Eaton said he had one particular interaction that thrilled him: Wendi Rosenstein, the granddaughter of the Lincoln Del owners paid a visit and “passed the torch.”
“She’s fantastic,” Eaton said. “She’s very excited. It was a huge moment for me. ”
So is it a deli or a “deli”? There are some in the group who think that a deli needs to have a grittier feel. This isn’t that. It’s clean, open, and inviting, from the huge windows facing out to Lake and Bryant to the garage door that opens from the bar to the patio. But the food does offer that deli feel. It’s deli food –elevated, to be sure – but it’s what I would hope and expect out of a deli. Nail the corned beef and pastrami, you can work out the other kinks; miss on those two staples, you’re a lost cause. In Meyvn, Niver, Eaton, and Elm are certainly off and running.