I had just ordered number two of the zero beers I was going to have Saturday night when a man motioned me to come hither away from the bar. I stepped over and he said, “You weren’t hard to pick out from the crowd.”
I was “Frank, party of one.” I was rockin’ my red Bar Harbor T-shirt, the one with a huge anchor printed on front, that looks like something cruel parents might buy for their toddler. It paired wretchedly with my flowery-brimmed snapback, a lid my wife won’t let me wear out with her … but she wasn’t here toniiiight!
I had just taken up a corner seat at Lindey’s Prime Steak House. “The Place For Steak,” reads their tagline. At 58 years old, and with plenty of magazine covers and write-ups under their belts, it’s a hidden gem only in the geographical sense. From the way the dining room is laid out to the way the waitresses still call you “Honey,” it’s a pleasant escape from whatever the hell is going on Downtown (or Uptown, or Lowertown). It doesn’t matter if you come dressed like the world’s worst non-tourist non-dad and you’re dining alone.
In fact, you might be better off that way. You’re not going to want to share any food, and you’re not going to want anyone watching you eat it.
The Basics: ThePlaceForSteak.com. The story of Lindey’s is fascinating, indeed. What’s also interesting is the existence of a second Lindey’s, all the way in Seeley Lake, Mont. According to a story I overheard at the bar while waiting for my group to be sat, the original Lindey dabbled in aviation and flew frequently between Minny and Montana. Today, you can become part of the history by signing up for their birthday club. It’s my understanding Lindey’s will also let you in on a secret week in April, during which steak prices roll back to 1958 prices.
It’s the place for steak, all right: just ask anyone who parked in the packed parking lot, ate in the packed restaurant, or was waiting in the packed lobby. There had to have been 30 people milling around in earshot of my “just one” reservation. If you’re thinking of just sitting at the bar to bypass the wait, I’ve got bad news: they don’t serve food at the bar.
I hit the peak-hours bulls-eye and “won” myself a 40-some minute wait. It gave me time to grab a seat at the bar and float off into the atmosphere. The centrally-situated bar was perfect for that. I heard people tell stories of coming here 50 years ago. I heard the bartenders tell stories of past gigs they’ve held, or gigs they presently hold. I milked a Hop Dish. The man to my immediate right did the opposite of milking a bottle of Coors Light, then proceeded to whatever-that-is a couple of cocktails. I didn’t even play Angry Birds; I just tuned into the life around me. I took slow sips, decompressing with every exhale.
Pints of Hop Dish at Lindey’s are only $6, by the way.
Lindey’s might have the largest menu in all of Minnesota. You have your choice of four entrees at dinnertime, but it’s printed on a stand-up sign. Yeah. This is the wrong steakhouse if you want to inquire about vegan options. I asked for medium rare. Bread and a salad materialized instantly.
“I’ll save the bread for my wife,” I told myself as I mowed the grass, stopping only to wipe dressing off of my chin. “Maybe one piece, just to see how it tastes.”
Wonderful bread, just wonderful.
“She’s gonna love this,” as I … yeah, one more. “I’ve got to bring her here sometime. Ooh, there’s a little piece tucked away in the bottom.”
The edges were crispy, but not so crispy you’d consider not eating the crust (and I’m the first to consider not eating the crust). I needed one more to soak up the dressing in the bottom of my salad bowl. Two more, actually. I don’t like to waste.
I put the crust of an end piece back into the bread bowl, and it hit nothing but tray paper. I peered into the bowl, the way a soon-to-be-victim might peer into the basement at the start of a slasher flick. My eyes flinched upward and scanned. Okay, who saw that?
Just when the bread and that IPA had congealed into a fine carbo-cannonball, out came the steak.
After my waitress set the plate down (“Don’t touch that, Honey, it’s hot!”), she scribbled the air with her hand and sent her purplish curls bouncing in all directions. That, she said, is how I should rub my bites into the liquid lining the plate bottom. She then set down a pile of potatoes and another order of bread. I might have fallen in love.
It looked so beautiful on that plate, I didn’t even want to eat it at fir–that’s a lie. I was into this thing within seconds. There was a nice wobble as I cut pieces off. That told me it was on the rare side of medium rare, exactly where I wanted it.
The outside, damn: light char, juice everywhere when a piece was cut off. The inside, damn: the temperature of the middle was just so, and the meat unobstructed by seasoning. I couldn’t have even asked. I don’t even have the words. If I order steak anyplace else and they ask how I want it done, I’ll simply say “the way they do medium rare at Lindey’s.” My eyes will start to roll back into my head and I’ll slump down, like this steak is coming back to possess me.
I got half of it down, and could barely get myself back up out of my chair. My red anchor shirt didn’t fit quite right afterward. My flowery hat was faintly damp with sweat.
I was so, so happy … but you can see why I wouldn’t want anyone with me to see this.
RELATED: Not far from Lindey’s is R.J. Riches in Mounds View, and — what do you mean you haven’t seen their gigantic omelet?!