Dining Review: Nightingale

Dining Review: Nightingale

A casual small-plates spot for diners who like to eat late.

Late-night dining options in the Twin Cities used to be, in a word, limited. White Castle featured prominently on the list. Late-night dining options remain limited; now, however, they include a plateful of meaty chicken wings coated with ginger, sesame, and soy.

These wings represent the apex of the menu at Nightingale, which has transformed an old halal grocery store on 25th and Lyndale into something completely unrecognizable. The place buzzes from happy hour right on through dinner, settles into a little lull, then starts slinging plates of wings and other little treats as soon as the theaters let out. And the orders keep coming until well after midnight.

The menu is small, shareable plates—but not tiny plates. About twice as many dishes as diners will do the trick, unlike at tapas-type places where three, four, or five per person is more the norm.

Along with those wings, a plate of tiny mussels in a bitter, buttery ale sauce is a high point. Meatballs in tomato sauce could be as well, if only the meatballs and the rich sauce tasted like they had spent a little more time together before they came to your plate. Nothing about the smoked pork shoulder really sings—or tastes particularly smoky—but it is tender and works well on the snow-white polenta cake. While the fries pass muster, the onion rings are a fun departure, with their airy, almost tempura crust.

Vegetarians will find bacon in the (excellent) brussels sprouts, vinegary boquerones (anchovies) on the grilled romaine, and sweet, tender roast turnips coated with a silky lamb lardo. They’ll have to make do with a couple of bruschetta choices.

When you order, you give the kitchen a little guidance on how you’d like them to pace your meal; otherwise you may end up with 10 hot plates on your table all at once, jostling for space and cooling quickly.

Don’t like to share? Get the burger. And be glad you’re not at White Castle.

What Works
The plates are sized for sharing and the menu is balanced between vegetables (not vegetarian) and meats.

What Doesn’t
This place is loud. It’s hard to knock fellow diners for enjoying each others’ company, but get enough of them together in this small space, add unnecessary ambient music, and you end up a few decibels higher than comfortable.

Nightingale, 2551 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-354-7060