That campfire note is emanating from a small, glowing pile of white oak that lights up the left corner of “Liza,” the gas-assisted oven that dominates the restaurant’s wide-open kitchen.
Um, Liza? The gigantic oven’s exterior is covered in small, shiny tiles. “We thought of a disco ball,” said chef/co-owner Adam Eaton with a laugh. “And the next thought was Liza. Liza Minnelli.”
Meyvn (it’s pronounced may-ven, and it’s Yiddish for connoisseur or expert, a highly applicable name) is the work of Eaton, Laurel Elm and Tim Niver, three of the outsized talents behind Saint Dinette in Lowertown.
Eaton and his crew bake their dense, chewy, deeply golden, hand-formed bagels on planks in Liza’s intense heat, starting them on the left – close to that burning oak – and, as they bake, sliding them to the right.
There are six varieties: plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, brown sugar, garlic-onion and “Everything,” and they go for $2 a pop. (That's the sesame bagel, pictured, above, with pastrami and hummus, a highly appealing combination).
The generously schmeared cream cheese schmears ($3) range from plain to versions packed with green onions or smoked whitefish. There’s a hearty hummus, too. Proteins include a crisp-edged pastrami ($6) silky and sumptuous Nova lox ($9), corned beef ($5), bacon ($3) and an egg ($3). (That's the plain bagel with Nova lox and green onion cream cheese, pictured, above, and it's spectacular).
Those accustomed to Bruegger’s or Einstein Bros. might raise an eyebrow to these prices. But think about it this way: what Eaton is doing with bagels is no different than his approach to his glorious double-patty cheeseburger at Saint Dinette vis-à-vis McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese; they’re both cheeseburgers, but they’re worlds apart in terms of quality, execution and craftsmanship.
These boiled-and-baked beauties are also a reason why Eaton continues to cement his status as a chef worth watching. He's no newcomer to bagel-making, having started several years ago with his Saint Dinette brunch menu. And while bagels play a central role in the Meyvn’s ecosytem, Eaton’s ambitions don’t end there.
A short roster of small plates includes that hummus with a tender house-baked pita, a hearty shakshuka with chickpeas, latkes with apple butter, a challah monkey bread finished with chocolate and cream cheese icing, a tabbouleh salad and a half-dozen sandwiches, including a Reuben, a hot pastrami and a Rachel. The neighborly prices generally fall within the $8-to-$13 range.
The mood changes at dinner, when Eaton beefs up the sandwich-small plates selection with oven-roasted chicken, lamb skewers with saffron rice, pierogies stuffed with farmer’s cheese, oysters on the half-shell, whitefish roe with chips and chicken broth with a matzo ball, with most falling in the $14-and-under range.
“It’s amazing how much the vibe changes from day to night,” said Elm.
Niver, Elm and Eaton have transformed the former home of Tinto (and, before that, Spill the Wine), making it lighter and brighter with a show-and-tell kitchen (pictured, top), an indoor-outdoor bar (pictured, above) and cheery, colorful furnishings. Unseen basement workrooms are equipped to handle wholesale production, which means that Meyvn bagels just might be coming to a store near you. There’s beer and wine. Oh, and the counter-service staff couldn’t be more helpful or welcoming.
Meyvn is located at 901 W. Lake St. (at Bryant Av. S.), Mpls., 612-802-3848, mevyneats.com. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.