MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Lyn 65 is far from the typical suburban restaurant, thanks to chef Ben Rients. But the road to success, or even stability, was a rocky one.
“I’d never cooked a cheeseburger. I come from a fine dining background,” Rients said.
He learned at Restaurant Alma, working with the legendary, James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Roberts. When he opened Lyn 65 in 2014, his burger was so fancy it should have cost $22.
“We were roasting them on the griddle, then resting in birr, kind of a butter sauce, thinking that’s the thing you do,” Rients said.
Ben grew up in the suburb of Lakeville, and Lyn is designed to be a neighborhood spot. But it wasn’t backed with big-money investors; instead he had a couple partners and himself.
“When we opened Lyn 65 we had $3,000 left in the bank for working capital. We hadn’t purchased any inventory either, so we were actually $100,000 in the red when we opened,” he said.
It was busy, and they were selling lots of food, but they weren’t really making much profit. Ingredients cost 44 cents on the dollar; 30 cents is more the average.
“I never made fried chicken. We were dry curing, confiting, doing super-expensive things then charging $3 a piece for it,” he said.
But the neighborhood took ownership of this ragtag, underdog operation. And while the team figured out the business, the customers kept coming back.
“It’s in a strip mall, the customers came in and would see the worried look on our faces, I think there was a nice little response to that,” he said.
Today the burger isn’t as fancy, but it is as delicious. Burgers, pizza, and chicken make up 70 percent of sales, according to Rients.
It’s taken him a couple of years to come to terms with the fact that, as a chef, his contribution to the culinary world wasn’t going to be a perfectly caramelized magical scallop, or an innovative flavor created using molecular gastronomy.
“I wanted to have something to say. And it’s fried chicken and burgers,” he said.
But that revenue from well-executed crowd-pleasers allows Ben and his team to make a mind-blowingly good hummus dish with veal ragu, chili oil and arugula. They average only seven short rib dishes a night, but the Thai-influenced braised beef is fabulous and a crazy value for under $30.
“To me this is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s the difference between feeding people every day or feeding them on their birthday.”
There’s one other bonus after three years of being open and being profitable.
“I don’t have to wash dishes every day anymore,” Rients said.
6439 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55423
Monday-Thursday: 4-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 4 p.m.-12 a.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. brunch; 4-9 p.m. dinner