The following two reviews are from the third installment of our Lyndale Avenue Checklist, an 18-mile trek through more than 70 independent restaurants on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, Bloomington, and Richfield. If you’d like to get the whole story (each installment has five reviews including illustrations, photos, and text), back us on Patreon.
Joy’s Pattaya | 7545 Lyndale Avenue South, Richfield | 612.866.0660
The first thing you’ll notice as you walk up to Joy’s Pattaya just might be the windows. They are distinctive Art Deco, chrome-wrapped beauties. The windows along with the iconically sloped front side of the building hint that this place may just have been home to a 1950’s-themed diner at some point in its past.
Inside, there are further signs of a diner-related origin story including a line of comfy booths and a small service counter with a few stools in front. Perhaps we’re just romanticizing, but if true, there’s something harmonious in the idea that a place that once specialized in slinging American comfort food like hotcakes and hash browns has now evolved into a place that serves up equally as comforting dishes from clear across the world like Massaman Curry and Pad See Ew.
All-in-all, this is a cozy, neighborhood Thai spot with a friendly feel. There’s something for everyone. For the kids (and some adults) there’s a candy dish filled with suckers. For the adults (and some kids) there are spicy Thai soups that show up to your table in heated serving pots as big as your head. Which is all to say, if you’re looking for a solid, simple Thai dining experience, Joy’s totally lives up to its name. – M.C. Cronin
Food may be the ultimate key to memories – take the right bite, and the sense of transportation through space and time is so fast and visceral that you can just about get whiplash. When I took my first sip of the Tom Kha ($17) at Joy’s Pattaya, I was transported about 20 years backward in time and 1,400 miles away to Dok Bua, a little Thai restaurant in the back of a grocery store in Brookline, Massachusetts. Dok Bua was a schlep from where I worked in Back Bay, Boston, but I made the trek because of that same broth – intense, sour citrus, deep earthy funk, bright spicy heat, creamy sweet richness… It packed a punch of flavor that has only been distantly echoed in the tom khas I’ve had at other restaurants since. It’s at the top of my list of Lyndale Avenue bites so far.
Also tremendously good at Joy’s Pattaya were the Thai Iced Coffees ($4.50). A lot of Thai iced coffees trend too sweet (see Sawatdee) which makes them unbalanced. This stuff packed a tremendously bitter robusta-like kick of coffee flavor that stood up to the sweetened condensed milk to create an evenly matched duel or (if you’d prefer) a loud but ultimately harmonious marriage. This is how this drink should be done. The handle-sporting Mason jar glass also felt 100 percent correct, for some reason.
Tofu Drunken Noodles ($14) were pleasant and properly cooked but underflavored compared to the Tom Kha, offering mild earthy and citrus notes that hinted at the dish’s potential. The tofu was perfectly fried and was the highlight of the dish; we’d absolutely order it in other dishes next time we’re back.
The restaurant’s Fresh Veggie Spring Rolls ($9) were disappointingly lettuce-focused, but they came with a triple threat of peanut sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and finely chopped peanuts. Once dunked in the peanut sauce, rolled through the peanuts, and baptized by the sweet and sour, they were tasty if a little insubstantial. – James Norton
Broadway Pizza | 7514 Lyndale Avenue South, Richfield | 612.861.3402
Without an ounce of embarrassment or trace of irony, we asked our server if she could pretty please, with sugar on top, turn on the model train that runs around the restaurant on tracks overhead. No, we are not children. Yes, we are prone to indulging the less mature areas of our psyche. But come on, when you’re Broadway Pizza – well-known around these parts for being a train-themed pizza joint – you gotta have the choo-choo running, right?
The Richfield outpost of this local institution has been here since the 1970’s. And it looks every bit its age in the most positive way possible. It’s not dirty or worn down at all. No, it just has all those classic ‘70s touches like warm wood paneling and those wooden spindle room dividers that, as one of our Checklist crew pointed out, make you feel like you’re in a giant crib. (Perhaps that’s why we were so comfortable reverting to childish behavior.)
In contrast to Protagonist, Broadway Pizza knows exactly what it wants to be and commits to it fully. This is a family-friendly pizza restaurant with a train theme. You can’t miss it. You’d be as comfortable here hosting a kids birthday party as you would be sharing a pitcher and a pizza with your neighbors.
The only bummer was that they didn’t have a full-sized train car to dine in like the now defunct original location on Broadway near the river in Minneapolis. We’re not ashamed to admit, we used to get a giddy tingle of excitement when we got a chance to eat in that old train car. – M.C.
When we walked into Broadway Pizza, we were, collectively and individually, absolutely stuffed with food. We mulled the menu without even an ounce of enthusiasm. It was a real Mr. Creosote situation, made worse by the fact that we were wading into a land of cheese and meat of unknown quality. The toy train was a nice touch, but not particularly helpful.
Propelled solely by inertia, we ordered the Classic Deluxe pizza (“Our #1 seller!” $20 for a 13″ medium on original thin crust). This was a “works” kinda situation – cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green pepper, and onion. It looked inviting when it hit the table and, flavorwise – yeah. Legitimately classic crispy tavern-cut Minnesota pizza. Nothing fancy, but no complaints – this was a tasty, get-the-job-done pizza with a nicely balanced brightness from the tart sauce and generous green peppers and onions. The minimalist crust had a pleasant rigidity to it, but it wasn’t aggressively dry. Some of us had second squares, someone may have even had a third. Stuffed or not, this pizza won our hearts.
Better – and the pizza was pretty good! – was the Italian Hoagie ($11). There are a lot of ways these sandwiches go wrong, with stodgy bread, too much low-grade cheese, and greasy, indifferently flavored meats leading the pack. This sandwich? Light, crispy, elegant bread, a sparing but tasty use of melted cheese, balanced amount of decent quality meats, and enough lettuce and tomatoes to balance out the ham, salami, and pepperoni. Workaday and traditional? Yes. Done with actual care and love? Also yes. We’d happily eat this sandwich again. – J.N.