Manning the long wooden bar, a centerpiece of the fledgling restaurant, Travis Serbus crafts his cocktails under the watchful eyes of a taxidermy boar head. He recalls his glimpses of kitchen staff that night, "They looked like they had been through war, they had that thousand yard stare. I have never seen such an intense-looking kitchen."
There’s a glint behind their eyes betraying a wilder side.
In the year and a half since opening, the earnest energy of this inexperienced restaurant-owning team has blended with steadfast diligence, explosive creativity, and an honest menu that has captivated the local community and kept them coming back for more.
Cook and creator of the concept, Ben Rients, cooks Jason Sawicki and Tye Sullivan and bar-master Travis Serbus collectively possess many years of experience working in restaurants and the service industry – but this was their first attempt at running something of their own. Although they radiate an easy-going attitude and friendly demeanor, there’s a glint behind their eyes betraying a wilder side that’s not afraid of taking risks. Maybe that’s why they chose this space on the corner of a strip mall in Richfield. Luckily, the risks paid off and Lyn 65 Kitchen & Bar is satisfying a trove of cocktail geeks and voracious eaters within the Richfield community as well as drawing patrons from around the Twin Cities.
As approachable as they are creative, the most popular dishes on the seasonal menu include a delicate, wholly gratifying gluten-free fried chicken, pizzas with lightly blistered, remarkably chewy crust, and burgers made with a blend of sirloin, short ribs and chuck. "It’s always kind of been part of our concept as far as the menu goes to be conceptless," says Serbus. "We just do whatever we want but make sure it’s always great.".
From ramen with house-made noodles (offered only on Thursday nights) to buttery beef bone marrow roasted in the pizza oven and even Cajun-inspired catfish tacos with piri piri sauce, there is a wide variety of flavors, techniques, and ingredients on the menu.
Rients, Sawicki, Sullivan and Serbus spent many a late night leading up to the opening tweaking concepts – both of menu and atmosphere -- hiring staff, and prepping everything they could before introducing the local community to Lyn 65 Kitchen & Bar. With a very small budget for training, these four – by now close as brothers from spending six months together taking Lyn 65 from an idea to a real restaurant – trained staff for no more than two days before opening. Throughout the first year they relied on "leading by example," as Sawicki puts it. "No matter how smart or how hard you work, you’re only as good as your staff," notes Travis Serbus. They couldn’t have pulled it off without the support of a tenacious team that was willing to put in equally as much time and effort to give every diner an exceptional experience.
In the process of working hard to build a trusted staff of about 30, this independent restaurant has brought together a family, cultivating a culture in both the back and front of house that diners can’t help but want to be a part of. "The favorite thing for me has been the family aspect," says Serbus. A modest glance towards Sawicki and Sullivan brings laughs. It’s not hard to see that the feeling is mutual.
One thing we’ve learned is to just do things. You can only plan so much.
About ten months after opening night, the entire crew took a trip to Chicago, shutting down the restaurant for a week and jaunting around the Windy City eating and drinking together. Whether you call it research and development or team bonding, it reveals how much Lyn 65 values its staff; its family.
Now, with over a year tucked under their belts, Ben Rients, Jason Sawicki, Tye Sullivan and Travis Serbus are moving forward with new things – like Lyn 65’s newly launched brunch service and a converted Winnebago food truck, Wyn 65, hitting the road this spring. "One thing we’ve learned is to just do things. You can only plan so much," says Serbus. "If we think about things for too long, they never happen," adds Sullivan. From concept, to pizza, to family – Lyn 65 Kitchen & Bar has taken its fair share of risks and created a success story that will continue to thrive at the corner of Lyndale Ave S and W 65th Street.