The adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” truly applies to Lindi's on Main Street and its owner, Lindi Miller.
For more than 17 years, Miller's food has been a favorite for the business lunch crowd downtown, even though her restaurants have been in flux quite a bit in recent years.
After a long run as Deli 620 on Calhoun Street, Miller was forced to move the lunch-only spot to the seventh floor of the PNC Bank building in 2014. The crowd followed, and that room was always packed in the middle of the day.
In December 2016, she closed up shop there, but I knew it wouldn't last.
When I visited her PNC location in 2014, I wrote, “Even if Lindi would be forced to move again, I don't think I would worry. Because she is a survivor. And her faithful followers would probably follow her anywhere.”
Well, they followed again, just down the road along Main Street a bit, when she started churning out soups, sandwiches or salads in April of last year. And the gray building she is in now may be her most impressive-looking restaurant.
Its bright yellow entryway cuts the gray and catches the eye as you drive past, and its simple, bright interior is inviting and very comfortable with its post-modern mix of furnishings. It is a big change from her past endeavors in terms of looks, but that is the only new aspect. The menu, that fabulous salad bar and her bevy of delicious homemade soups are exactly as they were years ago.
Lindi's isn't avant-garde, and you won't find any trendy selections. The sandwiches have bacon, not pork belly, the menu isn't a seasonal one always in flux, and there is no emphasis on farm-to-table, non-GMO, single-sourced, grass-fed or any other trendy catchphrase that other places splash all over social media.
One thing is for sure, the soups at Lindi's sure could go viral. The bests were basic, tried-and-true recipes that the downtown crowd has grown to love over the years. The best has actually been by several generations.
The Chicken Velvet is akin to the famed soup made in the L.S. Ayres tea room years ago, It has tender stewed chicken swimming in a rich, creamy broth that has a buttery texture and heavenly flavor that has stood the test of time. A sprinkle of black pepper or a few crumbled crackers are all one might add, but no additions are necessary to make it delicious.
The chicken noodle is also a staple, though I was not as excited about it as the velvet. It also had tender stewed chicken, egg noodles and specks of celery, and its perfectly seasoned broth was quite flavorful. It was just the kind of soup you want when you are feeling under the weather, but I think it would have been better with some carrots and bigger pieces of celery.
The cream of asparagus soup also mimicked the velvet with its yummy cream base, and it, too, was pretty much perfect.
The most unique sandwich I had to try was the smoked salmon, which included cream cheese, red onions, lettuce and capers on a freshly baked bun.
The buns are the stars of all the sandwiches at Lindi's. These mini sub rolls are good enough to eat with just a little butter, and I know folks who make it a point to buy extras when they visit.
The salmon was fresh, clean and delicious, and there was plenty of it. It could have used more capers and onions, which I easily received when I asked for them. I also wished a sturdier green had been used or perhaps some romaine to give it more crunch.
Those crunchy greens would have been nice on my egg salad sandwich, too, but I was pretty happy with it regardless. I made mine BLT style and gained some crispy bacon and a wonderfully ripe tomato slice, so the greens were really a side note. Lindi's looks and feels like the kind of place that would make a good egg salad, and it was.
The bacon shined brightly on the turkey, bacon, Swiss and ranch sandwich, which had just its name ingredients. This hot sandwich was nicely pressed so the exterior of those great rolls got a little brown and crunchy, but the inside was still soft and delectable. The roast beef melt followed suit but it was made with provolone and barbecue sauce.
The cold meat on these hot sandwiches was fine, there was enough cheese and, though I was not ready to run out in the street and scream about how great they were, they were decent lunch choices.
I would run out in the street to tell everyone about Lindi's key lime squares. The chocolaty crust on them was my favorite part – I was told it was made with part regular grahams and part chocolate grahams as well as, of course, butter. It had a gritty, crunchy texture that played well with the creamy key lime base and whipped cream covering it.
There was a lot of lime zest atop that whipped cream and plenty of citrus zing coming from the filling, but there was enough sweet so it all came together beautifully. I could eat one every day and not get tired of them.
There were lemon squares on another visit, and though they, too, were tasty, they didn't pack the bright punch of the lime even though they also had a lot of zest on top. Regardless, I would not pass on them. Nor would I pass on one of Lindi's cookies, because they were also pretty darn good.
Pretty darn good would be an insult to Lindi's salad bar, which is pretty much its biggest draw. Priced by the pound, some of those salads – chicken, tuna, egg – can be sampled as part of your platter. All of the ingredients are fresh, and there is really nothing about the bar I could criticize.
I did like the standard grape and nut-dotted chicken salad a lot more than the jalapeņo version, though both were a bit bland. The sweetness of the grapes helped the standard, but both could have used some relish and some crunchy celery pieces to make them better.
Like the salad bar, the service at Lindi's could not have been better. If you are a newbie and don't know the protocol, the employees will guide you through with politeness and smiles. And if you decide to eat it, you will be checked on more than once to assure everything is up to snuff. It is the same kind of service I have gotten used to over the years no matter where Lindi Miller sets up shop.
Address: 256 W. Main St.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Soup ($3.50 cup, $4.50 bowl), salad bar ($7.95 per lb.), turkey, bacon, Swiss and ranch ($7), roast beef ($7), egg salad ($6), smoked salmon ($9)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★★ (3-star maximum); atmosphere: ★ (1 max.), service: ★ (1 max.)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette. net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Out of a possible five