Where to: Nightshade Noodle Bar, serving a Vietnamese-influenced, noodle-focused menu in a tiny former coffee shop in Lynn.
Why: Chef-owner Rachel Miller is a veteran of the Boston restaurant scene, having worked at places like Clio and Bondir. She brings her fine-dining skills and admiration for Vietnamese cuisine together at this intimate 30-seat restaurant. It may be the only one in the area with a rotating pét-nat special, part of a program from Liana Van de Water, wine director and Miller’s partner.
The Back Story: Miller was chef de cuisine at Clio when it closed, and afterward she wasn’t finding the kind of work she wanted. So in 2017 she started a pop-up restaurant called Nightshade. After more than 60 pop-up events, the project put down roots: It’s fitting that the space is filled with thriving potted plants. Miller lives in Lynn herself, and got to know the people who ran the coffee shop here for more than 30 years. When they retired, Nightshade Noodle Bar moved in.
What to Eat: For lunch, you’ll find banh mi and some of the noodle dishes that appear on the dinner menu: mi kho, house-made egg noodles with beef, mushrooms, or both, in a savory caramelized garlic sauce with Thai basil, peanuts, and warming chile crisp; bun chay, vermicelli tossed with pea tendrils, pickled vegetables, roasted squash, and smoked raisins (it would be an excellent dish on the Thanksgiving table). At dinner, there’s cabbage salad, bone marrow fried rice, the noodle soup hu tieu (made with Martha’s Vineyard bay scallops), and more. Nightshade also serves the likes of sticky-rice eggs Benedict and Viet-Cajun shrimp with house-made baguette for weekend brunch.
What to Drink: Fruity yet refined cocktails match the deep-greens-and-blues, tropical-jungle decor: the Indochine Queen (rum, curry-apricot, lime, and elderflower) and the Flower Park (vodka, Aperol, guava, and basil), for instance. The wine list highlights pét-nat, or pétillant naturel, the sparklers that have become popular with the rise of natural wine. There’s beer and cider from Notch, Narragansett, Artifact, and more. The lunch crowd will appreciate the strong, rich Vietnamese iced coffee.
The Takeaway: With its friendly bar scene and reinterpreted Vietnamese food, Nightshade Noodle Bar brings something different to downtown Lynn, and locals seem excited to visit. It will also be an interesting case study in what happens when talented industry vets tire of city prices and headaches, and decamp to communities where it’s more affordable to live and operate.