1 part atmosphere
1 part culinary delight
2 unique heritages, fused to perfection
It’s a brave move, opening a restaurant midway through a pandemic. During a time when much of the hospitality industry was struggling or, worse yet, shutting its doors, why would anyone bet on the idea of going the opposite route? Really, opening a business of any kind, let alone one that would require its patrons to mingle during a time when much of the population remained shuttered behind masks seems like, well, a really odd choice.
Add a second odd choice side-dish of building this new restaurant around a unique Nordic-Asian culinary combination and it wouldn’t have been off base to call it a longshot.
Yet, a year after opening its doors, Lingr is not only lingering, it is thriving.
As the calendar flips to June, this St. Petersburg’s gem will mark its first anniversary. Lingr is a first of firsts - as it is also Chef Jeffrey Jew’s first solo restaurant venture, though, by its booming success, you’d never know it. And while one could almost label “June of 2021” as the beginning of the end of the pandemic, Lingr was actually slated to open even earlier - truly smack dab in the throes of bad-timing.
The hindsight of the originally scheduled opening is actually a bit terrifying…
- Over 110,000 eating & drinking establishments closed in 2020 (Fortune 500, Jan 2021)
- 1.8 million hospitality jobs lost since February 2020 (USNews.com, Mar 2022)
- In normal economic conditions, as many as 61% of independently operated restaurants fail within three years of opening (Time.com, Dec 2021)
…yet it was supply chain issues that pushed Lingr’s launch, rather than Chef Jew’s fear of how the continuing stay-at-home trend would affect his restaurant’s reception.
He went ahead with his dream.
There was a time, not so long ago, when restaurants were meant to be enjoyed. Food was to be savored, the company was to be appreciated, and the experience was not to be rushed. As dining out became an acceptable alternative to the daily family dinner at the kitchen table, the wonder and special treat of “going out” all but disappeared.
Today, restaurants often work at a breakneck speed, shuffling patrons through, and placing dishes on the table at a pace that can only be interpreted as a method to get the next party seated as quickly as possible. Even menus are disappearing, replaced with QR Codes, taking away the unwritten signal for diners to put their phones away and start engaging in actual conversation.
Lingr remains true to the wonder of the dining out experience.
There is no rush. There is no hurry. There is only enjoyment.
The restaurant is spacious, offering little chance of overhearing conversations from other tables. Menus (real menus!) are left with diners so that selections can be made at their own pace. Plates are delivered in the same fashion - when the guests are ready for the next course, not when the servers decide they are. Questions are welcome and handled with patience. Requests are welcome as if a part of the creative process.
And, if you make it all the way through a one-of-a-kind dessert and still have stories to tell your tablemates, you may just find Chef Jew himself joining you for an after-dinner drink.
There is no rush.
It may take a minute to acclimate to this relaxing tempo as it is a skill that has been somewhat forgotten. Once arrived, however, you will feel the world melting away.
Perhaps Chef Jew’s most important ingredients aren’t actually on those menus. Perhaps it is an emulsified blend of his drive to succeed, never taking “no” for an answer and just a dash of homegrown stubbornness. Yes, it's fairly obvious why there was really never any doubt that Lingr would quickly become a favorite eatery here in the St. Petersburg area.
Come try it for yourself. Make some time to Lingr.