Lincolnshire Gourmet

If you build a healthy salad, they will come. Apparently, they will all come. The Sex and the Suburbs crowd, that is.

The Carries. The Charlottes. The Mirandas. The Samanthas. All of them. Come nightfall, you’ll see them all perched in one corner or another, Blackberries holstered in their purses for easy access, at the Lincolnshire Gourmet in Highland Park, a high-end sandwich shop with forgettable bistro fare that’s become a kind of lightning rod for fashionable North Shore women of all ages and designer-shoe choices.

You’ll find the ubiquitous pair of old gal pals paired off in one corner, dredging down martins and giggling about old times. You’ll find the familiar fourtop of neighbors, accompanied by a pitcher of the house’s Absolute lemonade (glorified lemon drops), trading juicy block gossip. And then there’s the peacocks, small and large groups of women, lounging around one of the restaurant’s outdoor fire pits, ingeniously conceived communal dining areas in which comfy black couches are arranged in squares around a fire that flickers as softly as an Olympic torch.

Is it the food that’s driving flocks to this oddly named space — owner Terri Pedrone opened her original restaurant in Lincolnshire, thus the Mapquest-defying moniker — on Central Avenue? I doubt it. Our woefully undersized quartet of button mushrooms, stuffed with Swiss, parmesan and cream cheese, were smaller than some of the buttons on our neighbors’ blouses, and the house’s chorizo appetizer, served with a cool jalapeno-lime dipping sauce, is nothing more than a set of spicy charcoal briquettes masquerading as meatballs.

Timing as they say, is everything, both in fashion and in the restaurant business, so while it’s nice to see that the Lincolnshire Gourmet has tweaked its menu a bit, blending their lunch and dinner menus, it’s not advisable to hand out said menu when ¾ of the new entrees are not available to order. I’d like to tell you what the Greek-style skirt steak tastes like or the lobster cannelloni or the beef brisket with garlic mashed potatoes, but our attentive yet embarrassed server informed us that none of the above were available, nor were a half-dozen other things on the menu.

After waiting an hour for our chicken Vesuvio, our waitress (now crimson in the cheeks) wished us luck. “Given the amount of time this took,” she said, “I hope this is the best chicken Vesuvio you ever eat.” Unfortunately, it was not. By my estimation, there was an entire grove of lemon trees used in the preparation, the dark meat shriveled to a dry crisp. But the sandwiches, including a nice little citrus-infused salmon number with lemon-caper cream cheese, were enjoyable, as was the more hearty “black and blue” hero, which pairs blackened pork with blue cheese, fennel, spinach and pesto on a sourdough roll.

Just do yourself a favor and time the crunch of Pedrone’s wonderfully crunchy baguettes right. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the details of what happened at the opening for Zara in Old Orchard, would you?

✭ ✭  (for service and ambiance, not for the food quality)