Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis
A foodie here...moved to St. Louis August of 2009 from IL via Champaign and before that Chicago... Finally decided to try Sidney Street Cafe on what I thought would be a slow night (early in the week). I love Niche in the same area of town, and have been there several times. I think SS has a little different point of view food-wise. I had heard that SS was a good choice for a "romantic" dinner out, as I am scouting that for an upcoming event with my gf. Pleasant ambiance, but NOISY, even when not full. Interesting menu, well-informed servers, but....food was just good. Foie gras starter took about 30 miutes to appear, then salad and steak bernaise in quicker succession. It was all fine, but didn't add up to more than the sum of its parts. In fact, the steak was on the cool side (though cooked to the right temp), as if it had been waiting several minutes for pick-up. Any cooler and I would have complained, not that I expect a steaming piece of medium-rare filet mignon. Not overly impressed. A glass of port and a piece of carrot cake brought the total to seventy-something before tip. At that price point (most entrees hover around $30), things should be very good indeed. I can't help but contrast it to Atlas in the Central West End, a smaller, lovely space, went there once before new ownership and after, same great service...older clientele for sure, but food that added up to more than the sum of its parts. Never as crowded as it should be given the quality, and even when the place was full, it was never loud. Nice bar and fireplace, and food that is fairly simple but direct, and done very well. I think Atlas is still under the radar screen for some. Anyway...here's to good eating! Farmhaus is next on my list, all booked the last time I tried to get in!
Sidney Street Cafe
2000 Sidney St, Saint Louis, MO 63104
SSC is one of those places that you "get" or you don't, I think. I personally fall into the former category, but, my gosh, its fans are utterly rabid. The long recital of the menu abetted by the little chalkboards is disconcerting to the newcomer, but those slightly sweet rolls seem to soothe folks.
And you're right about Atlas. Very busy before Symphony and suchlike; reservations advisable. But open late on weekends for dessert, wine and coffee!
I'm another who doesn't "get" SSC. After a few visits, I've found that, while the food can be very good at times, the atmosphere, service and overall experience is not to my liking. As with many places in St. Louis that have been around awhile, people feel they have to love and defend SSC against anyone who'd say otherwise (similar to provel and Stl-style pizza)). I think people who grew up in St. Louis (I did not) like SSC more than those who didn't. I think SSS is a good restaurant capable of occasionally great dishes, but it's not a place I plan to become a regular at and for me it's a step below other spots in town (ie Niche, Monarch, Farmhaus).
I don't think it's that I don't "get" it...and it's true, it's a survivor in the restaurant scene at the higher end. I just din't think the food or pacing was at the price point they are trying to hit, and used Atlas as a comparison. I think Niche (maybe even more so since he is retooling the place) is noteably better, though it too can be noisy - but, it's so much smaller, so that is to be expected. And I have always had fine service there, and at Brasserie and Taste, for that matter.
Have you been to Monarch since the new menu was implemented? We celebrated an anniversary recently that also happened to be on a night they were having their current promotion, "pay what you think the food is worth". The server did the minimal amount, but their demeanor completely turned when we told them to run the bill as is. I would not be comfortable paying less than the bill stated. The BBQ shrimp and grits and appetizers were just average, almost bland and the blackened fish was so salty you could hardly eat it and it was over cooked.
We were disappointed overall but felt uncomfortable with the idea of "paying what you think". I wonder how that is working out for them.
Yes, I've been a couple times after the remodel. I'm sorry to hear that your visit wasn't up to expectactions. Even though the menu revamp for the southern cuisine is what is getting most people's attention now, I tend to stick mainly to the contemporary dishes that were on the menu before the remodel. I think this is where Monarch is at its best as the chef uses interesting ingredients and techniques that aren't common in St. Louis. I also appreciate that at Monarch they can offer a full-service dining experience: valet, coat check, great cocktails and winelist, in-house bread program and polished service (at least from my experience). Many places have some of these characteristics, but only a few in St. Louis have them all like Monarch. Hopefully you'll give Monarch another chance at some point.
I am curious as well on how the "Pay what you wish" promotion is going. I personally would feel guilty not just paying the stated price on the menu, but I'm sure others would feel differently.