Sidney Street Cafe (STL) - brief review
I recently dined at Sidney Street with my wife, our baby, and another couple. It was our family's first time at the restaurant -- we are new to town and don't get out often with a baby.
Because of the kid, we chose a very early hour (5:30), but the place was actually pretty full. For those who haven't been, it's a darker, wood-filled space that is comfortable, which could be either lively or intimate. They sat us in a cozy back room. The hostess and place were really pleasant, if clearly dated (the place, not the hostess). One small note on the room: there was only one high chair and it was broken, which may be of concern to other families.
The waiter was seemingly a professional, not a student working nights. He noted we had a baby and said he'd make sure service was prompt ("on a time-limit" I think he said), and gave strong opinions about offerings on the menu. For that, I give him an A. But he comes down to a B for his weak wine help, which I'll get too later.
We shared two appetizers: lobster turnovers and black bean falafel. Others liked the turnovers more than me, which seemed a little too sweet and oily, but then it was lobster. The falafel was a fairly nice and a little more complex. I give the apps a solid B+.
For a main, I had duck breast that had Korean-inspired sides -- kimchi, scallion pancake, etc. The ingredients were quality: great duck breast. The concept was pretty weak though, and the flavoring came off as standard Chinese carry out: somewhat sweet, a little oily, etc. That being said, it was not a menu option that the waiter recommended, so my bad in ordering. I'd give the main a B-, but round up to a B because it was really partly my fault.
The others got pork chops and steak, and seemed very happy. I think my wife would give her pork an A.
Two items of note/criticism...
1. The waiter, who was strong on food opinions, offered to help with a wine. We talked about how the wine drinkers were getting sweeter main courses (pork with a maple reduction and duck), and we asked about his recommendation. We specifically said we wanted something with a lot of fruit and that was jammy, and implied that perhaps a Zinfindel would go or maybe a southern Cab.
The waiter, oddly, came back with the statement that we should get what we like and not worry about pairing; one of us remarked that he basically said "everything goes with everything." After being pressed, he steared us away from a Zin and finally recommended a Syrah that was neither fruity nor jammy and didn't pair at all well with the food. It was nice, kind of toasty and dry, but not a wine we asked for nor one that went with the food. He gets a C- for this, and bring his overall waiter grade down to a B.
2. In my previous dinners at Niche (down the street), I noticed that the service was very fast, often with courses being served before the previous course was complete and too fast to order wine. In contrast at SSC the service was really slow, even though the waiter noted that we were pressed for time. While that made for a much more leisurely meal, it was tricky with the baby.
Time between courses were routinely 30 minutes. Following main courses, the baby was tired of being in a highchair, and I took him outside while others ordered and ate dessert -- which lasted for 45 minutes more. Nothing wrong with this, as a rule, but 2.5 hours for a meal doesn't fit the mold for being "on a time limit." Maybe that was the waiter not communicating with the kitchen or maybe it was the kitchen being on their own schedule, despite our very early hour. Of interest to me, however.
Overall, I say a very decent restaurant that is as comfortable as an old shoe.
Sidney Street Cafe
2000 Sidney St, Saint Louis, MO 63104
Unless a restaurant has a sommelier, most of the wait staff we encounter seem reluctant to pair wine for us. Everyone seems to have such different tastes and then you would have to take the blame if they don't like it. I wouldn't want that job. It is much more complex than recommending certain dishes that they see most seem to enjoy. I can see why they wouldn't want to make those recommendations just from experiences in my own family. We have a few members who are so picky, I hate to have them over for dinner.
If I had a baby with me and they had no working high chair that might just be a signal. I would find somewhere else. Some places are just not for babies or children. It is a good idea to call ahead and see how they feel about having babies. If I had a "nice" restaurant, I wouldn't want to risk having a baby/child out of sorts from missing nap time with a case of the screaming mimis ruining the experience at my place for the 99% of my other diners. It is very hard to expect babies and children to sit still and be quiet even for 30 minutes.
When my kids were little we had someone(grandparents or trade with friends) watch them on the rare occasion we went out. We could really relax and enjoy our dinner, wine and each other. Believe it or not this time passes in a flash.
Hey brownhound. I was at Sidney Street last week for the first time in about eight years. I had such fond memories, but I ended up feeling a little let down this time. As you stated, the wait time was actually beyond what I'm willing to accept (and I don't mind waiting a while, I LIKE sitting in restaurants), and the waiter, while perfectly pleasant, wasn't quite as informed as I would have liked. I asked one or two questions about ingredients that just fell flat...the food was all good but the portions were very, very skimpy and some of the most highly-touted ingredients were all but absent in the dish...(the pickled rhubarb in the salad, which was the aspect of that particular salad that sounded interesting...was represented by two, count 'em, two, paper-thin slices) All in all, not a bad meal, not a bad experience, but not as special as I remember it being. I think that henceforward I will be recommending Niche, Brasserie, Farmhaus, and Home Wine Kitchen rather than Sidney Street. It was fine, but it could have been better.
Sidney Street Cafe
2000 Sidney St, Saint Louis, MO 63104
3257 Ivanhoe Ave, St Louis, MO 63139
Three minor notes:
1. We wouldn't have asked the waiter for wine advice had he not offered. That being said, a finer restaurant should have staff on hand that has a working knowledge of wine given the resources spent on it by the resto and the customer.
2. We actually had called ahead about the child when we made the AARPesque 5:30 reservation. They were fine with it, but the sole broken high chair is something the place and families should know about.
3. We're new to town: no grandparents or good enough friends to babysit. So far, we're willing to risk a nice restaurant about twice a year.