Mall-Star

Cardwell's on the Plaza, featuring some of the city's most inspired cooking, is the one place in Plaza Frontenac where debt and energy are devoted to the sustenance of the internal self

Of the dozen dishes we tried over the course of a couple of visits, there were only two I wouldn't order again — a portobello stuffed with a spinach-and-cheese mixture, and the green salad. There wasn't anything really wrong with either of them; they just lacked the exuberance of other offerings. The mushroom dish was inoffensively bland, and the salad, topped with the alfalfa sprouts I keep wishing would go out of style, exhibited some grassy health-food overtones that anyone but me could probably tolerate.

About the menu: It was only slightly easier to read than an issue of Raygun. Sure, I'm nitpicking, but that's only because the food here deserves better. Cardwell's byzantine bill of fare requires that the diner, though she be faint from hunger, be of sound enough mind to decipher tiny coded symbols: "V" for "vegan," a flower for "ovo-lacto," a star for "available after 5 p.m." and a distracting little squiggle that turned out to be purely decorative. Sorting out the various headings — "Savories," "Odd Things" — was also an irritating business. I never figured out why gazpacho wasn't in the appetizer section, or why pan-seared scallops weren't under "Grills, Roasts, and Sautés." It was vexing. Call me lazy, but having to study a menu puts me off my feed. Please, just lead me to my dinner in its natural order. I will follow meekly.

It wasn't until our last visit that we were clever enough to save room for dessert. Our waiter (who, incidentally, could write the book on professional table service) brought us a confection so provocative, so moving, so epiphanous that it reduced us to faint, prurient moans for 10 whole minutes. He identified this little wedge of nirvana as Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Pie. The experience was so intoxicating that my recollections are a blur, but I can tell you this: If you took the coolest thing that ever happened to you — like when you got a pony for Christmas — and turned it into food, it would taste like Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Pie.

Cardwell's on the Plaza: The one place in Plaza Frontenac where debt and energy are devoted to the sustenance of the internal self
Jennifer Silverberg
Cardwell's on the Plaza: The one place in Plaza Frontenac where debt and energy are devoted to the sustenance of the internal self

Location Info

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Cardwell's at the Plaza

94 Frontenac Pl Dr
St. Louis, MO 63131

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: Frontenac

Cardwell's is the one place in Plaza Frontenac where debt and energy are devoted to the sustenance of the internal self. Seems that even in the land of the Range Rover, there is hope. The end.

CARDWELL'S ON THE PLAZA, Plaza Frontenac, 997-8885. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11-p.m. Fri.-Sat. (no service between 4 and 5 p.m. on Sat.), 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. Entrees: $8.25-$21.50.

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