Shark Attack

The eleven-year-old Cardwell's has all the pizzazz of a just-opened hotspot

In a nice, casual-but-not-too twist, eating at the horseshoe-shape bar is encouraged -- white linen napkins are set out like placemats. And to be honest, I found the service at the bar to be faster, more suave and more self-assured than that at the tables.

Some claim that a show can jump the shark with its very first episode, which is another way of saying, "I think this show blows." A restaurant situated in a mall should, by most estimations, blow from day one. But Cardwell's has managed to sidestep that hazard, too. The outdoor patio that abuts the parking lot is hedged in by handsome shrubbery, while the restaurant's mall-side entrance is obscured by a handful of floor-to-ceiling columns and brick pillars. Lots of different seating options, a few cozy nooks and crannies, and a textural interplay throughout the restaurant's décor -- those brick pillars, terra cotta tiles on the wall behind the bar, mottled yellow paint on other walls, woven leather chairs -- imbue the room with genuine coziness and warmth.

The Cardwell's in downtown Clayton was opened in 1987 by chef/owner Bill Cardwell and partner Rich Gorczyca. Seven years later, they opened Cardwell's at the Plaza, and three years after that, in 1997, they split up: Cardwell sold his interest in the original Cardwell's to Gorczyca, who in turn sold Cardwell his interest in the Frontenac Cardwell's. For many recent years, Dave Owens was the heralded executive chef (and a minor owner) of Cardwell's at the Plaza. He left in April to start up his own restaurant, Terrene, in the Central West End.

Need a break from all your worries? Head to the always-excellent Cardwell's at the Plaza.
Becca Young
Need a break from all your worries? Head to the always-excellent Cardwell's at the Plaza.

Location Info

Map

Cardwell's at the Plaza

94 Frontenac Pl Dr
St. Louis, MO 63131

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: Frontenac

Details

Calamari $9.50
Mediterranean sampler $10.75
Flank steak $24.75
Profiteroles $7.25

314-997-8885. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri-Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.

94 Plaza Frontenac, Frontenac

All these bend-over-backwards business machinations and staff changes read like your typical slapdash episode of Three's Company (which, let's face it, jumped the shark the moment Jenilee Harrison unpacked her bags), and all can be keen indicators that a restaurant is passing its prime. Cardwell's remains strong because, through it all, Bill Cardwell's hands have been writing the menu and working the line. He never fully turned over the reins in the kitchen to Owens or anybody else; he claims he's back there seven days a week, and that he currently has no plans to replace Owens because he doesn't need to.

Cardwell's can be all things to many comers. Showing up in khaki shorts feels just as right as showing up in a suit. (During the day, a few ladies-who-lunch come in their tennis outfits.) Ordering just a salad is as appropriate as opting for the filet mignon and a bottle of 2002 Caymus cab for $120. To such broad-based, timeless and topnotch appeal, I say: Cheers.

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