Canyon Café 1707 South Lindbergh Boulevard (in Plaza Frontenac), Frontenac; 314-872-3443
The Hours: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
The Deal: $3 house margaritas, $3 house wine, $2 draft beer, $2 wells, selected menu for $2.95-$4.95
The Scene: Restaurant theme gimmicks tend to cause Gut Check to break out in hives, so upon entering Canyon Café we immediately wondered what all the sand tones and desert decorations were overcompensating for. Attached to Plaza Frontenac, Canyon Café draws in a put-together and smiling suburban crowd. These folks appear to be stopping in not after a hard day of work but after a hard day of shopping.
The café is known for its margaritas, namely the "Limit-2 Margarita," ostensibly so potent that the bartender will cut you off after two. The 'ritas on special during happy hour, though, are significantly toned-down. The citrus flavors are refreshing, but they overpower the main event (the tequila).
Why You'll Go Back: Don't be fooled into thinking that low happy-hour menu prices mean smaller plates. For three bucks you get a decent heap o' chicken nachos with plenty of fixins. And the food's more than decent for the price. The flavors are well balanced and nothing is overly greasy. The onions in the chicken quesadilla were caramelized to the perfect level of sweetness and the margarita slaw would make other garnishes cry in shame.
The Verdict: Maybe Gut Check was hasty to judge Canyon Café for its theme mongering. We could see ourself getting used to this place -- enough to reach the Limit-2, anyhow.