mez | Scene | Stepping Out
Stepping Out: Canyon Cafe
1707 S. Lindbergh Blvd., Store No. 2, Frontenac, MO 63131, 314-872-3443
While sitting in a lively restaurant and staring at a beautiful landscape painting, I asked my friend, “Is that the Grand Canyon?” She looked at me like I was an idiot. Oh wait, stupid question. I was sitting at Canyon Cafe.
Canyon Cafe serves tasty, well-presented cuisine inspired by the American Southwest. Located in Plaza Frontenac, the café is a short drive from campus. Whether you plan to head to Plaza Frontenac to do a little shopping or to see a movie, your visit will be made extra special by taking a seat at this Southwest-inspired eatery.
On a recent Saturday night, the restaurant was packed. I must admit that my friend and I were just about the only college-aged people I noticed in the restaurant. With some exceptions, the majority of the other diners looked like they were either over 50 or under 4. At first, I thought this might be related to the cost of the food, but I was happy to discover that the prices were relatively reasonable. (My dinner was $12.50 before the tip. My friend’s meal was more expensive: Her salmon entrée was one of the most expensive on the menu and was priced at $14.95.) So as long as you don’t mind being surrounded by some older folks or their adorable grandchildren, it’s totally worth a visit. Another alternative would be to take a seat at Canyon Cafe’s bar. The bar was occupied by some younger people and boasts the best margaritas in St. Louis.
Once my friend and I took our seats, we were provided with a large bowl of multicolored chips and salsa. But these weren’t just any chips and salsa; they were arguably the best chips and salsa I’ve ever eaten. Before even trying the chips, I was impressed by their bright orange and navy colors. In addition to tortilla chips, some sweet potato chips were sprinkled in the mix along with a few amazingly flavorful, sweet and spicy, savory fried chips. My only complaint is that there weren’t more. The salsa was made with chunks of fresh tomato mixed with a blend of spices, creating a unique and spicy complement to the chips. To combat the heat of our chips and salsa, our waiter was quite diligent about refilling our glasses of water.
For the entrée, I ordered Canyon Cafe’s Margarita Soft Tacos. Two large, artfully presented tacos were served on a plate along with rice and an orange tortilla cup filled with black beans, which were garnished with cotija, a crumbly Mexican cheese with a flavor similar to Greek feta but less salty. The outer shell of the tacos was a white flour tortilla, and the inner shell was a more crunchy corn tortilla. The tortillas were attached by a light layer of cheese. A generous array of lightly battered shrimp and crisp slaw filled the taco shells. The tacos were topped off with a delicious spicy sauce. The combination of the flour and corn tortillas along with the tasty sauce made these tacos exceptional. My only complaint is that they were difficult to eat; they were too overstuffed to pick up, and the crunchy inner shell made them tricky to cut.
Meanwhile, my friend ordered the Applewood Smoked Pecan Salmon. Though I only had a bite or two of her dish, I had enough to know that it was delicious. The star of this entrée was the side of sweet potatoes. Perfectly cooked, the mashed sweet potatoes had a rich flavor with just a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar. The salmon was also cooked to perfection and had a light, smoky flavor that complemented the sweetness of the pecans tossed on top. Although it was beautifully presented, there was one small problem with this dish: The “sautéed” spinach atop the salmon looked more like barely cooked leaves.
After our meal, we were presented with two complimentary white chocolate-filled tamales.The tangy white chocolate was a sweet way to conclude a satisfying meal full of bright colors and bold flavors. If you want a bit of heat and Southwestern sunshine to brighten up your cold, dark February evenings, be sure to drop by Canyon Cafe. When you see that beautiful landscape hanging on the wall, impress your friends by saying, “Look! That’s the Grand Canyon!” And if your astute observation fails to impress them, no worries; they will be blown away once the chips and salsa arrive.