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