Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One 19 North

119 North Kirkwood Rd.
Kirkwood, Mo.

On the web

A co-worker, who I will refer to in this entry as 'Tim' suggested this place. His alleged family had stumbled into it while out doing alleged family things and found it quite interesting.
Of course, I also gave him the standard disclaimer that everyone who recommends a place to me gets:
1. Our tastes and preferences may be different.
2. Since you like the place and recommend it to me, knowing that I will publicly review it, I am also, in essence, judging you.

I was pretty much out of ideas and motivation. It seemed to me to be almost a chore to try to find something different, as in something with quality. I've been griping for quite a while about my taste buds succumbing to the effects of being constantly nuked by fast food. Everything was starting to taste like everything else.
Tim's suggestion sort of face slapped me out of my coma. Of course, there are millions of places that don't make fast food! Why don't we try something different?
I emailed Angel a link to the place, she replied within minutes, pointing out the same item om the online menu I had seen, fish tacos.
Sure, we'd had fish tacos before and either liked them, or not, nothing to get really excited about.
Kirkwood is a bit farther away than we normally stray, but still within our territory. Adam had even agreed to meet us there.
Through absolutely no fault of my own, when the time came to leave on Sunday, I was still tromping through the woods with some History Club buddies, taking stock of a long-abandoned cemetery. Historians, it turns out, generally have a lousy sense of real-time, we're always later than we say we will be. Angel called and snapped me back into the present.
Kirkwood is a very interesting St. Louis suburb. It has an Amtrak station and next to that a pleasant and prosperous restaurant and shoppe area that caters to more up-scale foot traffic. By my count we passed or could see thousands of store front eateries between the public parking lot and the place we were going. Every sort of cuisine and style from an old-school diner to chic, club-style, minimalist, organic, vegan, free range cucumber and mango joints.
Our place was not difficult to find, especially since it named itself after its own street address.
The Place:
As with most places like this, there was a menu posted outside. This I knew, was a city thing. It caters to the foot traffickers, those out and about groups wandering shoppe to shoppe and deciding that it's time for nourishment, and looking for something new. We waited to go in as a couple of ladies were hunched over the posted menu. Finally, a black-clad gentleman from the floor staff pushed the door open for them, inviting them in. We followed.
The interior was dark, almost cavern dark. If I had to guess, I'd say the entire room was using nearly 3 watts of lighting. It presented the sensation of being candle lit. This is not really a bad thing, we introverts don't like bright lights in public places. My only concern was that it was going to make photographing the food difficult. This is why the accompanying photos are a bit dim and fuzzy.
Not a large place, but there weren't a lot of people there. There was overhead music, not intrusive or pounding. The first song I heard was 'Werewolves of London', that shifted later to Pat Benatar. This would be just fine.
The wall alongside the bar was painted to look like some sort of sandstone, the opposite wall was outfitted with rough, distressed wood. The kind of planks you pull from an early 20th century barn. The ceiling tiles were painted black, adding to the darkness.
On the table were two large, shiny wine glasses. I like wine but it distorts my perspective on the world around me. Most of the time that's a good thing, but not when I'm reviewing a new place. Cloth napkins. You don't see that in most places we eat. Classy.
There was one patron hugging the bar, a regular I presumed, since the bartender and a couple of the other floor crew were engaged in lively conversation with him.
Our server arrived and asked about drinks. I asked her if they had tea, she replied that they did. "Is it any good?" I asked, which seemed to me to be a fair question. I was somewhat surprised by her candid answer. She sort of wrinkled up her nose like she was about to apologize for something. "It's just Lipton."
I asked for it anyhow. It was fine.
Angel decided that the provided water was good enough, Adam ordered a Coke. The server, somewhat disappointed, snatched up the two wine glasses.
Places like this make a lot more money off of wine than the food, I get that. Sorry. Maybe next time.
We had all reviewed the menu online, but still took a few minutes to consider options.
The Food.
* See menu descriptions below.
Whenever Adam is with us, he and Angel conspire about appetizers. Quite often they order wings, which are usually of the Buffalo style and toxic to my delicate tongue. They decided on the wings anyhow, but they weren't billed as being hot and orange.
This is a Tapas joint. This means things are appetizer style, not one fixed plate per person. I like this idea, it means you can order something you know and try things you don't without anyone doing without. We decided on three. Fish Tacos, of course, also the pork tacos which promised to have a light kick. Adam wanted to find out what 'Bacon Jam' was, so he voted for the flatbread. Flatbread can mean several things, from pizza to a tortilla to the Indian 'naan' (which I favor). Almost every culture has a version of flatbread.
More people started wandering in, the place got a bit busier. The cluster of staff around the bar didn't move much, it appeared that the floor was being mostly covered by two or three ladies. I was concerned that the group at the bar was a little too involved in their conversation for a little too long. Many restaurants, especially classier ones, frown on the staff chatting it up on the floor. Or maybe its none of my business.
The wings arrived with a ramekin of white dipping fluid in the center. I assumed Ranch, since everyone serves Ranch dressing with lots of things. I don't particularly care for Ranch. Since I was here to review though, I dipped the tip of my fork in it and tried it. Not really Ranch-y at all (the buttermilk had tamed the beast that is Ranch). I asked Angel and Adam if the chicken was hot. "The temperature yes, the spice, no, not at all." I decided to go all in and try an entire wing.I was barely into the first steaming bit when the tacos arrived. We shoved things around and made more room. The other tacos arrived soon after that. Four each on attractive and probably single-tasker taco trays. Shortly after that the flatbread arrived. We made more room and went all family style.
The chicken, I decided, was really very good. In fact I had two wings, a rare thing for me to do.
The pork taco was closest, so I tried it first. Nice, light soft tortillas, filled with more than I had expected. The pork chunks were quite delicious, but maybe a little tough. It didn't quite bite in two so a large portion came out all at once. The Pico de Gallo (salsa) was certainly fresh and bright tasting, not at all like canned salsa form New York City. It had a harmony of tastes, all of them good. There was some heat on the backside, but not an overpowering amount.
The fish version did not have this heat, but the slaw worked beautifully, also fresh, bright and multi-dimensional. The stick-like fish was perhaps a bit overcooked, but not too much so. Because of the slaw, it was indeed about the best fish taco I recall having.
Adam's bacon jam flat bread led to prolonged analysis. "It's weird." he said, but not in a derogatory way. "I can't really describe it." Angel and I split a wedge. Indeed it was very hard to describe. There was a smokiness, but also an unusual sweetness. It defied comparison to anything I could explain.
I don't like food that baffles me, even if it isn't really bad. I could not explain this taste, therefore I was unable to eat any more.
Not a problem though, Adam cleaned up the whole thing. 
I had one pork and one fish taco, plus the two wings. None of this was large or heavy. Angel and Adam agreed, we had room for dessert.
We asked the server about their offerings. There were two. The first, Tres Leche, I believe, was a milk cake. That didn't ring any bells of delight. The second though seemed perfect. A brownie with a little caramel sauce and a scoop of ice cream on the side. Simple.
Things got a little confusing then. I can't offer up exact quotes but the conversation with the server seemed to be a little unconventional. Angel said she wanted the brownie and the server agreed and turned to walk away. Adam declared that he'd like it too. She did it again. I stopped her and said I'd like a brownie as well. She squinted and said something to the effect of "So you want another brownie?" I hesitated, had she misunderstood?
Two brownies arrived, were dropped off without another word. I had to flag down a wandering server to correct the problem. I chalk this up mostly to miscommunication, not necessarily bad service. The brownies weren't big enough to share. 
Any frustrations I had vanished quickly as Angel and Adam tried a little piece of the brownie and both expressed the same, completely reflexive "Wow!"
When mine arrived I did the same, I didn't want to, but there was simply no avoiding it. Dark, not too sweet, very very chocolate-y, rich and creamy. My taste buds lit up with a spontaneous standing ovation. Things were said. Reverent things, worship-y things. The table got very quiet as we each celebrated this holy moment in our own way. A new religion could be based on this particular delicacy.
Yes, it was that good. I'm not a dessert guy, you know that. I can walk right by cakes and pastries all day. I don't eschew them completely, they just don't tempt me. But this, this thing of infinite beauty ripped my brain in half.
Oh, and the accompanying ice cream was good too.  
It was so good, Adam used actual words. ". . . probably one of the best places we've been to. At the very least, the best brownie we've all had."
There was the mix-up with the brownies, there was the huddle of crew members near the bar, but those are hardly serious condemnations. The food, for the most part was absolutely wonderful. The atmosphere, though a bit too dark for my general tastes, was relaxed and cozy. No high pressure, no being stalked by the pepper guy, drinks were refilled regularly, all good.
Tim was right, it was pretty good. He did well recommending this place (He sweat this review all weekend, he tells me.)

* Menu listings:

House made Chipotle Bacon Jam spread
topped with Mozzarella And Avocado

flash fried Panko Breaded Tilapia w/ a Red
Chili Marinade served with Baja Slaw and
Avocado Salsa Verde

Seared and shredded Pork Shoulder
served with Baja Slaw, Pico de Gallo and
Chimichurri sauce

house made Buttermilk Ranch

One 19 North Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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