Like a furry puppy in a warm blanket, Sidney Street Cafe snuggles comfortably into the Benton Park neighborhood. The century-old storefront is very much at home on the city street corner. And well it should be; the current upscale cafe has been there since 2003.
When you dine at Sidney Street Cafe (or with its nearby sister Peacemaker Lobster & Crab), there’s always high expectations. And award-winning Chef Kevin Nashan and his crew work to exceed those expectations.
My group of Dining Women were out on the town recently with reservations for the five of us at Sidney Street. As we pulled up to the cafe, a friendly valet pointed us to a parking place several yards from the entrance. Wow! We were off to a good start already!
More Good Vibes
Sidney Street immediately embraces the diner with its decor of exposed brick walls, gleaming hardwood floors, and soft lighting. The antique bar, set near the entrance, is a work of art unto itself. Yes, the place checked several boxes before we ever sat down.
In the dining room, a nicely appointed table awaited us. Drinks arrived quickly, as did the bread basket of “unpowdered beignets.” Kudos to Kevin and the kitchen for bringing this touch of New Orleans to the menu—absent the sweet sprinkle. With no powdered sugar atop, I felt the rolls were much tastier and less decadent than traditional beignets.
Don’t Miss the Appetizers
Our server took the time to explain the chalk board of appetizers displayed on our small, table easel. We couldn’t decide which to order or how many, until the young woman said she could give each of us two different appetizers on a plate—though that particular configuration wasn’t on the menu. We smiled agreeably.
I went with one Veal Dumpling and a Lobster Turnover. Oh, my goodness, I could’ve made a meal itself on a few more of those Veal Dumplings! My photos don’t do them justice. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, because the lighting is designed more for conviviality than photography.
When I inquired if Kevin was in the kitchen, I learned he was visiting family in New Mexico. Kevin grew up in Santa Fe, where his parents had a restaurant for 27 years. He later expanded his culinary creds in Spain and New York City before he and his wife, Mina, and brother, Chris, took on Sidney Street.
The Deconstructed Dessert
Several of the cakes were of the “deconstructed” variety, that are popular with chefs wanting to add a bit of whimsy to the dessert menu. It means that the cook breaks apart elements of the dessert and serves them separately with his own artistic flair.
In this tasty Carrot Cake, (below) the cake is served in broken up chunks, along with a bit of passion fruit gel, cheesecake puree, and a carrot-passion fruit sorbet. I tasted some of the other “rearranged” cakes at our table and they were incredibly delicious, too!
Still Life on Plate
Even so, when it comes to dessert, I’m a “constructionist.” I don’t need my dessert plate to look like a Dutch painter’s still life. Just serve my sweets the old-fashion way—assembled and sliced or, at least, neatly spooned. I suspect this playful “deconstruction” fad will eventually go the way of the tunnel fudge cake. Until then, I’ll just smile and enjoy the fanciful delivery.
Sidney Street Cafe is what every dining experience should be: relaxed, comforting and delicious. Whether with family, friends, or out-of-town guest, you’re in for a memorable evening of superb dining.
Sidney Street Cafe. 2000 Sidney Street in Benton Park neighborhood. Open: Tue-Thu 5p,seating till 9p; Sat 5p, seating till 10p; closed Sun-Mon. Chef: Kevin Nashan.