Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Monroe Street Bistro

There’s a new kid on the block. The Monroe Street Bistro recently opened in late summer in the storefront formally occupied by Papa Phil’s, just west of Michael’s Frozen Custard. The Bistro has since drawn comparisons to Brasserie V, also a beer bar/European inspired restaurant located on Monroe Street, less than a mile away. The Monroe Street Bistro serves locally-sourced, European inspired cuisine paired with speciality beer, wine, and spirits. Since the Bistro is only a short walk from my house, it’s been at the top of my “must try restaurant” list since it first opened. From the beginning, the reviews have been stellar and there’s always a crowd. It seemed like the perfect choice for Saturday dinner with my parents.

When we arrived, shortly after 5pm, like eager senior citizens we found ourselves the only customers in the entire bar/restaurant. The staff was welcoming and attentive, but sort of had the “deer in the headlights for the first customers of the night” sort of look. Joseph, the gregarious and apparently well-known French bartender, took us under his wings and ensured that our beers were always filled and frothy. The bar has a great variety of unique beers on tap including Ale Asylum Hopalicious, Bell’s Two Hearted, Dlirium Tremens, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Gulden Draak, Hoegaarden, Kwak, Lagunitas IPA, Lake Louie Scotch Ale, Pilsner Urquell, Tripel Karmeliet, St. Bernardus ABT, Unibroue Maudite, Van-Dieu Grand Cru. Joseph provided us with many samples, always encouraging us to try before committing, and also filled us in on his educational, religious, and personal background. Joseph was indeed a character and very entertaining.

Before we knew it, and just as we started on our second beers, we realized the little bistro’s tables had quickly filled. We moved from the bar to a cozy table near the front window. So far, I was impressed. Great beers, friendly service, a quaint and charming atmosphere, locally sourced menu offerings, and a great neighborhood vibe. For dinner, I chose the Steak Et Frites (a 12oz CAB Flat Iron seared to medium rare, Cabernet pan sauce, grilled asparagus, & frites). At the last minute, I decided to order the steak medium, which ended up being a mistake. My mom opted for the Seasonal Quiche (filled with locally sourced seasonal vegetables) and my dad chose the MSB Burger (Fountain Prairie Farms ground beef, Hook’s white cheddar, fried onions, lettuce, tomato, bistro aioli, on ciabatta, with frites).

I must admit the food was good, but not great. My steak was a little overdone (partly my fault), but the frites with aioli were superb and enough to feed the family. My mom’s quiche was tiny, and next to a single leaf of spinach, seemed to drownd in a background of white china. My dad’s burger was interesting, to say the least. The taste of the beef was a little disconcerting. It was like a combination of a burger and a brat, which is not something you’re necessarily expecting/hoping for when biting into a juicy burger. It was a little disappointing, especially when it was my dad's first burger in over six months.

I’d definitely recommend Monroe Street Bistro, and plan to go back. I’d like to try a few other dishes on the menu, including the mussels and pesto grilled chicken. I’m also interested in a few of the small plates, namely the almond stuffed dates, spinach artichoke dip, crab cake, and cheese plate. The desserts also sound delightful and include cava poached pear, David Bacco truffles, cheesecake and brie and honey.

All in all, a fantastic addition to the neighborhood!

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