Above: Avocado toast gets all dressed up for lunch at St. Kilda Cafe.
By Wini Moranville
One of the first things I noticed (and thoroughly appreciated) about my inaugural lunch visit to St. Kilda Cafe was that the space wasn’t Arctic-zone cold on a hot summer day. I’m so tired of settling into a restaurant this season and wishing I had brought my parka.
The comfortable, sane temperature was just one way in which St. Kilda seems to be doing things a little differently. Another way they’re bucking the trend: They do not serve french fries alongside their sandwiches. According to owner Alexander Hall, disappointed customers have been quite vocal about this perceived lack. And he confided that he felt somewhat bewildered by their demands.
Rightly so. When you can get inventive, fresh-forward food like the avocado toast, why would you want to stultify the experience with fries? Instead, revel in the undistracted pleasures of the crisp-chewy toasted sourdough topped with a bright, colorful combo of smashed avocado, pickled red onions, roasted corn and microgreens. The poached egg — an option I couldn’t refuse — made it all the more luscious.
And you’ll find none of that Cheesecake Factory-style ham-handedness that plays so well at too many places: A cynical kitchen would shag-carpet the toast under the cheese and salsa, but thankfully, the judicious dots of feta and the light swath of salsa brought the kind of precision and refinement that we generally only get when we splurge for dinner at a top-dollar bistro.
If that doesn’t sound filling enough for you, order the Cubano. With chunks of pork shoulder, ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickles, the sandwich stayed mostly classic, save for the lime aioli tweak. Even without fries, it was plenty hearty.
So take heart, Mr. Hall. When you try to veer off the beaten path, there will always be naysayers at first. Yes, we all love fries now and then; but soon, people who are jonesin’ for them will know that they’ll need to go somewhere else that day. And they’ll leave more of your tables (for which the demand has been high) for the rest of us.
St. Kilda Cafe is located on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Southwest Fifth Street; 515-369-7854; stkildadsm.com