The food at the Cannon St. Grill was a pleasant surprise.
Surprising because I hadn’t really expected such creative food at an unassuming little neighborhood cafe.
This venue in Browne’s Addition has gone through a number of incarnations. I remember it as a laundromat 10 years ago, then a minimarket. It was then a casual deli called Quinn’s, and then Jandyl’s Cannon St. Grill. It reopened in 1993 as Cannon St. Grill by developers Ron and Julie Wells, who sought to give the place a bistro feel. In reality, the decor is more reminiscent of a pleasant English tearoom. Pale pink walls are filled with antique pictures and country kitsch knickknacks. Still, they deserve points for keeping the lighting dim at dinner.
The man responsible for giving the Grill its flavor is Jerry Schrader, who grew up in North Idaho, but who had amassed cooking credentials at a private club in Orange County, Calif., and at the resort in Sun Valley.
Schrader’s menu is fairly short, but it hits all the right notes. For dinner, there’s a chicken picatta, roasted pork loin accompanied by a red onion and apple compote, grilled marinated flank steak, crispy duck served with huckleberry sauce, panfried trout, king salmon with a champagne-dill sauce and a vegetarian pasta with grilled veggies. There are also nightly specials, which lean toward fresh fish.
At a recent dinner, I was impressed with the mushroom-spinach ravioli ($10.95), which is made on-premises by hand. The pasta was as delicate and tender as any I remember eating. It was a little bit thinner than a won ton skin. And the spinach filling wasn’t just filler. It had a nice savory flavor.
The ravioli was served with a fairly straightforward marinara sauce, but that was fine because it didn’t obscure the taste of the pasta.
My companion ordered the crab and shrimp cakes ($13.95). They were appropriately rich and full of succulent seafood. A roasted red pepper tartar sauce was almost too heavy for the dish. A lighter sauce might lend a better balance to the richness of the crab cakes.
His meal was accompanied by fresh green beans and some outstanding scalloped potatoes. The spuds, baked in the traditional creamy white sauce, were pure heaven and a nice departure from the typical accompaniments.
The selection of side dishes rotates regularly to highlight seasonal ingredients or to complement the flavors of the entrees. That’s a wonderful plan I would love to see more restaurants adopt.
Dinners start with a simple green salad, which I found to be underdressed, and a loaf of sourdough from the Coeur d’Alene French Baking Company. The bread was accompanied by generous pats of butter, a small touch that was much appreciated. One of my pet peeves is nice restaurants that serve prepackaged butter.
An otherwise enjoyable meal was marred by our waitress, who served us with the efficiency (and charm) of a drill sergeant. I try to cut servers a certain amount of slack, but this woman rushed us through our meal like she was anxious to free up our table. (The restaurant wasn’t even half-full, so it wasn’t like there was another party waiting for our spot.)
She even hovered as we paid our check. I had the urge to tell her to relax. This is the kind of restaurant where diners might like to linger over dessert or a glass of wine (off the short, but well-chosen wine list).
A different server was more polished on a return visit for Sunday brunch.
I had heard glowing reports about breakfast at Cannon St. Grill, mostly people praising a place that served big portions of delicious food without succumbing to the all-you-can-stuff-yourself buffet bit.
Weekend breakfast selections included huevos rancheros served on a bed of black beans, raspberry pancakes with cream cheese, eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon and several types of omelettes.
I ordered the vegetarian version, which was filled with lightly sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onions. It was tasty even if the eggs were a bit overcooked.
The highlight of my meal was the wonderful home fries - par-boiled red potatoes that were sauteed with onions. They were slightly crispy and well-seasoned. A real treat, but then, I’m a sucker for spuds.
Another high point of the breakfast was the eggs Florentine, which were poached eggs on toast in a light cheese sauce. The sauce was flecked with spinach and the combination made for an unusual, thoroughly enjoyable dish. The only minor complaint was that the eggs Florentine was served in a small dish that made it a little awkward to eat.
Another small disappointment was that the Cannon St. Grill didn’t serve better coffee. With a number of local coffee purveyors, it seems logical to upgrade from the stuff served at fastfood restaurants.
Still, I thought the positives outweighed the negatives, and I would recommend the Cannon St. Grill to diners interested in wellprepared food in a cozy setting.
xxxx CANNON ST. GRILL Address/phone: 144 S. Cannon, 456-8660 Meals: European bistro Prices: Breakfast, most meals under $6. Lunch, $5.50-$7.95; Dinner, $9.95-$15.50 Days/hours: Mondays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday breakfast, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Alcohol: beer and wine Smoking: No Reservations: suggested Credit cards: MC, V Checks: yes