Guest Contributor: Canyon CafeAuthor: WIBIA | Filed under: Food Reviews, Location: St. Louis, MO
Canyon Cafe is a very small chain with only a few locations in the nation. The place is fairly casual, but tends to attract a more affluent crowd because it is situated in what is arguably the most ritzy shopping complex in the Saint Louis area, Plaza Frontenac.
Canyon Cafe is open for lunch and dinner and features a mainly southwestern style menu with a good variety of appetizers, salads, pastas, sandwiches and steaks. The menu also has plenty of classic Mexican-style options like fajitas and tacos. In my opinion, Canyon Cafe boasts the best and most authentic Mexican/Southwestern food in the city. The one downside to the incredible food is that it’s becoming less and less of a secret. It is typical to expect to wait about 20-40 minutes for a table on a Friday evening. The staff is usually pretty friendly, but I’ve experienced an occasional crappy waiter or manager from time to time. Overall, the decor is really comfortable and attractive and the food generally excellent.
What I Ate: My Mom and I had dinner there recently. We shared a basket of complimentary wonton, sweet potato, and tortilla chips with salsa to start. Along with that, I had a Red Rock Lemonade ($3.79), a cup of Tortilla Soup ($1.99) and a Southwest Chicken Sandwich with fries ($9.79). The total bill was around $30.00 for both of us.
The restaurant offers a complimentary, bottomless basket of chips and salsa to diners. I know, this doesn’t break the mold when it comes to Mexican restaurants but these chips are really unique and so yummy! The basket contains a mix of w arm, homemade tortilla, sweet potato, and wonton chips and the salsa is obviously made from scratch and tastes very fresh and slightly sweet.
I also ordered a Red Rock Lemonade, which is basically a strawberry margarita without the liquor. It was very fruity, yet tart and had real bits of strawberry in it. It was kind of pricey but refills are free and it ended up being worth the four dollars.
Next up, a cup of Tortilla Soup which only costs $1.99 when ordered in addition to a sandwich. Canyon Cafe has won several awards for their soup and it’s easy to see why with this delicious recipe.
The soup has really nice mixture of onion and cilantro simmering in a slightly thick tomato broth. The taste was good, but just a bit salty for my taste. The portion size was actually pretty hearty for just a cup serving. The Tortilla Soup comes topped with shredded melted cheese, fresh cilantro and tortilla strips that add a whole new dynamic and give the soup a bit of additional flavor and texture. Overall, it was a very authentic and really tasty dish.
For my entree, I was struggling to deciding exactly what to order because nearly everything on the menu sounds good. I eventually decided I was in the mood for something classic and casual.
This sandwich, called the Southwest Chicken, always seems to be too much to eat in one sitting. The dinner portion has two marinated grilled chicken breasts, pepper jack cheese, portobello mushrooms, romaine lettuce and chipotle mayonnaise all on toasted, homemade bun that has bits of peppers baked right into it. The savory sandwich is served with crispy, seasoned fries and made from scratch ketchup that has an almost cinnamon flavor to it. I’ve probably eaten twenty of these sandwiches over the years and it’s likely my favorite dish to order at Canyon. The entree is incredibly simple but it is perfectly prepared. It’s even good served cold the next day for lunch.
Would I Buy It Again? Yes, easily. Canyon Cafe is one of my all time favorite restaurants in the city and will continue to be. Both the menu and ambiance are impressive and excellent. The food is always consistent in quality, quantity and taste.
Additionally, a meal at Canyon is a pretty decent value considering the bill for two people is generally around the same amount as it would be to have dinner at say, T.G.I. Fridays or something similar. The service is generally very courteous, quick and helpful. I can really only think of one or two isolated incidents where I’ve experienced a bad meal or service while dining there.
From start to finish, Canyon Cafe is a really solid place to grab a bite to eat and people watch. I strongly recommend experiencing a meal there for yourself.