Review: Russell’s On Macklind
Russell’s, in the SoHa neighborhood (South Hampton), has always had a good vibe. It’s the quintessential neighborhood bakery/cafe that has grown into a bonafide restaurant, but still managed to keep its warm, welcoming ambience. It’s been in South city for nearly two years, and just a few months ago expanded to add an upstairs dining room to its homey storefront space. If you haven’t been here yet, ask for a main-floor table to get the full flavor of the place. There’s a fireplace and big windows onto the adorable city neighborhood. Additionally, the bakery counter and all its goodies are at the far end of this room, and nearby residents wander in and out to buy cupcakes and other sweets.
As for the menu, there’s a bit of everything. We started with Grilled Bread ($5) and Pear & Blue Cheese salad ($6). The bread is amazing: thick squares of rustic bread crisped, top and bottom, on the griddle with a nice layer of salt and no grease. It comes with rosemary butter and honey butter, both very good. The salad, too, is satisfying with thin slices of firm Bartlett pear, blue cheese, candied walnuts and house-cured bacon. The dressing is a pleasant light balsamic vinaigrette.
On a second visit, we got a Russell’s favorite, Cheese Puffs ($8), thick cubes of very soft and delicious country white bread dipped in bechamel and cheddar and baked to a light crustiness. They were as tasty as they sound, but a couple of them came stuck together and those sides were wet.
A favorite one night was the Noodle Stroganoff ($18), a very rich dish with slow-cooked beef, caramelized mushrooms and crème fraîche. The noodles were thick and house-made, and the dish overall had very good interplay between the savory meat and the heavy cream. Bits of sweet carrot added color and a pleasant sugary undertone. BBQ Shrimp & Grits ($14) also impressed, with a grainy variety of grits and very sweet, sauce-laden shrimp doused in an apricot bourbon barbecue concoction.
The Braised Individual Chuck Roast ($18) was exceptional, a big slab of slow-cooked beef in red wine reduction with a dab of horseradish cream on top. The meat was tender and not as fatty as chuck often is. The sides we chose for it (entrees come with two sides of your choice)—Heirloom Carrots with Local Honey & Sea Salt and White Beans with Lemon Garlic Sausage—went especially well with it, as the beans soaked up the gravy and the carrots cut some of the richness.
Naturally, you can’t pass on dessert here; it wouldn’t be neighborly. We tried Mom’s Carrot Cake ($4), which was chunky and moist with coconut, walnuts and carrots and a frosted topping. It was good, but even better was a layered pound cake with Italian meringue icing between layers ($5). You’ll see a tantalizing array of these four-layer cakes in the bakery case—they come in all varieties—chocolate bourbon, strawberry whipped cream, devil’s food, and more. I bet they’re all winners.
the scene | Homey neighborhood bakery-bistro
the chef | Alyssa Bruns
the prices | $5 to $12 starters, $17 to $26 entrees
the favorites | Hand Cut Egg Noodles, Grilled Bread, Braised Chuck Roast
chef chat » owner russell ping
culinary pedigree | Culinary Arts degree from Sullivan University in Louisville
favorite ingredient | Butter
favorite cookbook | Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
favorite st. louis restaurant | Brasserie
most memorable dining experience | Bouchon in Napa—the service was unbelievable.
guilty pleasure food | Reduced Fat Cheez-Its
5400 murdoch ave. | 314.553.9994
Photos: Bill Barrett