November 11, 2011
Open for 4 weeks now, 2nd St. Bistro is an expansion of Stash’s and Guido’s into a nighttime, waiter service, tablecloth, BYOB restaurant, using the 2nd room for the bistro and leaving the main room for Stash’s. This, however, will possibly change soon as the owner told me that he will take half of the Stash’s room to expand seating for the Bistro, and ramp up the Italian options for Stash’s at night. Forget that the restaurant shares the kitchen with a “hot dog joint,” as it is not relevant. Judge 2nd St. Bistro on its own merits, and it stands very well indeed. I think it is a great idea to have a BYOB place in Highland Park. Especially since 2nd St. Bistro’s food deserved to be paired with great wine, and I can do this without adding a huge amount to the bill. Our server was knowledge, professional, and efficient. The surroundings are a bit bare bones, but who cares? My wife started with the cauliflower soup with a hint of truffles, which was delicious. I had the shaved Brussels Sprouts with pine nuts and a golden raisin vinaigrette that I would not recommend as it was like eating a raw cole slaw of no particular merit. I had the roasted whitefish on a bed of wilted spinach and red quinoa, with a very nice bleurre blanc. The fish was a nice sized portion, and was perfectly cooked. My wife was not too hungry, and had the vegetable antipasto as her second course, and liked it very much. We had to go home to start cooking for the holiday, so we didn’t have the opportunity to try desserts. If they are the same level of cooking, I would expect the desserts to be worthwhile. We will definitely be back with all of our friends. 2nd St. Bistro is for foodies, and offers a great bang for the buck.
November 24, 2011
Four of us ate at 2nd Street Bistro tonight, and I can comment on more of the menu. I had the “thick” skirt steak cooked medium rare with sous vide, and my wife had the whitefish. Our cousins had the skirt steak and the short ribs, so I was able to taste the short ribs as well. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the fish. I had the skirt steak which tasted good, nicely tender, and is apparently formed by protein binding of 3 thin pieces of skirt steak together and then cooked to medium rare in the sous vide. Personally, I like a little more char on the surface of my skirt steak for more flavor contrast, and to achieve that with sous vide, one would have to cook the steak at a slightly lower temperature and then grill for a little longer. This is probably just me wanting a bit more taste bang, but since the steak was served with a nice red wine reduction and smashed potatoes, I would still recommend it highly. Unfortunately, I can’t be as enthusiastic about the short ribs, which, although good, were not at the fall apart with a sharp look tenderness that I expect to taste with that dish. I, however, would be happy to give the short ribs another try. BTW, the short ribs are not cooked sous vide style.
We shared an apple crisp for dessert, with tart green apples (probably Granny Smith) with the skin still on, which caused me to not to like an otherwise nice presentation. I saw a 7 layer carrot cake served at the next table, and one serving could easily be shared by 4 people. I’ll try something other than the apple crisp next time. The restaurant is doing well for good reasons, and it is definitely on my favorite list. The BYOB is a very nice asset. It means I can have much nicer wine from home with dinner without being hit with the normal restaurant markup on booze. In these lean times, having that option while dining out where the food is excellent and reasonably priced is a strong inducement to giving this restaurant my recurring business.
December 28, 2011
My wife, daughter and I went to 2nd St. for the 3rd time (first time for my vegetarian daughter), and it appears that they are suffering growing pains. Expansion into one half of the Stash’s space has been going for the past week. We had 7:15 pm reservations and when we placed our order at 7:30, we were told that they had just run out of the whitefish. I ordered the wild caught salmon, and calamari to start, and my wife had the cauliflower soup and the roasted half chicken. My daughter ordered the acorn squash, which she reported tasted good. My calamari was a little bit tough from overcooking. The salmon was slightly overcooked, with a good taste, but with a definite fishy odor. The chicken was notably too salty. Service was slow, but pleasant nonetheless.
Running out of your best selling entrée early in the evening, and the cooking faux pas noted indicate to me that the restaurant has not made the adjustments to the extra tables added. I suspect that they will get it right soon, and make adjustments in their purchasing, cooking and staffing. I will post a follow-up based on our next experience there.