Cardwell’s, in Clayton, has been around for nearly twenty-five years.  Without a gimmick.  It’s not raucous.  It’s not the size of a barn.  There’s no theme.  No lengthy descriptions of where the radishes in your salad came from. It’s a nice, quiet, dark-wood neighborhood joint; the kind of place you go on date night when you’re not counting what number date it is anymore.  It’s just peaceful and pleasant; an underrated combination.

It’s also polished.  The service was friendly and attentive, including a table visit from the chef himself to clarify how one of us wanted her steak cooked.  (Pittsburgh rare, which is neither common nor easy, and they nailed it.)  The carpaccio appetizer made up for unremarkable bread, and the peppered New York Strip had remarkable onion strings and a nice double-baked potato complimenting the beef.  I had a “Mexican Martini” off the specialty cocktail menu, which turned out to be basically a margarita, shaken not stirred, but the showstopper of the meal was also a cocktail: The interestingly delicious “Strawberry-Basil Martini.”  It is exactly what it sounds like, and it is worth a visit all by itself. –

(© 2011, Missouri Life)