A tip from one of many food fans with whom we chat sent us looking for this quiet neighborhood spot in Maplewood. South of the railroad tracks and east of Big Bend Boulevard, it stands at the corner of Piccadilly and Manhattan, which should be -- but isn’t -- the intersection of a pair of glamorous boulevards. The building clearly has been there for years and years and, in fact, the Piccadilly at Manhattan, to use its full name, has been in the same family since the 1920's.
The interior is much more contemporary, nicely painted and offering thoughtful touches like hooks under the bar for customers’ purses and jackets. Tables pay tribute to various people and places under their glass tops; the one we used held Bob Dylan pictures, record album covers and other memorabilia. There’s a good-sized deck behind the dining room, and a parking lot behind that, entered from Manhattan Avenue. It’s very much a neighborhood place; as we sat there on a pre-theater Friday, almost all new arrivals were greeting other tables and/or the proprietors, Nick and Maggie Collida. By the time we finished dinner, several folks stopped by to say hello to us, too, so we fit right in.
The menu is brief, a couple of narrow pages, mostly first courses and sandwiches, with a few proper entrees, and a couple of chalkboards with specials. Only three wines are available by the glass to supplement the expected beer, but table cards boast of 20 wines (10 white, 10 red) for $20 or less a bottle, not from labels easily recognized, but including some interesting offerings from South Africa, South America and Australia, in addition to a number of California varieties. It’s the sort of thing that piques the curiosity of the wine-inclined, and definitely is worth investigating. We were unable to dig into the list, but when we return, you can count on it.
We kicked off with an order of chicken wings. The "our way" option was described as sweet and hot. The moist, meaty wings’ sauce began as sweet; the heat kicked in a little later in the eating, and remained at moderate levels. The Piccadilly salad, large enough to be lunch on another day if we hadn’t split it, began with fresh, nicely chilled, crisp iceberg lettuce, tossed with judicious amounts of julienne salami and cheese, and some sweet red onion. The house dressing was a nicely balanced oil and vinegar mixture. Iceberg lettuce is perfectly acceptable in a casual restaurant, and the amount of dressing was just right, enough to season everything but not leave a puddle on the plate.
Main courses? We pondered. Pasta with seafood in a creamy garlic sauce and fried catfish with slaw and fries were the daily specials. Many plates of handsome, ungreasy fried chicken flew by. Our consideration of a pork tenderloin sandwich stopped abruptly when a handsome double cheeseburger was served to a fellow at the bar. We succumbed to a single, a five-ounce patty that arrived hot and juicy, alongside some seasoned fries. A grouper sandwich was piled high, its boneless pieces, clad in a light batter, were sufficiently tasty and juicy that it needed no tartar sauce.
Maggie Collida makes the desserts (their son is the chef), and we’d advise saving room if they’re as good as the one we tried. "Carrot cake," was the dessert du jour, proclaimed the chalkboard. "Roulade" is probably not a word that will ever appear in print at Piccadilly, but the carrot cake was made in a jelly roll pan and rolled around a particularly creamy cream cheese filling to produce what is technically called a roulade. We call it yummy.
Pleasant, attentive service, but realize this is a small kitchen and everything is cooked to order. That can, and does, mean that the food at Piccadilly at Manhattan will arrive piping hot and extremely tasty.
The Piccadilly at Manhattan
7201 PiccadillyAve., Maplewood
Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sat.
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Poor