It's hard to believe Big Sky has been feeding people for nearly 20 years. The kitchen of Chef Colleen Clawson is carefully updating its American comfort food menu, keeping the favorites and trying new things, too. (The very talented Lisa Slay is executive chef of all Tim Mallett restaurants.) That means the wonderful macaroni and cheese with bacon and the pot roast cooked in red wine remain on the menu, thankfully, but new dishes and combinations are tempting lures. It's a fine blend of the, "Gee, that's new, but it sounds good," and the, "Gee, I haven't had that since I was a kid.".
The Big Sky is working more and more with local suppliers, and it's clear these victuals are definitely of the 21st century sort. Starters like the Ozark Forest mushroom bruschetta wins converts with a generous slice of perfectly grilled bread topped with mushrooms cooked in white wine and topped with tomatoes and a few sprouts. Definitely a knife-and-fork bruschetta, a sort of open-faced sandwich, satisfying in both flavor and texture. Claverach Farms sprouts serve as the beginning of a salad with cubes of roasted butternut squash, pecans, cheese from Marcoot Jersey Creamery and a garnishing drizzle of orange gastrique. Savory rather than sweet, making both the squash and the sweet-sour gastrique a nice punctuation in the flavors.
Fresh back from a trip to New Orleans, we obviously hadn't stayed there long enough to satisfy our yen for barbecued shrimp. These are not the head-on, unshelled crustaceans that inhabit many New Orleans restaurants, probably a relief to most patrons. Served on a bed of polenta (can you say grits?), the shrimp and their ruddy-colored spicy and slightly smoky sauce, were normally teamed with zucchini and yellow squash. But we asked if a substitution was possible. Spinach, perhaps? And so it arrived, yellow and green and the red-orange, lovely to look at and tasty to eat, the spinach glorying in the sauce and the polenta creamy and succulent whether sauced or not. And then there were the not-your-average gnocchi. Long and slender and tender, made with potato as part of their starch, they'd been tossed with tomatoes, different types of mushrooms, more of that spinach and a little cheese. Surely there was also some wine in the broth, and a judicious hand with basil and perhaps a little thyme. Wonderful.
We both grew up with plenty of cherry desserts, mostly with the canned tart red pie cherries, so a cherry crisp was irresistible. A handful of streusel topped the ramekin of cherries and some thickened juice, the whole thing run under the grill to brown the topping, which melted into chewiness, all in all real un-updated comfort food.
The wine list is modest, but many are good matches for the food, and fancy cocktail-fanciers will find some on the menu on the website.
Tucked back away from Big Bend Boulevard, it's not a spot that has many casual passers-by. But that doesn't mean it isn't busy, especially on nights when the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis or Opera Theatre are working. At such times, it's foolhardy to arrive without a reservation until after the curtain rises, unless, perhaps, you're willing to eat at the bar.
We've always been happy with the service here, but occasionally run into the chipper types who offer too many unsolicited opinions.
47 S. Old Orchard, Webster Groves.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good on the side