Remember the old Yogi Berra line, "Nobody goes there any more - it's too crowded"? I did something I've counseled others not to do. I went to a restaurant right after it got a notable review.
Three Monkeys brunch was featured in the recent restaurant issue of the Riverfront Times and in a burst of bravado, I broke that rule, and another one: Make a reservation. Arriving about 11 a.m., folks were told a 30-minute wait. "I'll be glad to sit at the bar," I said to the hostess, who wrote down my name. After 45 minutes, two seats opened at the bar. I cornered the understandably frazzled hostess and asked. "You can sit anywhere at the bar if there's a place open, sure," she replied in surprise.
Wisely, the restaurant has food in three different areas. Beyond the bar is a station that carves beef, makes omelets and warms pasta to order. In the north dining room, there's a hot line and a cold one. In the latter, plenty of cold shrimp and a zesty cocktail sauce wait alongside large chilled mussels on the half-shell, topped by a cold, lemony sauce, a nice move to avoid possible drying out.
The mob was mainly around the station with the omelets and beef, the only place where traffic was so dense I passed on the entire crowded table's food. There was enough elsewhere. Perhaps it was the rapid turnover, but the scrambled eggs were moist and not rubbery, shocking when one considers their stay in a chafing dish. Good bacon, and first-rate biscuits, although the sausage gravy was short on sausage and seasoning. Pancakes and waffles, too, from another chafing dish, and an urn next to them to dispense hot syrup into small cups, a deft touch that showed someone was thinking.
Nibbles of cheese and sausage cubes, and some wee puff-pastry triangles that were crisp and tasty from the pastry itself but whose filling was so negligible as to be impossible to analyze. Spinach-artichoke ravioli turned out to be toasted, not sauced, and a first-rate twist on the STL standard. Probably the most remarkable dish was the fajita lasagna. I couldn't see much layering from the mauling casserole-type dishes always suffer in these circumstances, but it was cheesy/tomato-ey/spicy with the expected notes of cumin and pepper, pleasantly but not overwhelmingly gooey.
Very good, very fresh small Danish rolls offer a sweet option, and the cookies were also fresh. Plated desserts in smallish portions had been somewhat depleted, but a peanut butter-chocolate cake tasted homemade, and I saw cheesecake and tiramisu dance by me on previous trips through the room.
Icy-cold mimosas, included in the price, had been made ahead of time, and the coffee was surprisingly good. Bartenders kept up with the crowd and mostly managed to clear dishes at a reasonable speed. One of them remarked to another patron they'd expected a very busy day, but hadn't reckoned with it being too wet for using the sidewalk tables. For a while, tables weren't being cleaned very quickly, but that seemed to get organized eventually.
The darkish interior reminds the first-time visitor that this originally was an old South Side tavern, and most of the crowd seemed to be the youngish patrons who populate it most evenings. There were, eventually, some families, and even some guests in post-church attire. Noisy, although not conversation wasn't impossible.
3153 Morganford Rd.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Brunch (adults): $19