Strawberry Street Cafe: An Old Favorite Still Delivers
Walking through the doors of the Strawberry Street Café on a recent Saturday night I was filled with nostalgia. I remember so clearly when the restaurant opened in the late ‘70s and the excitement it generated – a place to eat on a quaintly-named Fan District street named Strawberry!
A salad bar in an old claw-footed bathtub! It quickly became THE place to have lunch or a casual dinner. Different from the down-home Joe’s, the beer joint Buddy’s, the Italian Robin Inn and Greek Athens Tavern, Strawberry Street presented an American cuisine in a new, cool way. Plants hung in the front windows, ceiling fans swirled lazily above and stained glass added an artsy accent. Even their logo, a row of ripe red strawberries, was refreshing. Somewhere in my top dresser drawer I still have a matchbox adorned with that classic logo which has long since been redesigned.
We arrived at 6:40 p.m. and were told there’d be a 20-minute wait. We were seated at exactly 7:01 – not bad. Our booth was already set with silverware and glasses of water, and our waitress arrived quickly. We checked out the menus and discovered that there were several familiar items – a chicken dish, a soup and a quiche, at the least, have been on the menu for years. There’s something nice about a restaurant that mixes in new stuff – the ubiquitous Southwestern and blackened entrees – but keeps a few oldie goldies around.
Seated under an oversized chalkboard, one of several in the restaurant that have been adorned with chalk reproductions of classic paintings, we made our selections while sipping on glasses of wine chosen from the . Bottomless Pitt started with a small bowl of the Chesapeake crab and broccoli soup, “a house specialty since 1978” for $3.95. It was easy to understand why they’ve kept this one around. Steamy, creamy and full of broccoli and crab, the soup will definitely bring B.P. back to Strawberry Street for more. Meanwhile, I helped myself to the famous bathtub salad bar, an extra $3.50 with the entrée I ordered. That salad bar, available by itself for $6.95, offers a great variety of items including chicken salad, fresh fruit, potato salad, pasta salad, fresh veggies, the soup of the day, and every imaginable salad ingredient. Another sentimental note: Strawberry Street was the first place I ever saw sunflower seeds on a salad bar.
Though a couple of the specials were tempting – the trout stuffed with crab, for example -- B.P. ordered the New York Strip ($13.95). Served with roasted red potatoes and delicious fresh green beans, the steak came medium, as ordered, but was a bit unevenly grilled. The thinner end of the meat was a tad dry, but the thicker end was plenty juicy. He was generally satisfied, especially with the accompanying sides.
I chose a slice of quiche, an old favorite that came into culinary vogue right around the time Strawberry Street opened. Comprised of crab and swiss, the slice ($6.95) was a generous full quarter of a pie, more than I could possibly eat, considering I’d visited the salad bathtub with great gusto. But, what I was able to eat was full of the promised ingredients with a light and flakey crust and rich flavor.
For dessert, we chose a slice of cheesecake with chocolate and strawberry sauce and a dab of whipped cream ($4.95). Like every plate we received, this one was garnished with a strawberry. The cheesecake was a little dry, but the sauce jazzed it up and we did not have to try to finish it off handily.
Fortunately, the logo change may be the biggest difference between early and late days at Strawberry Street. Same tin ceiling, same bar, same bathtub, same great service, same eclectic crowd and even some of the same menu items. From sandwiches, salads and soups to meatier entrees, there is something for every imaginable diner and all for less than $15. After all those years, Strawberry Street remains the essence of Fan dining – reasonable, convenient, atmospheric and friendly.