Saturday, July 28, 2012 / 9:05 AM
Open for a little over a year, Water Street sits on Manchester, in Maplewood, tucked next to Acero, and down the street from Home Wine Kitchen, which opened at about the same time. While Acero and Home Wine Kitchen remain on the tips of many local diners’ tongues, Water Street flies under the radar. And that’s a shame, because the experience there—atmosphere, drinks, food, and service—is worthy of attention.
Gabe and Maria Kveton (brother and sister) own and operate Water Street; he stays in the front of the house, mixing drinks, and she stays in the back, cooking. With its open kitchen, though, Maria seems just as much in the front as her brother. Cocktails are a must here, not just for their taste, but for the vintage glasses they’re served in. Recommended for summer is the Stable Mews (blanco tequila, yellow chartreuse, lime, muddled cucumber, and mint, at left), which made an ideal aperitif on the warm June evening. Happy hour specials run Tuesday through Friday, from 5-7 PM, with $3 beers and $5 wines and cocktails, providing just enough of a window to try a drink or two.
The lunch and dinner menus contain a number of the same items, with the lunch menu heavier on salads and sandwiches. For dinner, the chicken liver pate, a generous portion served with pistachios and toasted bread, and a salad (either the Caesar or apple-raspberry salad) would be a perfectly portioned meal. If you want to try an appetizer and an entrée, deviled eggs (with sweet pickles and paprika) or Medjool dates (stuffed with goat cheese and basil and wrapped in bacon with a balsamic vinaigrette, below left) would make a great starter plus the polenta, golden trout, or daily flatbread special (with apples and bacon, below right).
The polenta, sauteed with mushrooms, spinach, and parmesan, was more than satisfying, and its firm texture recalled protein rather than starch. The prosciutto flatbread special on the second night we were there was another generous and solid entrée, but the trout was our favorite. Presented atop a bed of spinach, onions, tomatoes, and cannellini beans, the fish wore a strip of bacon, broiled into its top, like a label of salty deliciousness (it was served below left with a lemon, caper, tomato, and kalamata sauce). When cooler weather arrives, we’re looking forward to the chicken pot pie and beef goulash.
For dessert on our first visit, we enjoyed a brownie butter square (below right) with whipped cream, raspberries, and mint sprigs. The “butter” part suggests gooey butter, but it was a standard brownie, a little on the fudgy side, which is how we like them. When we pointed out a mistake on the bill on our second visit—the entrees were left off entirely—the thankful server brought us a complimentary dessert, so we had the brownie butter square again, with no complaints.
“Comfort and nostalgia,” two buzz words from the restaurant’s website, can be felt and seen throughout Water Street. The Kvetons’ attention to detail appears everywhere, from the décor, to the serving plates and glasses, lighting, and even to the level the music plays at, which is not so loud that you can’t hear your companion but loud enough to add a pleasing aural element to the overall experience. Our only quibble would be with service on our second visit, which seemed simultaneously distracted to the point of forgetting about us, and rushed, but service on the first visit was all that it should be: attentive without fawning.
The restaurant scene in Maplewood illustrates the industry in microcosm—the openings and closings, and the way proprietors support each other, like family. Water Street is the quiet little sister to its more gregarious older siblings surrounding it. Once you pay some attention to this overlooked gem, however, you’ll find that it has a lot to say.
Photos by Kevin A. Roberts
Lunch, Thu-Sat; dinner, Tue-Sat
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