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Photography By Kevin A. Roberts
7415 State Route 143
Average Main Course: $36
Reservations: Chances are, you’ll have driven some distance, so absolutely call ahead.
Dress: Presentably. We don’t want Edwardsvillians to think we’re rubes.
Chef: Antoine Moussalli
Avoid dining in the garage. Other than that, what should you know about Andria’s Countryside Restaurant? Well, the “countryside” is Edwardsville, Ill., or just beyond, on a rustic, wooded lot. Andria’s is a ranch-style house—or it was. It’s been converted, with several dining areas conducive to relaxed dining. (A bar and table space appear to have been a garage at one time; the ceiling’s low, and it’s loud there.) Oh yeah, and Andria’s serves probably the best beef in the whole area.
Andria’s Countryside Restaurant (the original Andria’s in O’Fallon, Ill., has a different owner) is the first eatery in the country to serve only USDA Prime–certified Angus beef. The limited supply of this quality of beef (only about 3 percent of all graded beef in the U.S. is Prime) has the carnivore cognoscenti traveling to Andria’s like it’s a meat lover’s Medjugorje.
The menu is Steakhouse Standard. Appetizers merely prepare one for the abundance of protein that follows. The crust on fried calamari tastes like the golden good stuff around onion rings. Crisp leaves of flash-fried spinach add nicely to the squid rings. The thick wedge of brie—baked in a flaky pastry crust, with a tangy-sweet raspberry coulis, garlic toast, and slivers of green apples—should not be missed. Peruvian anticuchos are a kind of skewered snack, thin beef medallions marinated, grilled, and plated with greens and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s a lovely starter. But a beef appetizer in a steakhouse seems like sipping Scotch with a bourbon chaser, doesn’t it?
It’s that beef that’s the draw, obviously. The menu’s centerpiece is six cuts of cow that were, until of late, browsing in the lush meadows of Niman Ranch (a collective, actually). At the more extravagant end of things is the grand center-cut filet mignon—Chateaubriand—for two, coupled with vegetables, duchess potatoes, and a béarnaise sauce. For mortal appetites, consider the standard filet mignon, an exquisitely tender piece of bovine with just the right char branding, juices glistening, and a mineral tang that lingers beautifully on the palate.
Grilled tenderloin tips are also on the menu, along with a Delmonico. But if you want to experience the best of Andria’s, consider the New York strip. Unless your daily wear involves a cowboy hat and boots, chances are, the distinction between Prime and Choice cuts eludes you. The New York strip at Andria’s, though, is a delicious way to taste the difference. It’s largely in the marbling. The strip, from the steer’s short loin, doesn’t get much exercise; the marbled, buttery fat running through this cut when it’s of Prime grade elevates it to special.
Andria’s makes much of its steak sauces, though we prefer beef of this caliber naked. Yes, we dabbed a little horseradish sauce on a slab of prime rib that was tender and rose-pink. We sampled some of the other sauces. The Cajun sauce here is delicious, peppery and smoked, spiked with Tabasco; it should be bottled. A roasted garlic sauce is nearly as delectable, the buttons of garlic left whole, the sauce silky and pungent. A port-wine sauce, relatively simple, holds crumbles of blue cheese; the Kristine sauce is complex, bearing slivers of prosciutto with three cheeses, along with cream, stirred into a sherry-shallot demi-glace.
There are some nonbovine offerings as well. Chicken is pan-seared and decorated with sautéed mushrooms in a tarragon-sherry cream sauce. A chunk of yellowfin tuna is rolled in salty miso, grilled, and served with a spicy Peruvian pepper vinaigrette. A quartet of scallops is balanced on slices of tender sweet potato and topped with lemon–brown butter sauce.
Sides hit and miss. Baked potatoes are cleverly served in twisted paper bags that hold in the heat. Steak fries are good, though ordinary. Asparagus spikes are al dente and grassy-fresh. A big helping of broccoli is buttery, but overcooked and saltier than a Louis C.K. monologue. Another miss: Canned black olives in the salad are not appropriate in a place of this caliber. Salads are adequate. Go with the house vinaigrette, which adds much to the greens.
Desserts seem almost obscene after taking in this many calories; nevertheless, the proffered tray—with Snickers and walnut cheesecakes—beckons. Yes, you’re full, but you’ve come all this way, so split one.
Wine is essential to a steak-and-spuds joint; Andria’s offers an extensive selection of cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. A happy surprise is the 2009 Leonard Kreusch Spätlese, a sparkle-bright wine, the perfect aperitif. A fine buy is the 2005 Newton Unfiltered cab sav, with the aroma of a wintertime oak fire. An extensive offering of half-bottles makes the wine affordable here.
This is a dining destination for beef connoisseurs—and anyone else who knows Edwardsville isn’t too far for a memorable meal.
The Bottom Line: Excellent Prime beef and assorted steakhouse fare in a pleasantly homey rural environment.