Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen
Cindy Pawlcyn has been a mainstay in Napa Valley for more than two decades, when she scored her first success with the still popular Mustards Grill. Her latest venture, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, is located in a charming house in St. Helena, CA. This quaint gem also has an adorable little courtyard for outdoor dining (which I’m sorry I didn’t snap a picture of for this post).
Backstreet Kitchen is just the antidote for too many fancy dinners in wine country. It’s a bit off the beaten bath, and not typically a place to see and be seen, though we did spot Kate Spade at the next table. And the menu screams casual, so you’ll find something to your liking whether you are craving a salad or a full meal. We ordered several small plates to start and passed them around the table–rabbit tostada, Vietnamese lettuce wraps,and quail salad. Dinner entrees ranged from mushroom tamales to tuna with soba noodles (the winner of the bunch).
All the dishes were visually appealing and tasted just as good.
The Chinatown Duck Burger with house made mushroom ketchup is reputed to be incredible, but having made a stop earlier in the day at Gott’s Roadside Stand, a burger of any kind was not in the cards.
Pork chops, meatloaf, grilled cheese, pollo loco and fresh fish round out the creative menu.
This being wine country, Cindy’s Backstreet of course has a discerning wine list. Our very fine waiter steered us to a Charbono, a wine grown only in California. Its exclusivity tends to put it in a cult category of sorts, though without the hefty price tag.
This may not be the most sophisticated meal you have while in wine country, but don’t discount it. We all enjoyed our evening immensely and left feeling very relaxed and satisfied.
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen (St. Helena, CA)
My wife and I were on Day 2 of our stay in Napa Valley, and we were in serious need of tasty food after a full morning of wine tastings. Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen was only a few minutes away from the winery, so I had it on our itinerary for lunch.
Cindy's is a fun little bistro in St. Helena, just a tad north of Napa. We had a reservation, though it really wasn't necessary on a weekday. There is a perfect courtyard for outdoor seating, especially given the sunny, mild afternoon weather. It has nice shade from the overhanging tree, as well as a good breeze blowing through. This was the perfect outdoor ambiance for wine country.
Although the majority of Cindy's menu consists of salads and sandwiches, today's lunch specials included a few "Supper Club" southern options. Intrigued, I ordered their Louisiana Hot Links, which come with braised collard greens and mac n' cheese. I was certainly looking forward to the hot links, but given my mounting hunger, I decided to nosh on an appetizer of Jalapeno Hush Puppies first.
The hush puppies were beautifully cooked. They had a great, crisp crust with a soft and fluffy interior. This wasn't the typical grainy cornmeal batter. I could definitely taste the jalapenos, although I didn't really catch much spice. The accompanying Tabasco remoulade definitely added some heat, but it was creamy and delicious at the same time.
After I had completely polished off the hush puppies, it was time to dive into my Louisiana hot links.
The mac n' cheese was creamy and homemade. I really enjoyed the crisp crust on top, though what I found beneath was cheesy and delicious. It was more of a sharp cheese, which worked very nicely. I'm not really a big greens fan in general, maybe it's the carnivore in me. These, however, were very good. The grilled onions and bacon added a lot of flavor.
As for the hot links, they were probably grilled rather than smoked, but were still nice and tasty. They had crisp casings and a good char from the grill. These were tight casings around a medium-grind meat. They weren't oozing grease like the typical East Texas links. I found a really interesting spice blend, although not much spiciness. In fact, for something called "hot links," there was barely any heat at all. Then, on my last bite, I caught a big hit of pepper which actually made me tear up a little. I think the potential for the hot links is definitely there, but they need to work on consistency some.
It wasn't the best attempt at barbecue I've seen, but Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen was a good lunch spot nonetheless.