Sweetie Pie's The Upper Crust, the newest restaurant from local soul food maven and reality TV star Robbie Montgomery, opened in Grand Center last year, providing another venue for ‘Miss Robbie’s’ down-home specialties.

The opening of this location was a main focus of the show Welcome To Sweetie Pie's for quite a while, and fans of the show, as well as St. Louisans who remember what the derelict building looked like before its transformation, will be suitably impressed by the space. It's good to see a restaurant open in the area west of Grand, which has been overlooked for a long time as the MidTown Alley area to the east has flourished. The interior is brightly lit and the overall the ambiance is inviting and comfortable.

Plus, there's considerably more elbow room, as well as banquet space, inside The Upper Crust than at Sweetie Pie’s Grove location.

Menu-wise, the food is pretty much the same as that served at the original location. Everything is served up cafeteria-style; and each main is available a la carte or as a meal, which includes two sides. Daily specials also are available. We went the meal route during our visit and got the Meat Loaf with Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes, along with an extra side of Chicken and Dumplings ($12), the Fried Chicken Wings with Okra and Tomatoes and Macaroni and Cheese ($10), and a slice of Sweet Potato Pie ($3) for dessert. Each dinner also came with a piece of cornbread.

There's no such thing as a light meal here and portions are more than generous, so diners need to bring hearty appetites. The meat loaf was topped with a sweet tomato sauce, our favorite way to accentuate this comfort-food favorite, while the wings were juicy and the skin was crispy and well-seasoned with just the right balance of salt and pepper. Side-wise, the potatoes were especially good, whipped to a creamy consistency. The mac and cheese was made casserole-style instead of an amalgam of loose noodles floating in cheese sauce. While we like both preparations, the Sweetie Pie's version is our favorite, with the cheese baked to a savory crunchy crust around the edges.

There were a few glitches in the meal, however. While the green beans were tasty enough, the okra was a bit of a disappointment, as the veggies were stewed until they were so mushy they just fell apart. The chicken and dumplings were good, but we had to have them heated up as they were ice-cold when we dug in. The sweet potato pie also fell short, being fairly bland with none of the sweet earthiness we expected.

To be fair, some of these issues probably are the result of the cafeteria format, where cooking large batches (as opposed to cooking to order) is required, and the food has to sit on the serving line for extended periods.

All in all, Sweetie Pie's The Upper Crust is a solid addition to the Grand Center area and a good option for those looking for a place to dine before a show at The Fox, Powell Hall or one of the other surrounding venues.

-- 3643 Delmar Blvd., 371-0304, sweetiepieskitchen.com.

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