The Picadilly at Manhattan

Tucked into a quiet city neighborhood just east of Maplewood, The Picadilly started as the corner watering hole. That was in the ‘20s. The family-owned spot underwent a facelift a couple of years ago and expanded its food menu, which it calls ‘American classic.’ There is a nice selection of comfort food-type entrees, most under $11, and hearty sandwiches, most under $9.

    The spot retains a ‘simpler era’ charm, with an old wood bar dominating its one room. About a dozen tables fill the space, most with blond wood and turquoise vinyl chairs. Old tin signs and photographs line the walls. There is a new wood patio out back and a couple of wrought iron tables on the front porch, within view of the nearby Arsenal railyard.

    The appetizer list is short—the typical wings, ravioli, quesadillas, etc.—and we had the spinach artichoke dip ($7). Made with frozen spinach, cream cheese and bottled artichokes, it was homemade and satisfying. I like that it came warm, served with house-made crostini. These were made of simple French bread, baked and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

    There are about a dozen sandwiches, including pulled pork, fried grouper, patty melt, shrimp po’ boy and a vegetarian chipotle bean burger.  Each comes with fries, or you can substitute chili or salad for an extra $2. Entrees are things like pot pie, fettuccine, roast beef, meat loaf and fried chicken. For the most part, main courses are made to order in the kitchen, which you can glimpse beyond the bar.   

    From the sandwich menu, we chose the po’ boy ($9), which came on a long hoagie bun. Inside it, at least half a dozen medium shrimp were piled on top of some romaine lettuce and a mayonnaise-y remoulade sauce. The shrimp were nicely pan-sauteed with spices and the sauce had a touch of pickle relish.

    Of the entrees, we tasted the half-rack of ribs ($12), fresh-smoked right out back, pan-seared salmon ($15), and fried chicken ($9). The ribs had a dry rub that imparted a mildly sweet and seasoned flavor, but the dominating taste was a rich smokiness. They were meaty and very tender. Their exterior had the requisite char, and inside they were tender. They came with house-made creamy slaw that was very good.

    The salmon was a good-sized serving that came done correctly, just cooked through to retain maximum moisture. It came with a side of steamed and buttered broccoli and a mound of orzo dotted with bell peppers. We also ordered a side of mashed potatoes, which was freshly made and ‘whipped’ to come out smooth. They, too, were good.

    Hands-down, the best deal of the night is the fried chicken plate. A full half-chicken, four big pieces, come on a platter with a scoop of mashed potatoes and some canned green beans. The chicken was beautifully fried golden with a flour batter. It was crunchy (and ungreasy) on the outside and tender inside. The potatoes were good, and even the canned beans had a nostalgic comfort-food thing going on. A well-spent $9!

    Desserts are limited; on the night we visited the choices were chocolate mousse cheesecake and homemade blackberry cobbler, and we sampled both. The cobbler was good, topped with a flaky, pie-crust type dough with a hint of lard. The cooked fruit filling had nice flavor, sweet and tart at the same time, thanks to a good dose of lemon. The chocolate offering, which was much more mousse than cheesecake, was better. Served in a ramekin, it had a rich chocolate taste thanks to a ground chocolate cookie base and light mousse filling. The inside was whipped with some cream cheese and the whole thing drizzled with chocolate sauce—tasty.

    Piccadilly, while not new, has lately been ‘discovered’ by diners outside its typical patron zone, the Ellendale neighborhood that borders Maplewood. It offers home-cooked meals at good prices. But certainly adding to its appeal is nostalgia; it has an aura of middle America during a simpler time, and it feels like that place where everyone knows your name.