I had dinner Friday night at Maple Street Cafe, a cute restaurant uptown in the Riverbend vicinity. I remember picking up dinner from there and eating it for dinner from way back when I was a little kid, and even though I hadn't been there in an awfully long time, it's a fixture in the neighborhood and seems to have an inherent feeling of familiarity and warmth that lends a lot to the atmosphere of the restaurant. All of the tables are in one room, and everyone there seems to be in good company, talking and laughing and eating and connecting. There isn't an ounce of pretension, noise levels are perfect, and while the degree of frilly luxury stops with the fancily-folded napkins, it really just works.
I am a firm believer in bread at restaurants. It's a quick and simple way to exponentially up the feeling that you're being served -- it's just an added bonus that, in my opinion, sets the distinction between a great meal out and a great meal at home. This bread was crusty and rustic in all the right ways, with teeny morsels of garlic (but not too much at all) baked in. The butter was to die for. I wish I knew what they put in it. It was both sweet and savory and turned into this succulent melting yellowness on the warmth of the bread. To start, Mom got a Caesar salad, which, quite frankly, I hated. With something like a Caesar, it's all about getting the details right, since there's so little room for creativity. I found the dressing tangy -- cloyingly so -- and the consistency was off.
Nonetheless, dinner itself was scrumptious. Mom got mussels in a really fresh red sauce that offset the mussels nicely and made us both wish for more bread. I got a pasta dish that just really epitomized everything I look for in a pasta dish. It consisted of angel hair pasta in butter and olive oil. There was a generous amount of three different kinds of wild mushrooms. The best part, though, was the crushed red pepper, which was invisible but which really added the kick that was necessary to take a dish from simple comfort food to quintessential delightfulness. Truthfully, the only downside was the service, but all in all, we left the restaurant content and excited to see The Funky Meters playing for Tulane's homecoming weekend.