Once upon a time, the average American lunch menu featured BLTs, patty melts, tuna salad sandwiches and burgers. In these eclectic times, restaurants catering to the mid-day crowd are more likely to serve hummus, vegetarian sandwiches, something called barbecue, and burgers. Stop 9, located in front of the ninth stop of the St. Charles streetcar line, once housed an uncompromising temple to Mexican haute cuisine. Now, the same owner has created a little café with a sideline in international dry goods and pre-packaged meals for the commuter too harried to cook.
Once a restaurant with perhaps an excess of personality, the new incarnation seems too eager to please and too afraid to offend. The hummus, with an unusual drizzle of balsamic vinegar across the top, only whetted my appetite for the better bowls at our local Middle Eastern restaurants. A barbecue sandwich, actually slow braised beef, managed to be dry despite the long soak. On the other hand, a sandwich of grilled vegetables with sun-dried tomato pesto was refreshing and served between two excellent slices of focaccia. The hamburger, with a hand formed patty stuffed with a long list of options (I went with chipotle peppers and Swiss cheese) could rightly claim a place in our local pantheon of great burgers.
I salvaged the barbecue sandwich with a squirt of the housemade hot sauce sitting next to the ketchup and mustard bottles, and the burst of flavor made me wish that Stop 9 would take more chances. When they step out on a limb, like they do with the rich avocado ice cream that gets a woody edge from a measure of tequila, the place soars. As it stands, I’ll be exiting the streetcar at stop number 9 for an afternoon snack of grown-up ice cream, a shot of sweet Cubano coffee and a jar of that hot sauce to take home to make my own exciting meal.