2203 S 39th Street , St. Louis, MO 63110
QISA (4, 4, 3, 4), Vegetarian
The artist-in-residence at the SweetArt family-owned bakeshop/café/art studio, changed his name from Clifford Miskell to Cbabi Bayoc. This new and completely made up name is an acronym that represents his personal philosophy on family, creativity, and community. Cbabi Bayoc stands for “Creative Black Artist Battling Ignorance – Blessed African Youth of Creativity”.
Some may see this as an affectation of pretentiousness, others as an affirmation of personal identity. Either way, I personally feel that the message is less important than the content itself. I like his art, plain and simple. He uses bright strokes and a slightly caricaturish style to convey positivity, personality, and real emotion. I want the man to draw a comic strip, only because I want to see what happens next with his characters.
SweetArt, the bakeshop and café run by his wife Reine, is a little like Cbabi’s art. Sure, there is an underlying philosophy and agenda driving the restaurant, but the food itself is what stands out. The treats are decadent (or at least taste that way), and the savory foods are creative and delicious. Not every dish hit the mark with me, but I had to admire the attempt.
The café’s SweetBurger is their top-selling item, a thick vegan patty of grains and lentils. The consistency of the burger is smooth and even, much more so than veggie patties at other restaurants which tend to be on the chunky side. I personally found the burger too sweet for my taste; I think it would have been improved by a saltier/spicier profile, but again, I admired the attempt.
I ordered the Make It Funky burger, which was the SweetBurger patty covered in house-made BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, organic mixed greens, vegan magic spread, vegan bacon, and vegan cheddar cheese. I could have ordered it with dairy cheddar cheese, but I figured "in for a penny, in for a pound." I wanted the full vegan experience. The Make It Funky was tasty but messy. The burger fell over before I took my first bite, and I found myself using a knife and fork to tackle its contents. Luckily, the sandwich came with a stack of napkins.
The side of dressed kale salad, however, was a pleasant surprise. The mix of kale, carrot, and cabbage in the peanut sauce was surprisingly good. The salad maintained a cole slaw-like crunch, but the tang of the sauce covered the bitter taste of the kale without overpowering the other vegetables. I could eat this stuff on a daily basis.
The café menu was definitely creative, and I would love to come back to try some of their other dishes, such as the vegan palak paneer pie in a phyllo crust. No, I don’t know what is in it, but I love palak paneer and I love spanakopita. The marriage of the two sounds brilliant. Or it could be a failure. But I give them points for trying.
The real focus of SweetArt is the bakery. They make a point of using the best ingredients (e.g. Plugra butter, Valrhona cocoa, and Callebaut chocolate) to create delicious treats. Note, I did not say healthy treats, I said delicious treats. I ordered a salted chocolate caramel cupcake which was just as decadent as it sounds. The buttercream frosting was light and not overdone or overstacked, the cake was moist and much better than most high-end cupcakes, and the pairing of the cake and icing was done artfully with a caramel drizzle. This was a cupcake made to be eaten, not made to be displayed.
I had difficulty deciding on the final QISA score. I debated internally whether to rate the Quality of the restaurant as a 3.5 or a 4. The sweetness of the SweetBurger unbalanced the culinary experience, leaving a slightly off taste in my mouth. I needed an outside, unbiased judge to help me decide. So I brought some vegan rice krispie treats home with me.
“You have got to go back to St. Louis!” my youngest son informed me after devouring his. “We need to get more of these. You have to find out how they made them!”
Four it is.