Steaks are Supreme at Citizen Kane’s

Many a steakhouse will try to win you over with sleek and sexy surroundings or a snazzy and innovative menu. But Citizen Kane’s Steak House, located in an old Victorian house in Kirkwood, takes a traditional approach, and simple surroundings are what make it stand out.

The restaurant, owned by Frank Kane, opened in 1993 and, if solid bookings nearly 20 years later are any indication, is going strong. The bustling atmosphere is evidence of Kane’s dedication to serving a great steak with a friend-of-the-family feel.

The stars here, unsurprisingly, are the massive steaks: juicy, smoky and charred, bright pink at the center, a little bloody, and they give good chew. There’s a filet, a New York strip and a ribeye Delmonico, plus tenderloin medallions and brochette. If you order your steak medium-rare, your steak will arrive medium-rare. If you order your steak medium, it might also arrive medium-rare, or so it did on one of my visits.

More salt on the crust of the steaks would have enhanced the already delicious beef. Otherwise, they’re in need of little adornment, but several sauces are available: a deep, rich mushroom-Burgundy sauce; a classic béarnaise (which I don’t recommend; it’s so thick you can spread it with a knife); and a brandy-peppercorn sauce that adds a piquant bite.

The appetizers are standard for a St. Louis steakhouse – toasted ravioli, shrimp cocktail – but the sautéed mushrooms were a standout. The little white button mushrooms, simmered in garlic, white wine and herbs, weren’t slimy or overcooked and sat in their nicely seasoned, flavorful cooking liquid, perfect for sopping up with bread. The onion rings could have used a sprinkle of salt after emerging from the fryer but scored well on texture (perfectly crisp and golden) and execution (the onions didn’t slither out of their breading when you took a bite).

Citizen Kane’s adheres to the age-old steakhouse formula: Choose your entrée, a soup or salad, and a side. Non-steak entrées include a T-bone-style pork chop the size of a hubcap, but way thicker. My biggest fear when I saw the plate set in front of me was that it would be bone dry, cooked to a sawdust gray. On the contrary, the meat was blushing when I cut into it, and it was even pinker at the bone. The chop was so juicy, so smoky, that it didn’t need the cloying horseradish sauce and ring of cinnamon-dusted apple that garnished the plate. Another entrée, shrimp scampi, was composed of four shrimp set on a bed of pasta with a white wine and garlic sauce and was a fine – and classic – steak alternative.

Unfortunately, the soups, salads and sides are where things get a little iffy. The salad was the standard lettuce-tomato-cucumber mix and came with either the creamy, anchovy-based Mayfair or vinaigrette – nothing to write home about. The soup on two visits, a sort of chili with ground meat, beer and lots of spices, was OK, but I couldn’t help but think it was a bit of a cop-out. Of course a steakhouse would put a meaty soup on the menu when there’s a constant supply of meat scraps on hand. But if most of the diners are ordering steak for dinner, who really wants to start their meal with more steak?

Sides were also disappointing. The creamed spinach more closely resembled a creamy spinach dip; eating it with a fork wasn’t very appetizing – it seemed as though I should have scooped it up with pita chips or crackers. The boardinghouse potatoes were greasy, and the garlic mashed potatoes were heavy. Green beans amandine, the vegetable side on two visits, were more crunchy than crisp-tender.

Things pick up again with the dessert menu. We tried Kahlúa flan and chocolate chip cheesecake, both made in-house. The flan was smooth and rich, and the pecan and graham cracker crust on the cheesecake was good enough to eat by itself.

Service was great. The servers were kind and helpful with recommendations, including selections from the red-heavy list of reasonably priced bottles and nearly a dozen wines by the glass.

The décor is dated, but the place certainly has the feel of an old home – and that’s part of what makes Citizen Kane’s so appealing. It’s not sleek and sexy, and there’s no dark wood or plush leather seating. It’s a welcoming place, unpretentious and casual: a steakhouse for everyone.

Vibe: A casual and laid-back atmosphere where everybody is a friend of the family.
Dress: Come as you are; we spotted a trucker hat, flannel shirt and work boots at one table, suits and little black dresses at another.
Average entrée prices: Entrées, including soup or salad and a side, are $18.95 to $32.95.
Where: Citizen Kane’s Steak House, 133 W. Clinton Place, Kirkwood, 314.965.9005
When: Tue. to Thu. – 5 to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 5 to 10 p.m.