A pumpkin is a symbol of seasonal bounty on Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen sign.
Cindy is chef-owner Cindy Pawlcyn, of Mustards Grill fame. The Backstreet is St. Helena’s Railroad Avenue, a quiet one-block lane that runs parallel to – you guessed it – railroad tracks. Railroad imagery is prevalent on Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen‘s signs and business cards. A pumpkin, asparagus spears and a mushroom have all been known to hitch a ride on the C.P. Railway. From the dining room, there’s even a view of the Napa Valley Wine Train, which traverses the valley. Wine and locomotives: a winning combination.
The whimsical fence separating Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen from neighboring restaurant Terra resembles corn stalks.
A shelf of chicken-focused farmhouse kitsch resides across from stairs to the second floor.
Before chicken and waffles became a popular Los Angeles combination, Lutherans were matching poultry with batter. Judging from the low cost, I’m guessing this sign is from days of yore.
Oyster Pablo ($2.75) is named for executive chef Pablo Jacinto and sold by the mollusk. The oyster arrived on the half-shell with garlic, spinach, and tequila Parmesan aioli. The flavor was good, but I got a mouthful of shell. Cindy needs to upgrade her shucker.
Cindy’s beautiful Classic Cobb ($15.25) featured vivid rows of Hobb’s smoked chicken, bacon and cherry tomatoes, avocado chunks, and blue cheese.
Laura Chenel goat cheese ravioli ($10.95) featured three ethereal stuffed pastas, practically bursting with creamy goat cheese, plus scallions, Parmesan, and a Gaeta olive sauce bath. Terrific.
“Cindy’s Favorite” spice-rubbed quail ($21.95) paired with sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow), salty prosciutto hacks, Pedro Ximenez sherry & salsa verde, plus croutons that beautifully soaked up piquant sauce.
For dessert, we split warm blueberry & ricotta bread pudding ($8.50) with orange cardamom sauce and a dish of unpictured Chantilly cream. The pudding could have been warmer, but the flavor was excellent. Plus, the textural contrast was nice: crispy on top and velvety inside.
To drink, fresh-squeezed limeade ($3) was good, but no match for “No Heat-O” ($3), a virgin mojito containing fresh-squeezed lime juice, fresh mint leaves, sugar cane syrup and soda water.
Cindy’s Mexican-tinged café is just as hearty as Mustards Grill, with similarly vivid flavors. If anything, it’s even more fun to dine at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Everywhere I turned, I discovered another fun decoration. More importantly, almost every dish I tasted was a winner. Unfortunately, there were so many intriguing dishes on the menu, I didn’t get a chance to try every promising plate. Fortunately, I can always return for the Chinatown duck burger with house-made shiitake ketchup.