The Place: Six North Café (14438 Clayton Road, Ballwin; 636-527-0400), an independent, family-owned-and-operated café that specializes in breakfast and lunch but also serves a wide variety of espresso drinks, teas and smoothies
The Deal: Mandarin orange-and-chicken salad with brown-sugar vinaigrette for $6.90
During Six North Café's lunch hour, there's a fusion of business and pleasure: well-dressed career women sitting at the cushiony booths with their laptops, mothers and daughters chatting at high-top tables and groups of tie-and-jacketed businessmen, releasing steam during their coveted lunch break. When you approach the counter to order, the cashiers greet you with a smile, and you can see the servers running around in headsets next to the kitchen.
Gut Check decided to order the mandarin orange-and-chicken salad, our eyes lingering on the salad's suggested dressing, brown-sugar vinaigrette. Almost before we were even settled in our booth, the salad arrived, artfully arranged in a large bowl complete with a fork and knife.
The portion was generous, and the ingredients were well-proportioned. The salad included a mix of fresh baby spinach and crunchy romaine with thinly sliced, tart Granny Smith apples, juicy mandarin oranges, bleu cheese crumbles and the standout ingredient -- cinnamon sugar-coated walnuts. The walnuts were sweet and crunchy, and the cinnamon brought out the orange and apple flavors in the salad. The top of the salad was garnished with long strips of all white-meat chicken breast, with two paper-thin crackers on the side. With a few drizzles of the delicious, tangy brown-sugar vinaigrette, it was all we could do to eat our salad at a normal human's pace.
The Verdict: Despite the café's businesslike ambiance, the warmth and the speed of the service allows you to fully enjoy your lunch. Whether you're working on a project or simply looking for a quick break from the monotony of the office, Six North Café's fresh ingredients and attention to detail will provide a welcome distraction.