By Thomas Pavlik
I’ve been hearing about the wonderful food at Broadgauge in Petersburg for quite some time. So, a few months ago, I cajoled a group of friends into taking a Monday drive to Petersburg for lunch at Broadgauge’s lunch partner, Talisman. Unfortunately for my friends, I neglected to notice that Talisman is not open on Monday or Tuesdays. Thankfully they are, for the most part, a forgiving group. But by way of partially making up for my mistake, it was deemed appropriate to come back for dinner with one of the group members and our respective spouses – at my cost, of course. It was money well spent.
First of all, Broadgauge’s physical space is, to put it simply, beautiful. Built in 1872, the location’s owners invested significant money in a complete rehab of the space. Despite all the gorgeous dark wood, the place is light and airy. A grand staircase anchors the far side of the room and leads to the open second floor while a bar lines virtually the entire length of one side of the restaurant. It’s worth it to check out the website to see all the before and after pictures.
Broadgauge is quite popular, and reservations are highly recommended. We showed up around 6 p.m. to find it largely full. My wife and I arrived a bit earlier than our guests, and we enjoyed people watching, which included former Governor Jim Edgar and friends at an adjacent table.
There is a fun drink menu with some interesting twists and nice wines to start with. But we came for the food, and Broadgauge didn’t disappoint.
The menu is compact (seven starters and nine entrees, plus daily specials), but has something for everyone. Although we didn’t try them, we were intrigued by the curried cauliflower steak starter (spiced roasted cauliflower, hummus, wild rice pilaf and toasted almond-fruit chutney – $18) and the chicken cobbler (hand-pulled local chicken, biscuit top, spring veggies and mashed potato – $32).
To start with, we decided to share the tempura shrimp (battered shrimp, smashed avocado, yum yum sauce and slaw – $18) and the provolone pomodoro (fried provolone, pomodoro sauce, talisman bread and balsamic reduction). The provolone dish was an elevated and sophisticated play on cheese curds. The bread was reminiscent of that served at their former location, Long Nine in Springfield, and came in handy to soak up the delicious sauces. The shrimp were well-sized, nicely breaded and not overcooked. We all thought that the sesame slaw was a nice accompaniment, and the creamy avocado contrasted nicely with the crunchy shrimp.
For entrees, we went with the steak and fries, the pork tenderloin, the burger and the halibut.
The beef consisted of a 16-ounce charbroiled ribeye bathed in butter and served with a bleu cheese balsamic reduction, grilled red onions and house-cut fries ($48). It made my mouth water and was reported as perfectly cooked (rare) and bursting with flavor. All too often, hand-cut fries end up being soggy and undercooked.
Broadgauge’s were an exception, and we guessed that they had been double fried – first at a lower temperature to par cook them and then at a higher temp to give them the required crunch. With a dish as simple as steak and fries, everything must be spot on for it to be a winner. This version passed the test.
The halibut was pan roasted with a lemon-thyme butter sauce and asparagus ($38). It was a well-sized portion. My guest found it to be juicy and flaky, with the thyme-lemon sauce accentuating the dish rather than overpowering it. Restraint, at least in this instance, served the dish well.
I went with the pork, which was pan-roasted tenderloin served with parmesan polenta, broccolini and a Madeira-mushroom pan sauce ($30). It was well-seasoned and appropriately cooked, as was the polenta. It was a heavy dish, and perhaps better for a cold winter day. Still, the dish was packed with flavor and the broccolini added some nice texture and brightness to the dish. I’d definitely order it again.
Our last dish was the burger, which came on a house-made bun with cheddar, balsamic-tomato jam, fries and Broadgauge’s homemade pickles. My wife requested medium rare, and it came out just a shade under. Still, it was plenty juicy and flavorful and came with the same fries as the steak. I scored a bite and it was certainly something I’d order on our next visit.
All in all, the four of us declared the meal more than worth the drive to Petersburg. We’ll be back.