Weston provides the quintessential small-town experience. Downtown is a single street lined with eateries, boutiques and a nearly two-hundred-year-old hotel that is the alleged home of a young male ghost from the Civil War era. It feels like a city frozen in time. Victorian-style bed and breakfasts get booked up every summer and fall by us city folks looking for a bit of reprieve from the modern world.
Part of Weston’s charm is its Irish character, produced by a wave of immigration in the nineteenth century. O’Malley’s Pub is a place I hold dear to my heart. Its sticky atmosphere, dimly lit by oil lamps, is best enjoyed with a Guinness in its historic underground speakeasy, which often features Irish musicians crooning away while engaging the audience in jest. The pub itself is not a secret, but you need to search for the concrete hallway that leads you down into the brewery’s musty and joyous underbelly.
Somehow, another stealthy treasure lies in plain sight: husband-and-wife duo Nick and Andrea Martinkovic’s fourteen-seat restaurant, Noah’s Cupboard. Noah’s is the epitome of a hidden gem. The food is fit for fine dining, but the restaurant has slipped under the radar of almost all local media since opening in 2018. The couple has an extra pair of hands, Molly, who helps run the front of the house with Andrea, and Nick puts on a one-man show in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
But even if Nick weren’t running the restaurant’s entire food operation, his culinary background would still be impressive. He has worked in prestigious restaurants across the country, including Roberta’s in Brooklyn and Central Table in St. Louis, while making a name for himself competing on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games. So how did this budding chef settle on opening his own restaurant in small-town Missouri? Amazingly, it was not at the suggestion of Weston native Andrea. She was in no rush to return to her hometown, but Nick, originally from New York, saw potential.
“Weston reminds me a little bit of some of those smaller towns in Europe,” he says. “For a young country, Weston reminds you that it still has some patina to it.”
Located along the singular downtown strip, there’s no sign to direct you from the street, which compels you to peer through the windows to validate your directions. My first time at Noah’s, Andrea had to wave me in from the street as she noticed my wandering from inside.
Upon entering the close quarters of the cupboard-sized restaurant, it’s easy to feel as though you have interrupted a private dinner. You are immediately confronted with the few other seated diners and sizzling aromas from the kitchen that’s in plain sight. Nick, in his multitasking expertise, somehow managed to throw a welcoming nod my way while tossing his sauté pan as Andrea sat us at our table.
The entire restaurant is only four hundred square feet, and the kitchen is a short, packed hallway of seventy-one square feet. Andrea engages each table with a calm demeanor, taking orders while Nick shuffles around in his culinary cubby. Several tables are only feet away from his kitchen, and yet Nick maintains the stealth of a culinary samurai, zoned in and unobtrusive to your dining experience.
The small menu balances the genres of rustic and gastronomy, with many of the ingredients obtained from nearby farms and therefore changing regularly. Juicy legs of Moulard duck sit upon a creamy pear parsnip puree, and homemade spaghetti is tossed with sea urchin and mussels. When asked about the possible difficulties of serving anomalies like beef tongue with orange and ricotta cheese in a small town, Nick says he has worked to earn the trust of the locals.
My first course was an off-menu special that was gone when I reappeared the next week, which is a shame because it was Japanese A5 wagyu carpaccio. Seared lightly and drizzled with raw egg yolk mixed with a splash of mirin and shoyu, we were given chopsticks to devour it. It was a rich and buttery dish that, to put it plainly, I moaned in obscenities of pleasure as I ate. It occurred to me that it could use a light sprinkle of finishing salt, but I didn’t care. The wagyu melted in my mouth, and a sense of unadulterated presence washed over me.
The pierogis are a menu staple that comes from Nick’s Slovakian grandmother, who made the doughy treats throughout Nick’s childhood. The potato-filled dumplings are soft and juicy, tossed in a light onion puree and served with dollops of house-fermented sauerkraut and aged creme fraiche. It’s a delightfully humble dish, with each element thoughtfully prepared. Take all-inclusive bites with this one.
The homey entree dishes wow with their large portion sizes and are made extraordinary with small touches. The not-uncommon dish of beef short rib and parmesan risotto is elevated with bits of wagyu oxtail, and the leg of Moulard duck confit surprises with just a touch of mint.
Even though you are given only two options for dessert, they are not an afterthought. The date cake comes out bubbling in a pool of sticky bourbon toffee and is served with a side of maple whipped cream. It’s a nod to Nick’s time working in Wales, where chefs are judged by their sticky toffee pudding. You’ll want to risk your taste buds to dive right into the bath of blistering caramelized butter, and I’m none the wiser to stop you. The other dessert of towering chocolate terrine, banana bread and pistachio ice cream is a marvelous concoction, especially with the accompaniment of banana slices topped with glassy layers of caramelized sugar.
To put it lightly, the food is impressive and leaves you beyond satisfied, but the real magic lies in the restaurant’s unparalleled intimacy. One chef cooking the entire menu at a restaurant seems like a recipe for disaster. But at Noah’s, there is no risk of being overlooked because you are one of a few. The small space and menu allows Andrea and Nick to be attentive in ways most restaurants simply cannot afford. “There’s a reason why when you eat food at Noah’s cupboard, it tastes different than other restaurants—because every little detail has been thought out and executed by me,” Nick says.
A catch twenty-two I often experience as a food writer is whether to write about the under-recognized spot that deserves to be known or let it remain an unexpected treasure for others to stumble upon. I was hesitant to cover Noah’s Cupboard, but I ultimately decided that it would be selfish to not talk about it. As Weston’s magic continues to be whispered about and explored by outsiders, I can’t help but feel no remorse singing the praises of this little gem.
In Weston, it’s easy to lose track of time. When you’re at O’Malley’s, the bar shrouded in historic secrecy, the outside world seems to disappear. Likewise, Noah’s microscale operation replicates this magical sense of presence. Somewhere between your first and second course, you begin to trust fall into Andrea and Nick’s hands as they take care of everything for the next couple hours, leaving you with an unrepeatable experience.