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So cheap airline tickets and a taste for a taste of another city we’ve never been to led us to St Louis for a few days last week. Given how little discussion the culinary scene in that city gets on this Board (not to mention its being virtually hidden here) and how my impression was that it deserves much more, I figured I’d post, for posterity, a few thoughts about some of the places and things we tried. Indulge me?
By way of caveat, I should note that I did almost no research short of scanning some of your posts here and, from that, jotting a few restaurant names on a small sheet of paper. I had no interest in over-soliciting comments on “my itinerary” – in fact, short of really wanting to try Provel, I had no interest in even having an itinerary. I suppose you could say I was a feeling a bit nostalgic for the days when part of being an adventurous eater was the simple adventure itself – kiss a few frogs (legs) and all. In that same spirit, I also declined the GPS for the rental car.
I’ll start with Pappy’s, ‘cause there’s not much to add. The place deserves its reputation and crowds. We went at around 3pm so as to consider the former and avoid the latter. Solid smoked meats on par with the best I’ve been served across the country. I offer no thoughts on the sides – a man doesn’t go to a strip club for the DJ after all.
A midday trip to goof around The Hill was a blast. A parking spot opened up across the street from a place called Antonino’s, a restaurant I had seen no mention of, all the cars around had Missouri plates, and there were a couple folks out front waiting for a table – telltale signs of a place worthy of a go. Although seeing Guy Fieri’s picture on the wall took a bit of the “Lewis and Clark” wind outta my sails, the five minute wait at the bar was amply rewarded with a couple of outstanding, ten dollar burgers. Mine was cooked rare, topped with gyro meat and my first taste of St. Louis’s much maligned cheese product. The totality was so delicious and juicy, I ate with abandon just barely finishing before the moisture of the meat disintegrated the toasted, garlic bun. There are other Boards on this Site where a burger like that, at that price, would be spoken of in reverential tones.
Volpi’s and DeGregorio’s provided some cured meats and cheese for breakfasts in the hotel over the next couple days, as well as sheer food geek fun to wander about. Some coffees at Shaw’s were likewise worthwhile while recharging and taking a breather from the afternoon heat.
The “big dinner” wound up being at Tony’s. Although earlier in the day, upon the advice of an East Coast restaurant critic, we had made a reservation at Niche, there was something about the notion of an old school, fine dining experience that just felt right. Maybe it was the fact that St. Louis has an air of another time in some of its pockets or the fact that Steak Tartare and Dover Sole are more difficult to find these days than primped, local produce and edible flowers, but Vintage-American just seemed more appealing than New American. A great restaurant all around in its chair-pulling, napkin-folding, tableside prep glory – and the veal chop was marvelous. Bonus points for that fantastic “Wall of Fame”. My thanks to whomever it was that mentioned the place in some old post.
Another fun stop was at Flamingo Bowl. That was culture shock. Bowling alley bars in Jersey are populated with overly made-up, middle aged women and fat, bald, ageless men, sipping Coors Light from plastic cups between turns tossing dirty, dull balls down dingy, dark lanes. Imagine my surprise when confronted with the warm woods and cool, soft neon glows of this spot while watching the bartender polish a glass for the smoked porter they have on tap. Although none of the food offerings appealed to us at that time of the day, the place oozed retro-fun and I tried to think of an excuse to throw a party in the adjacent room (a thousand miles from home).
One of the most amazing things about the city (besides the apparent fecundity of the local women – who has six kids these days???), was the sheer number of magnificent architectural elements. Every day, and seemingly everywhere, we noted these terrific Art Deco and Beaux Arts gems – many seemingly unused. Nevertheless, nothing we had seen (or read) prepared us for the Art Nouveau masterpiece that is the Grand Room at Union Station.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of times in dives, lounges, watering holes, pubs, taverns, roadhouses, saloons, taprooms, you name it. Each, certainly, can have its merits. Moreover, I am a truly appreciative of a fine, hotel lobby bar, especially while travelling. But, this space is flat out special. Sadly, I didn’t have time to fully investigate all of their offerings. To be brief, however, I will just say this: If the day ever comes where I have to imbibe my “last drink”, I want it to be three fingers of rye, seated in that room, and surrounded by the smiles of all the century old ghosts remaining.
Anyway, those were the gold stars. Now, I’ll simply tip my hat, St. Louis. Thanks for the fun!
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