Thanks much to the Chowhounds for offering advice on where to eat in St Louis for Twangfest. As expected, I didn't have a lot of control over the choices, but I did get to drive some dining decisions.
The first day, because I'd just checked into the hotel, I had lunch at the Indian Palace at Howard Johnson's. There was a strong variety of dishes, but they clearly have a much better handle on the vegetarian dishes (aloo beans, outstanding saag, and a really great turnip curry that I forget the name on) than the meat dishes (blah tandoori chicken, a curried meatball dish with no discernable flavour). The quality of the naan was variable, depending on how long it had been sitting in the heat tray. Some of it was quite good, but most of it was truly terrible.
We had dinner that night at the Schlafly Taproom, where they served my burger vastly overcooked - but I believe this to have been a minor error, as it appeared my burger had simply been reversed with that of another person at my table before they applied the toppings. The side dish was a very strange coleslaw that appeared to have been partially cooked. It lacked the flavour that would have been needed to make up for the texture. The foreigners at the table were, at least temporarily, forced to stop mocking American beer during the meal, since Schlafly's does pull a fine pint. Since the music was at the Taproom that night, and I was gifted with an overabundance of free drink tickets by the TwangGang, I was able to continue sampling those drafts all night.
Thursday, we planned to go to Vietnam Star for dinner, since one of my roomies in the Celebrity Dorm Room has a long lived love affair with their Tamarind Tofu, but unfortunately, it had closed - that very afternoon - for a week of reservations. Instead, we ended up at a passable, but non-descript Thai place a couple of blocks from Blueberry Hill. It was so non-descript that I don't even remember what it was called, but it was on the same side of the same street as Blueberry Hill.
Friday lunch was whatever we could find around Saratoga lanes. I pilfered takeout from Cafe Maya from various other Twangfesters, and while I found all of it good and different, none of it blew me away.
Friday dinner was the culinary highlight of the trip. We went to Saleem's for Lebanese and it was outstanding. The mowzaat was exceptionally good. The lamb was braised to perfection, soft and sweet and spicy and lovely. Beef kefta was not as good as my favourite at 93 Harbord in Toronto, but was still wonderful and very generous. The falafel was some of the best I've had - perfect crunch and an excellent balance of flavours.
Saturday events were at another Schlafly venue - the Bottleworks, and let me just take a moment to express my immense appreciation for the concepts that the Schlafly people are working from. The idea of local agriculture, farmer's markets, kitchen gardens, community event spaces, all of that stuff, makes for real deliciousness. I got a chance to try the sticky toffee pudding, which was a real treat. Normally, I find desserts like that sickly and overly sweet, but this one was so finely balanced between sweet and spicy and creamy that you hardly even noticed the sugar content. It was a real gem of a dessert. For my actual lunch, I ordered the most mature and elegant dish I could find on the menu - a grilled cheese sandwich. Schlafly's Grilled Cheese, like everything else, was well worth a look. Grilled on thick cut beer raised bread with a mix of cheese, this is not the kind of sandwich you'd feed your five year old. It was great stuff. I didn't care as much for the green and grains salad that I ordered with it - I found the greens a bit bitter, and that the grain mixture which was supposed to dress them lacked much in the way of flavour at all.
Sunday lunch was at the Indian Palace again, as some of the other TwangFesters had wanted to get up there and hadn't made it yet. The same observation about veggies being better than meat dishes held true, though their goat curry was a step up from most of the meat dishes. The tandoori chicken was even more pointless than I remembered from the first time, and naan almost entirely on the terrible side of too long in the steam tray. The wasn't any saag, but there was a saag like dish, with chick peas in it that was even better.
All that, plus a trip to Penzey's to remember it by. It was a good chow experience.