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St. Louis suggestion for special occasion

Hi all-

My brother is getting married, and as sort of a celebration gift I would like to treat him and his fiancee to a nice dinner in St. Louis.

I'm in New York, and really no nothing of the St. Louis dining scene....I've heard to avoid Tony's, and that the Crossing might not be the best idea.

My budget is 200-250 dollars for dinner for two. Their palates are pretty vast, so suggestions of any kind of cuisine is okay.


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  1. We had a great birthday dinner at Atlas, 5513 Pershing, this fall. Service and food were both outstanding. We didn't spend more that $150 for wine, food, dessert, cognac and service for 2. A wonderful value for the cost. We plan on going back when in St. Louis again this spring.

    1 Reply
    1. Check www.stltoday.com for their Get Out! section (I think it is under the entertainment link). There is an article from this past Thursday about tasting menus around town including The Crossing, American Place, Sansui, and Niche. The article praised all the restaurants for great food, so that might be a good start to figuring out a good place to take your brother.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cookingkid

        King Louie's would knock their socks off. It has everything a great restaurant should...fine food, attentive service, amazing atmosphere. I would also second Niche. These are the two best restaurants in STL.

      2. Niche and Atlas are the two new headturners in St. Louis, with adventuresome fare and, I believe, tasting menus. Harvest has been consistently good for a few years now.

        But for a celebratory meal in St. Louis, I'd still have to recommend Tony's. Elegant space on the ground floor of a downtown almost riverfront office building near the stadium with valet parking, very accomodating service, much of the food finished and presented table-side. Not cutting edge or "exciting," but they maintain their top-flight reputation and are quick to respond to any need or request. We tend to take Vince and his staff for granted after so many generations at the top of the St. Louis fine-dining scene, but if your bro and his bride haven't been there in awhile it will be a treat.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nosh

          I agree with Nosh. It's not adventurous food, but it's amazingly good Italian food with top shelf (really, can't be beat) service. The waitstaff there are professionals. If you want something that isn't on the menu, you can always ask. I love Tony's--it's a wonderful special occasion restaurant.

        2. I have lived in St. Louis for nine years and have had wonderful meals at Harvest, King Louie's, and Eleven Eleven Mississippi. But I still dream of being able to afford dinner at Tony's.

          So, I think that you would want to give your brother an opportunity to go to Tony's.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Doug

            Having been to Tony's a few times, I'd agree that the service is terrific and it's very upscale, but the food is just a couple slices above ordinary. Period. As for Atlas, I love it, but I'm not sure it's special enough; it's very reasonably priced and has a comfortable atmosphere, but not as creative as, say, Niche or Terrene, which would probably be my top choices. I would also consider American Place because the space is so elegant and packs a wallop, with good food - unlike Busch's Grove, where the space is impressive, but the food absolutely sucks. I'd probably put Pomme in the same category as Atlas. Just went to King Louie's for the 1st time a couple weeks ago. I was prepared not to like it and had low expectations; but I really did like it, so I think that's a reasonable option for the gift dinner.

            1. re: Wayno

              Tony's is defonotely an experience to be had at least once in you food was very good but not great. Your budget may not be enough if they are true oenophiles, their wine cellar is pretty pricey.

              I love King Louie, and the ambience is pretty good. Niche and Atlas has a bistro atomosphere so it isn't the grand experience as Tony's or An American Place. Hell, nothing is like that.

          2. You can't go wrong with King Louie's, Harvest, Sidney Street, or Citizen Kane's. Citizen Kane's is a classic steakhouse, and by far the best in St Louis. Sidney Street is gorgeous (request a table in the back room) and I have never had a meal there that was anything less than perfect. Harvest uses local and in-season ingredients. The food is New American and delish. In my opinion, King Louie's is the best in town. Its very fancy, very expensive, and very worth it. That's where I go for special occassions.

            Stay away from American Place, over priced and over hyped. I've had better meals for a quarter of the price. I used to eat at 1111 Mississippi quite often, and I've found that the food is hit or miss, so I no longer go there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tazaffe

              I'm having a hard time agreeing with you. I don't get out much, but the days I get off are important as far as getting to area restaurants. I had dinner at Niche on Sunday and it was fantastic. We received extra attention because Sunday is like an industry night over there when you have to work at other restaurants throughout the week. The place I ate at before that was American Place for their market menu that was well priced but not hyped (I had no idea it was there until we arrived at our table). Prior to that my girlfriend and I dined at Sydney Street where the spoonbread and scallops was fantastic and the smoked duck breast was so good. I respect all those places for the quality of cooking they perform every night. I think they all have great possibilities for special occassion dining, just like I mentioned for the four restaurants talked about by Joe Bonwich in the Get Out! section last week.

            2. I love Harvest so much - it was always the best special occasion place because their food is so reliably good and the service is always great.

              1. you can't go wrong with any of the places mentioned thus far. We're going to Tony's for the first time tomorrow night, so maybe I can report on that experience. I did speak to a foodie friend the other night and she raved about Niche. You order your dessert at the start of the dinner because it's made fresh for you! Atlas is delicious. My favorite restaurant in my neighborhood. I've never had a bad meal at Harvest. Zinnia's been around for a while and is often overlooked, but last time I went was still pretty good. Also Cardwells at Frontenac (but noisy!). It all depends on how fancy you want. I have to say with all the new places that come and go, Tonys is still the one that makes people say Wow! Your brother will too.

                1. OK. We went to Tony's last night. The food was perfect in every way. We ordered the special tasting menu for two, added a couple of cocktails, and we just squeezed into your budget. But here's the thing: Is your brother a nice old-fashioned Republican type? Does he like dining with the ruling class? If so, he'll be happy here. If not, well.....

                  The restaurant is embedded deep into a downtown office building with decor to match. Lots of polished wood. I imagine this is the look of a fancy law firm. To match the decor were about a dozen white men in suits roaming the dining room. Were they lawyers or servers? At 53, I'd say we were definitely at the young end of the dining spectrum.

                  We were introduced to Carlos, who was our server. He took our drink order. Someone else delivered the drinks (perfect martinis). A third guy delivered the bread and caponata. Carlos returned with the menus at the appropriate time. He made small talk. Why are you here, we'll give you the perfect evening, anything not up to expectations, let me know.

                  Then, pretty much, a young blonde guy, took over, couldn't have been more than 22. He was not allowed to crack a smile or chat with us--though we contemplated trying to break his cover, He presented almost every course, provided a description, explained the wine. Most of the courses are finished tableside. I'd say this guy was doing most of the heavy labor, but Carlos was our appointed point man. Carlos did serve the beef tenderloin (our third course).

                  During the course of the dinner, two or three other men in suits provided various services. Not only did they refill the water glasses, at one point they replaced the water glasses! it's interesting to see how things are done in a five star restaurant! Vince Bommarito, the owner, paid us a couple of calls. We got a little tired of chatting with everyone.

                  Never having been here before, and with no plans to return in the near future (we decided we'd come again when our first grandchild is born), we had no interest in cultivating a relationship with the various men who served us (though i did want to ask the young blonde guy how he had trained for this job and whether my son could find a job here after he graduates from Columbia). But it was clear that many of the servers and customers had ties going way back. Next to us sat an elderly, white-haired gentleman who was dining alone. He had long conversations with several members of the staff. They were clearly his dinner companions.

                  Across the way was a table of 8. "Good evening, Senator," said one server to a man at the table. It wasn't Jim Talent or Kit Bond (definitely not Claire McCaskill) We couldn't figure out who he was, but I did notice that whenever a woman in the group excused herself to go to the ladies room, all the men stood. Wow!

                  (A few weeks ago we saw Jeff Smith, our new state senator, at the Royale, a good burger bar with a swell garden out back and great StL mural. I definitely prefer to see my politicans at a place like that!)

                  Towards the end of the evening, the only black server i saw showed up. He had been working a private party. He kissed everyone at the table for eight hello. It was a joyous reunion. I thought there were some interesting class dynamics going on in the room between the hired help and the regulars. We are all buddies here, it's just that some of us do your bidding.

                  On the way out to collect our coats, we spotted our first woman employee: the hat check girl! She also happened to be black.

                  So, will we be back? Not anytime soon.

                  Was the food perfect? Yes. Yes. Yes.

                  Was it an interesting sociological experience? Definitely.

                  Am I really such a curmudgeon? NO!

                  Is it for your brother? You be the judge.

                  I prefer great food, served by a top notch staff, in a younger, more contemporary environment. I don't vote for these folks, why should I eat with them?


                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Debra M. Schwartz

                    Thanks for your report. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

                    Although I have lived in St. Louis for 34 yrs. (ahem!), I have never eaten at Tony's. I was taken to Anthony's for my 25th birthday by a good friend, but that was as far as I have gotten! I have a colleague who gets taken to Tony's by his in-laws for special occasions, but I never considered taking my parents there when they visited. My Dad would have been appalled at spending that much for dinner. They were much happier at Duff's and Mai Lee and good Chinese restaurants.

                    Still, I find myself wanting to experience Tony's just once. Now that my husband and I keep a kosher home, and do not eat (non-kosher)meat out, it seems pointless to go to Tony's for fish & veggies.
                    Thanks for the vicarious visit! I would bet that the Danforth family was sitting across the way last night. p.j.

                    1. re: p.j.

                      I took mom there for her birthday and for her to show off for her best friends. The fact that I ate nothing but ramen for the next few months was well worth the experience. I am much more of the Michael's, Lulu's, Mai Lee's type. We did have a female server, she was dressed in a tux, like all the male server.

                      I think it amused the staff we didn't order wine - mom's friends are teetotaling fundamentalist types - I did sense just a touch of condescension in their reaction. The service was impeccable and the food was great. I haven't gone back since because, well, I don't like ramen all that much.

                      1. re: p.j.

                        If you are willing to eat from a nonkosher kitchen at all, I'd still go for the fish, veggies, and pasta. there was plenty of that kind of thing available. d

                        1. re: p.j.

                          Really enjoyed your well-written and wryly-perspectived review. I'm glad you had an interesting and memorable experience. My dad and mom first frequented Tony's fifty years ago when it was a checkered table-cloth, spaghetti and meatball joint, and I still remember climbing that staircase with all of the framed photos going up to the dining room in the old location for special occasions.

                          1. re: nosh

                            Hey Nosh, Thanks, but Debra gets the credit for the great review.
                            Since I didn't move to St. Louis until after college, I don't have the family history here. My memories of Sunday night Chinese at the Ping Toy in Irvington, N.J. won't do much for anyone here.
                            Maybe I will try to talk my hubby into going to Tony's for our 20th anniv. next spring!
                            Take care and stay warm, p.j.

                            1. re: p.j.

                              I have no family history here. i spend at least one day month dreaming of pizza from my old Brooklyn street corner and veal parmasean from Gargiulos in coney Island. Now that's a restaurant that deserves a review. I wonder if it's even still there. Giant crepe paper octopus across the cathedral-high ceiling; priest and low-lifes minigling below; and pick the right number from the Bingo bowl at the end of the meal and your dinner is free!

                        2. re: Debra M. Schwartz

                          Ah, St. Louis! One probably could not have had such a dining experience in any other city (great review, by the way). I wonder if the Senator was Thomas Eagleton...or perhaps a state senator?

                          1. re: bakemeacake

                            Debra said Republican, which Sen. Eagleton was definitely not. I'd put my bet on the Danforth clan.

                            1. re: p.j.

                              Agreed. I suspect Eagleton would be more of a King Louie's kind of guy (he something of a hipster).

                              1. re: p.j.

                                It wasn't the Danforths. this group wasn't old enough or classy enough. The "senator" was really kind of dopey looking. But of course you are on the right track.

                                Although a friend commented, and he is probably correct, that with St. Louis being such a Democratic city, it's likely that plenty of Democratic Party members eat at Tonys regularly.

                                1. re: Debra M. Schwartz

                                  I don't know, Tony's is so expensive that only the true blue bloods can afford it, most of them are Republicans in St. Louis.

                              2. re: bakemeacake

                                It wasn't Tom Eagleton. We think it must have been a state senator. he looked kinda goofy. Debra

                            2. Senator Eagleton is a Olympia or a Beffa's type. It would be great to have a discussion of Beffa's on this board. Beffa's is a little place near AG Edwards, it has no sign. Basically ab with a steam table with no posted prices. Open only at lunch and for a while in the afternoon.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RaceHorse

                                I never had a good meal at Beffa's. This is a spot for the good ol'boys of STL to sit and admire one another. The place is not without its charms but enjoying an interesting meal isn't going to be one of them.

                              2. L -

                                I am not from St. Louis but I went to Tony's once and I remember the food being good but what I remember being fascinating is the tour of the kitchen that we went on. If I remember correctly (and if someone could correct me if I am wrong) The kitchen is silent and no paper. The order is read once and the chef and his team prepare and time it off of that one time.. fascinating... From what I understand it is not something they do often but maybe you can sweet talk someone and get a tour for your family as well as the meal..