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Mar 31, 2008 06:44 PM

Brief STL trip report

A brief trip report:

Wednesday Dinner: Hooters in Bloomington, IL. It was near the highway. That said, I tried the "cajun" wings, breaded, drumettes only, and they were a little salty but amazingly tasty. Between those and the fried pickles, it was actually an excellent and very inexpensive meal. Just don't think of them as buffalo wings, and you'll be fine.

Thursday Lunch: Fitz's in St. Louis. My parents happened to be driving through town so we grabbed a bite. The place would be awesome for kids, with lots of bright colors, friendly foods, and an operational soda bottling operation behind glass on the main floor. We started with fried pickles (you see a theme developing?) and I had the "black and blue" burger, described as a blackened patty with blue cheese and fried onions. It's not Kuma's, but the burger was close to medium rare, hand formed, and really pretty good. I can't speak for what my parents had, but I was pleasantly surprised by the operation. The root beer, by the way, was very good. Light on the vanilla, heavy on the wintergreen, served in a chilled mug with no ice and very refreshing. $2 for unlimited refills.

Thursday Dinner: 17th Street Bar and Grill in O'Fallon, IL. This is a branch of Mike Mills' original in Murphysboro. We've also been to one of the "Memphis Championship Barbecue" locations in Vegas. We started with an enormous basket of fried pickles, which were the best of the trip: thick-cut, ridged pickles with a nicely spiced batter. Strong crunch on the outside, with a meaty, briny interior. Just awesome.

I had a three meat platter - sausage, beef ribs, pork ribs. The winner of the bunch was the beef rib, but the pork ribs weren't bad -- decent bark and some tug required to get them off the bone, but they were baby backs, and I just can't get incredibly enthused about baby backs. The sausage was fine, but forgettable. Great vinegary baked beans, too.

Overall, I thought it wasn't as good as the MCB in Vegas, which I thought wasn't as good (at the same meats) as Salt Lick in Vegas, which Beth says isn't half as good as the original Salt Lick. So take that for what it's worth. I still dream about those pickles, though.

Friday Dinner: Riddle's Penultimate, St Louis. An endearing restaurant, with reasonable prices. The best way to get an idea for the restaurant is to look at the menu, which reads kind of like Applebee's combinations at times. The atmosphere inside is anything but, and the execution of the dishes we tried was uniformly very good.

Saturday Lunch: Plush Pig Barbecue in St Louis, Mo. I looked this place up online, found little information, and cruised past it. From the outside, it looks terrible, like the Quizno's next door. But I persevered, went inside, and was immediately heartened by the mounds of logs and strong smell of wood smoke. I had a half slab of spare ribs, tips still attached, which were unbelievably meaty. The texture was a bit off -- the meat fell away from the bones far too easily -- but the bark and the dry rub were great. After I was about 80% done, I thought to try the spicier barbecue sauce, served on the side, which was vinegary and really wonderful. The fried pickles on the side were just OK - too-thin, flat-cut, and a bit greasy. The mac and cheese was kraft shells, or something like it.

Saturday Dinner: Atlas in St Louis, Mo. All of the reviews of this place tout it as heavy on the seasonal ingredients, but I didn't really see any of that. The food was fine, but had a lot of missed potential. Appetizers were crispy duck confit with arugula and piccolo fritto with a lemon aioli. These were both quite good, especially the duck. Beth's entree was a pork chop with a parsley pesto and a celeriac gratin. The pork chop was a bit dry, due to (speculation) not being brined and being a little overcooked. The gratin, though, was great. I had a braised short rib, which would have benefited greatly from a longer braise and a richer braising liquid. We split a butterscotch pudding with creme fraiche and pecans for dessert, and it was fantastic.

They're open until 10 for dinner, and then from 10-11 for appetizers and desserts. Based on our experience, I think we'd probably do that, so as to skip the underwhelming entrees. Our waitress is also their webmaster, and she was wonderful. If she reads this: you were wonderful.

Sunday Lunch: Crown Candy Kitchen, St Louis, Mo. Wonderful. I think it's an absolute must-visit, at least once. I can quibble slightly with Beth's BLT, with its too-small bread and miracle whip, but the half pound of great bacon makes up for those flaws. Great malts, great ice cream, and a fantastic space. Go.

We had a great visit, and really enjoyed St. Louis.

Fitz's Soda Bar & Grill
14810 Clayton Rd
Chesterfield, MO 63017
(636) 230-2900

17th Street Bar & Grill
1711 W Highway 50
O Fallon, IL 62269
(618) 622-1717

Riddle's Penultimate Cafe
6307 Delmar Blvd
St Louis, MO 63130
(314) 725-6985

Plush Pig Barbecue
7814 Forsyth Blvd
St Louis, MO 63105
(314) 725-4411

Atlas Restaurant
5513 Pershing Ave
St Louis, MO 63112
(314) 367-6800

Crown Candy Kitchen
1401 Saint Louis Ave
St Louis, MO 63106
(314) 621-9650

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  1. Man, you are killing me. I used to go to the Plush Pig for lunch after I got laid off a few years ago. It was a tremendous break while I was doing the hurry up and wait mode during my job search. Did you meet the owner? he is as obsessed with great barbecue as anyone I know. He was working on a home made pastrami recipe when I was last there.

    Crown Candy was another favorite, as was Atlas. The only thing you were missing was the smothered pork chops at Sweetie Pies and the hot wings at Michael's on Manchester.

    1. You hit a lot of the St Louis high lights!
      So sorry Atlas was not all it usually is- hope you give it another try next visit.
      The loop area where you found Fitz's is also full of grand ethnic options and has another great burger at Blueberry Hill across the street :very fun and slightly more grown up focus if a bit
      Gotta go to the Plush Pig- my mouth is watering and it is still morning! scruffy. Cicero's has good pizza - be sure to emphasis mozzorella or you will have our local provel- and burgers and hip music options, with more rock and roll at BBH.
      Consider a run into the Central West End next time, too. Love the Culpepper wings and burgers and the pots of the day choices at Dresell's.

      1. Pappy's Smokehouse is the new BBQ joint in town and by far the best i've had in years. Atlas is amazing...sorry your night didn't live up to all of the hype. Next time you are in town you should try Niche. They have a prie fixe at $35 for 3 courses. Great spot.

        You can't go wrong with Crown Candy...Iron Barley seems to be up your alley. It was just features on FN's Diners, Drive-In's and Dives....really good home cookin'. If you like Vietnamese food, Mai Lee on Delmar and 170 is some of the best in town.

        3 Replies
        1. re: CheesemongersWife

          Thanks for the tips, all. I'm not sure when we'll be in STL next, but now I want to go back and try all the places we missed..

          We were flying blind for a lot of the meals, picking somewhat at random, and coming from Chicago wanted to avoid stuff like Vietnamese, etc, which are strong for us, too.

          1. re: gleam

            Thought about it more and remembered that you had missed the STL fav of "toasted" ravioli( breaded and fried really). The only place I find it tempting is a a great if very polished dinner in Clayton called Manhatten Cafe. They seem to make their product in house vs the miriad of places locally that must all buy the same frozen T ravioli and treat it with no additional interest or care.
            (off topic- loved a recent visit in Chicago- found the diner at the train stop in Wilmette to have great homemade noodles in the chicken noodle soup and generally very temping goods and in Lincoln Park the Pasta Palazzo on Halstead was a revelation!)

            1. re: stlSarah

              I am sure most of the places on the Hill make it fresh as well. Its when you go to the bars and pasta Houses that you get the frozen stuff. The ones I had at Gian-Tony's were far from frozen.