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Sep 10, 2012 10:20 AM

STL Weekend Report (1st installment - more to follow)

Bogarts: Because we missed our traditional breakfast at Waffle House, we headed straight for the Soulard Market to grab a bloody mary and then were the first people in the door of Bogart's at 10:30. Had the combo: 1/2 slab of baby backs, and smoked prime rib. I normally hate baked beans, but theirs are off-the-chart amazing (made with the drippings of smoked brisket). The chief smoker, Skip (who serves in a similar capacity for Pappy's) took a liking to us visiting foodies, and gave us a tour of the place, and plied us with more samples of pastrami, burnt ends, sausage and some house-made relish. This place is the real deal, and is some of the best Q anywhere in the country (and I've sampled a lot).

Afternoon cocktails: Fountain on Locust is such a lovely place, and they really do know how to make the old standard cocktails. The bartender hadn't heard of a Negroni (gin, sweet vermouth and campari), but rose to the occasion. Also, one of the coolest bathrooms I've seen.

Vin de Set: After even more cocktails at Clementine's (the world's smokiest bar - ugh), we hit Vin de Set. The place is beautiful, with a huge vaulted ceiling. The service was efficient and knowledgeable. My friend's red pepper linguine was heavily coated in what seemed to be a Parmesan or Alfredo sauce, that made it almost gelatinous - good flavor but unfortunate texture for a hot summer night. My arctic char was good, but could have been more heavily seared on the skin side which would have allowed the fish to lift up from the skin more easily (I cook this fish often, and that is the trick). The cheese course for dessert, and a nice recommendation for a crisp sauvingon-semillon, was a good end to the meal, before the Manchester Rd. revelry that shall not be reported in these pages. (Any imprecise memories in these postings will be easily explained by my friend's bad influence on my in the beverage department.)

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  1. Sounds like you got "Negroni'd"....


    1. Love to get these kinds of reports. (And give my regards to my hometown of Shaker Heights, if you don't mind. I've lived in STL for 36 years now.)

      15 Replies
      1. re: alan

        I think Vin de Set's raison d'ĂȘtre is the Sunday brunch. I'd try that if you have a chance. My suggestion for old school cocktails: Royale on Kingshighway. Would have had a helluva Negroni there, and the food is very good, upscale pub food.

        1. re: ddfry3

          Oh, Royale sounds right up my alley!! Next time!

          1. re: ClevelandRandy

            Indeed, I just had dinner at Royale tonight, with a few delicious drinks. Let us know again several weeks prior to your next gastronomic junket. Niche is moving to Clayton, and Craft is opening a place called Pastaria there as well. Other places you should try in no order if they are still open when you come: Riverbend, Home Wine Kitchen, Crows Nest, Winslow's Home (brisket), Stellina, Stone Soup Cottage (will take many months of advance planning)

            1. re: ddfry3

              dont forget mcgurks and the iron barley for the real fun.

              1. re: ddfry3

                Thanks for those recommendations - I will certainly keep them in mind and post for some current suggestions for the next trip. It is a shame to hear the Niche is abandoning Benton Park for the 'burbs. Being a city person, I rarely venture to suburbs when I visit other cities.

                1. re: ClevelandRandy

                  I've not been to Cleveland but have heard plenty of good things about the food scene there. Since you were just here and have been to STL plenty of times, can you speak of comparisons?

                  1. re: ddfry3

                    I think Cleveland's food scene is similar in style to STL, but perhaps little bit deeper (more high- to moderate-high end restaurants) and a bit more diverse ethnically. But STL has Cleveland beat on BBQ!! However, that perception may be skewed in that I rarely venture out of the municipal boundary of STL during my visits. The metro area of Cleveland is probably 1.5 to 2x the size of STL, and some of the inner city neighborhoods have seen a real renaissance. Come visit!

                    1. re: ClevelandRandy

                      That's kind of the sense I got. Even with all the pop loss, I always feel like the built environment really makes you feel like you are somewhere when I'm St. Louis. Cleveland has us beat in skyline and lake. Believe it or not (nerd alert!), Cleveland peaked at just under 1,000,000 in the city, and St. Louis peaked around 856,000. Both are under 400k people now. The St. Louis metro pop is about 2.9 million, and the Cleveland-Akron CSA is almost identical. So population is in essence the same. Not sure about the comparison of square miles, these days the suburbs in StL stretch some 40 miles beyond the city!

                      1. re: ddfry3

                        Then we're much more demographically similar than I thought. All in all, the cities have much in common, and I think my love of Cleveland is how I came to love St. Louis. Each year, I pick a city that I've never been to, research the heck out of it, and go explore it for a weekend. STL was the first such city, around 10 years ago, and I loved it so much I've been back almost annually. I anticipate many more visits.

                        1. re: ClevelandRandy

                          well ya call THAT a pissing contest? that's just log-rolling.

                          but I gotta admit I like hitting the "2nd tier cities" (unless I have the $$ for NYC or SF)

                          the big places are too easy.

                        2. re: ddfry3

                          I'm familiar with restaurants in both cities. One thing that strikes me is that Cleveland has a much more active dining scene downtown, in addition to restaurants in its city neighborhoods and suburbs. By contrast, the interesting restaurants in St. Louis are much more spread out geographically, and the downtown area does not have much of a concentration of really creative restaurants the way Cleveland does. I think the move of Niche from Benton Park (which isn't downtown) to Clayton is a reflection of where its market lives and goes out, and the fact that in St. Louis people don't go downtown for restaurants and nightlife. At least, that's my impression.

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            ah, they go downtown for events and nightlife, but not restaurants so much. this has been changing. slowly.

                            1. re: hill food

                              It took a while for Cleveland to develop it's downtown and inner-city neighborhood dining scene. It helped that we have a vibrant theater scene downtown. Hopefully STL will develop this over time -- I'll keep coming back to support it!

                              1. re: ClevelandRandy

                                and we appreciate that.

                                but ya shoulda seen it 20+ years ago. total ghost town unless the Cards were playing. It's freakin' Disneyland now by comparison.

                                1. re: ClevelandRandy

                                  St. Louis has a good theater scene too, but it's spread out over a wider area. The amount of development and dining on Washington especially even in the last 3-5 years is amazing. There are some nicer places, but many are not destination places, but more cater to the downtown loft clientele.

            2. Based upon your obvious love of cocktails, you should definitely make a trip to Sanctuaria next time. I don't love the food but the cocktails are creative, plentiful, thoughtful, and first rate and the place has a great feel and look.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alan

                That drink list looks amazing. Duly noted.