The Tattooed Dog – Wentzville, MO – It’s Burger Time!

“The journey of a thousand pounds begins with a single burger.”
Chris O’Brien 

If the above statement is true, I’m in serious trouble.  How many posts on burgers can one blog have?  For me, the answer is now 13 and counting.  The most recent shares my experience from the Tattooed Dog in Wentzville, MO.

The Tattooed Dog advertises itself as “upscale dive grub”.  The burger selection is impressive; and the reason for my visit.  However, they feature some pretty interesting sandwiches as well.  Can I interest you in some fried chicken sandwiched between two apple pancakes?

menu

For my lunch, I chose the Benedicto for the simple reason that it has a fried egg on top!

Burger

It was a solid burger.  I liked the greens to help me feel OK for not eating healthy.  The pretzel bun was also a great touch.  There are two things that would have made this burger even better.  One, if you ask if I want “pink or no pink”, I expect it to be pink as requested.  Luckily, it was not overdone so much that it was dry.  Two, I should have requested my fried egg over easy.  That’s my personal preference and I didn’t think to ask.

The Tattooed Dog delivered a solid burger and it’s a nice change to the fledgling restaurant scene in Wentzville.  I like the uniqueness of the menu and I’m sure I will try other burgers in the future.

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  When I saw “upscale dive pub”, I was expecting a dark location with a large bar.  I was surprised at all the windows that lit up the place during lunch.  It’s also surprisingly kid friendly and did not feel like a bar atmosphere at all.  The only really “divey” part was the bathroom.  The walls were painted an awkward brown color…

The Tattooed Dog on Urbanspoon

Death in the Afternoon – St. Louis, MO – Power Lunch

“So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

I’m a long time member of Blood and Sand and one of my greatest struggles is the distance between my home, my work, and that restaurant.  That same issue kept me from trying Death in the Afternoon, until I scheduled a PTO day for indulgence.

View of Death in the Afternoon from City Garden

View of Death in the Afternoon from City Garden

Death in the Afternoon is located in one of my favorite treasures of St. Louis, City Garden.  I was ecstatic when the owners of Blood and Sand took took over that location.  They are a lunch and brunch spot that takes full advantage of their view.  Their menu is ever changing but there are items for most palates.  I enjoy the nod given to some of my favorite Asian fare like the steamed buns and ramen.

Death in the Afternoon is located in one of my favorite treasures of St. Louis, City Garden.  I was ecstatic when the owners of Blood and Sand took over that location.  They are a lunch and brunch spot that takes full advantage of their view.  Their menu is ever changing but there are items to satisfy palates.  I appreciate the twist on some of my favorite Asian fair, such as steamed buns and ramen.

First up was the hummus.  With the addition of the roasted vegetables, this was definitely not your plain Jane hummus. Where was this idea of using zucchini on top while my family’s garden was exploding with extra produce???  As far as hummus goes, this version is a very solid offering.

hummus

Next up is one of my guilty pleasures:  Japanese steamed buns.  Remember my gushing over the pork belly buns that I devoured at Booker and Dax in NY?  Although these do not replace those in my heart, they have a lot to offer.  I went with two each of the pork belly and mushroom steamed buns.  They are served with a side of pickles and daikon carrot slaw.  I loved experimenting with the different flavor and texture combinations.  While I would order these again, they are on the pricey side at $5.50 a bun.

steamed buns

My last dish was the Cubano sandwich.  Who doesn’t like a sandwich that has multiple types of pork!?  Personally, I know that I have been craving one since I recently (finally) saw the movie Chef.  I know this isn’t a movie blog, but it’s a great watch if you love food.  Anyway, this sandwich didn’t disappoint.  The bread was crunchy, and you still have the prerequisite yellow mustard and pickles.

cubano

Death in the Afternoon is a great lunch spot with a view.  If you are lucky enough to work in the area, it’s a must.  I can’t wait to try the brunch and their Bloody Mary.  I would love to see what they could do with a banh mi as well.  Hint hint.

DITA 2

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  I think all the power suits and business lunches made me go with a 4 on this.  It has a trendy vibe in a great location.  It’s a little more than your typical lunch but as they say, you get what you pay for.

Death in the Afternoon on Urbanspoon

Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill – St. Louis, MO – We’ve Got the Urge…Do You Have It?

I’ll admit I was a little nervous about visiting Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill.  Music by Steve Ewing and the Urge whisk me back to my youth.  I have seen the Urge perform countless times on many different stages and have fond memories (for those I can still remember).  My nervousness stemmed from having my bubble burst about a St. Louis icon.  Steve Ewing has always been a kind person that takes his time out to talk to anyone.  I always appreciated seeing how much he enjoyed performing no matter the crowd size.  Enough about this bromance I have for Steve Ewing; let’s talk about some hot dogs.

Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill is a small shop with limited seating.  Steve’s features Nathan’s hot dogs, and clearly the focus is on hot dogs with a variety of different topping combinations.  But what exactly makes a good hot dog?  For me, it’s all about having that “snap” when you bite into the dog.

During my first visit I tried two different dogs, the Gorilla Mac & Cheese Dog and Steve’s Famous Chili-Cheese Dog.

mac n cheese

The mac n cheese was creamy, and for me the combination of cheese and hotdogs is a match made in heaven. I love to make queso and I almost always have hot dogs the next day so I can put that leftover queso to good use.  This was the top dog of the visit for sure.  Did I forget to mention they used bacon as a topping?  Who doesn’t love bacon???

chili dog 2

Next up was Steve’s Famous Chili-Cheese dog.  The song remains the same for the hot dog and the bun.  Although this was not my favorite of the evening, it was still a great dog.  You can haveraw or sautéed onions.  I went sautéed, as raw tends to overpower the taste. I was very happy thatthe bun could stand up to the chili without turning into a mushy mess.

Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill has been very successful.  So much so, that they have now opened asecond location in Tower Grove.  After my first visit, I can understand why.  Anyone have a recommendation on what dog tops the Gorilla Mac &  Cheese?

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Clearly,  this is a kid friendly place.  That staff is always hustling but will take the time to help you with your selections.  There is street parking and limited drink selections, but the hot dog selections more than make up for it.

Steve's Hot Dogs on the Hill on Urbanspoon

Steve's Hot Dogs Tower Grove on Urbanspoon

Juniper, Central West End – Finger Lickin’ Good

If you are a health nut that removes the chicken skin before cooking, go find another post to read.  Besides that, hang your head in shame for missing out on something glorious.  If you are the type of person that savours every crispy bite of the skin when you make fried chicken, let me tell you about a dish you must try:  the “Nashville Hot” Fried Chicken Skins at Juniper.

chicken skins

These chicken skins are fantastic!  It’s the best part about eating fried chicken.  They are salty and slightly spicy, and the strawberry buttermilk adds sweetness.  I could eat these all night.  In my opinion they are one of the best bar snacks PERIOD.

I realize this is a short post, but this was something that more people should be talking about.  I tried these on my third trip to Juniper and this will ensure that I visit more frequently.  I may need to get baseline readings on my cholesterol, because I’m sure it’s going to be climbing with this new addiction.

juniper

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  Juniper is slightly off the beaten path in the CWE.  It has a lively atmosphere even though it is not on the busier Euclid Ave.  I have been a fan of the chef since my first trips to Entre Underground events and he continues to provide great fare to his patrons.

Juniper on Urbanspoon

Plank Road Pizza – Cottleville, MO – Rollin’ in the Dough

“Pizza makes me think that anything is possible” – Henry Rollins.

With all this talk of superfoods in terms of their health benefits, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the other benefits of “superfoods”, like pizza.  I’m sure the Tony Horton’s of the world cringe at a statement like that, but let’s face it, we need to indulge in things every once in a while.  Like that one time in Topeka, Kansas where I ate 19 slices of pizza at a buffet…no wait a minute, that was just GROSS.  Clearly I indulge in high calorie foods more than I should, but foods like pizza are good for the soul.

Anyway, enough about me and my thoughts on how pizza improves life and the universe.  This review is about an extremely smart choice I made recently to have lunch at Plank Road Pizza.  Plank Road Pizza recently opened in Cottleville and hasn’t broken onto the scene quite yet, but their time is coming.  All the key parts are there:

  • Cottleville is adding new restaurants quickly and is making this area in St. Charles relevant in the food scene
  • They are focused on being local and are damn proud of it
  • Last, but not least, they make a killer pizza.

Using my typical MO, I went for the namesake “Plank Road Pizza” for my inaugural visit.  It’s a chicken bacon club pizza that includes everything you would expect from a chicken bacon club sandwich, but piled on a pizza.

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Maybe better yet, a view from my mouth:

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So what makes a pizza “killer”?  In my opinion it comes down to how the toppings are paired and having the perfect dough.  What I noticed first about this pizza was the dough.  It was crispy on the bottom but had some tooth to it, just the right amount of chew.  This dough and its’ preparation is key for Plank Road Pizza’s success.  The toppings were paired together nicely and I appreciated the presentation.  However, I did spread them out once it arrived to get the proper coverage.  If I had to pick a negative, a few pieces of the chicken were a little dry. I’ll admit though I had to be nit-picky just to find anything negative to say.

So there you have it, you have been warned.  Plank Road Pizza has all the items in place to be a force in Cottleville.  I would suggest you give it a try while it is still new and somewhat of a hidden gem.  I don’t expect that to last long.

Seriously, stop reading and go there now!

Not so subtle subliminal messaging.

Not so subtle subliminal messaging.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  Plank Road Pizza makes great use of one of the oldest buildings in Cottleville.  I love the use of reclaimed wood throughout the building.  I really want to come back and hang out on the patio with one of the local beers they serve.

Plank Road Pizza on Urbanspoon

Gordon’s Stoplight Drive-In – Crystal City, MO – Quadzilla, King of the Burgers!

The word is out about this place and it’s one of my favorite stops heading south on I-55.  Of course I’m talking about the one and only, Gordon’s Stoplight Drive-In in Festus!  Yes, I’m on a burger binge – this is my third burger related review in a row!

For those that love Carl’s Drive In, these burgers are pretty similar.  They are small balls of ground beef that are smashed onto the grill.  They are very thin patties so you will need multiple to make a reasonable size burger.  The double seems to be the standard, but I always like to take things up a notch. For that reason, I went for the…Quadzilla!

Quadzilla with fries

Quadzilla with fries

As you might expect, the Quadzilla is a meal that has a burger with four patties.  It also comes with fries and a drink for $8.88.  Not a bad price and it does fill you up.  You have options for all the standard ingredients for burgers, but they also offer mayo.  I have had it with and without, and actually prefer it with mayo.  Insert Canadian joke here…

Quadzilla with onion rings

Quadzilla with onion rings

These burgers come out piping hot.  You must resist the urge to take a bite immediately.  I have tried both the onion rings (for an upcharge) and the fries, but I would suggest sticking to the fries.  I think the fries need more salt, but that is obviously something you can correct.

This is my go to “fast food” restaurant when heading down I-55 to see family.  It’s not a huge detour off of I-55 and it’s worth the extra few minutes.  The people are friendly and the food remains unchanged for years.  My only regret is that I still have never tried one of their shakes.  Be on the lookout for an update on Twitter or Facebook because I will complete that task soon!

There isn't a lot of info online about this place.  Here is the lunch / dinner menu.

There isn’t a lot of info online about this place. Here is the lunch / dinner menu.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  This is a family friendly restaurant.  There are only bar stools for seating, or you can place a carry out order at the window.  It is cash only but there is an ATM in the corner in case you forget.

Stop Light Drive In on Urbanspoon

Home Wine Kitchen – Maplewood, MO – Burger Night!

I have been receiving emails showing Home Wine Kitchen’s weekly menus ever since my first trip to Table.  While there have been many that have intrigued me, I never found myself taking that extra step and trying the place out.  In one of the more recent emails, something caught my eye: Burger Night.    For $15 you get a burger, one side, and local craft beer.  Sign…me..up!

Let me first give you some details about Burger Night.  It runs every Sunday from 3 – 9 P.M.  During that time you can get the burger special with either their famous house burger or the ever changing market burger.  Each burger has a specific side that it comes with and they select one beer for the night.  Sounds pretty simple right?

Instead of making the potentially tough decision, I gave both burgers a try.  First up, the award winning house burger. The house burger was topped with bacon, cheese, garlic aioli and an egg.

house burger

All burgers are prepared medium rare unless you specify differently.   The burger was very soft and juicy.  There was no chance this was over cooked.  The egg was just the way I like it, very runny.  I’m in love with this burger.  For this reason alone, I already know I will make a return trip.  I did feel bad for the house made chips.  Even though they were a great side, nothing stands a chance on a plate next to this burger.  

The market special was the Texas burger.  It was topped with BBQ sauce, onion rings, and blue cheese.

Texas Burger

This one was also cooked as expected. I had tried the house burger first so this one was not as exciting for me.  It was heavy on the blue cheese so most of the other flavors were lost.  I did enjoy the polenta fries and want to try to make my own at home.

My first visit to Home Wine Kitchen’s Burger Night was a great success.  This will not be the last time I will have their house burger.  This burger would be in my top 5 for St. Louis.  What would be in your top 5 list?

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  I hit burger night early and it was easy to get in. The burgers take 15 minutes to prepare, but it’s worth every second.  I was impressed with the service as the server was very attentive.  He also asked about my thoughts on both burgers.

One thing to note, I bet I have walked past Home Wine Kitchen several times.   It’s in a great location on Manchester in Maplewood, but the exterior isn’t overly flashy.  You have to pay attention or you may miss it.  The inside is rustic with a lot of wood.  It’s warm and inviting.  

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Home Wine Kitchen on Urbanspoon

White Cottage – Belleville, Il – Get Ready for the Summer Heat

After spending the early evening perusing the wares at Art on the Square in Belleview, Illinois, I was in desperate need of some nourishment.  As with most towns in the St. Louis area, I had a couple of places on my list in case I happened to pass through or nearby any unfamiliar towns.  During this initial visit, I chose to check out the White Cottage.

I arrived just before dusk on an unseasonably cold night.  I was impressed to see people lined up for ice cream outside while wearing hoodies and light jackets.  I chose to dine inside so I could have more than just ice cream. One thing you notice right away is the smell from the ice cream and the cones.  It was clear that this was not a place to stop if you are on a diet, even the air was rich with calories.

Surprise, surprise….the double cottage burger was calling to me.  The burger was very standard: two quarter pound patties, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onions.  You can have pickles and they provide mustard, ketchup, and mayo by request.  The patties are not packed tightly.  This helps keep them juicy even when cooked to a medium well all the way through.  Although this burger was standard, it was far from ordinary.

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Now that I had my dinner, it was time for dessert.  White Cottage carries several different flavors of ice cream and they don’t have the same choices each day.  To be honest, I was overwhelmed with the thought of only trying one flavor so I did what any smart person would do.  I opted for two small orders:  strawberry cheesecake and chocolate raspberry truffle.

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Both were phenomenal.  PHENOMENAL!  The chocolate raspberry truffle was rich and the strawberry cheesecake had actual strawberries in it!  I can only dream of working my way through the rest of the ice cream menu.

White Cottage is the kind of place that every small town in America needs. Even though it was clear I was the only person who was not a regular, I didn’t feel out of place. I would recommend this place to anyone that finds themselves in Belleview.  Heck, I would recommend taking a break when traveling along I-64 just for the ice cream.  With the summer coming up and the thermometers starting to rise, make sure you stop by to cool off.

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Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Great family spot shared by generations.  If you read about the place, it’s closed a few times but seems to be back on track. The inside is very simple, there are several booths and a couple tables, and menus are provided at either.  You can seat yourself and you pay at the counter before you leave.

The White Cottage on Urbanspoon

Salted Pig, St. Louis, MO – Searching for an Identity

There is a new restaurant in St. Louis called the Salted Pig.  It is restaurateur Michael del Pietro’s latest endeavor and it’s a departure from his prototypical Italian eateries.  I love salt and I love pig, is this a match made in heaven?

The Salted Pig is an upscale southern restaurant focused on BBQ and fried chicken.  The first thing I noticed when I walked in there wasn’t that BBQ aroma that slaps you in the face and makes your mouth water.  The place has minimal decorations and features an industrial / minimalist feel.  I liked the use of the reclaimed wood in the dining room, and I’m also pretty sure that this is the first BBQ place that uses Edison bulbs in the dining room.

I was really surprised how busy it was for a Monday evening.  The room is dark and I found it amusing that several folks of advanced wisdom and age were using phones and small flashlights so they could read the menu.  Speaking of the menu, I was expecting something a bit more diverse and unique. It mainly featured the standard BBQ and southern food staples.  For my meal, I chose to start with the sprouts and finish with a full slab of ribs.

The sprouts were soft but not overcooked to the point that they were mushy.  Typically sprouts can be bitter but the sauce with caramelized onions added a nice sweetness. I also enjoyed that the bacon stayed crunchy even while swimming in the sauce.  I would gladly eat these veggies again, but don’t worry, I won’t be going vegetarian anytime soon.

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When the ribs arrived the first thing my nose noticed was the sweetness.  They were nice and tender, not quite falling off the bone, and definitely had some chew.  The sauce was caramelized on each rib so there was a good amount of flavor.

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Up to this point, you are probably wondering why the title of this post is “Searching for an Identity”.  In general, this is a very basic BBQ restaurant but placed in a BBQ void location, Frontenac.  The key ingredients for a successful restaurant were there, but to me it was lacking that key factor (personality, originality, etc.) that would set it apart from other giants in the St. Louis BBQ scene.  This was only after a month of being open, so maybe they will find their way to stand out.  If you are in the area, it is a solid choice for BBQ.  If you are on a BBQ pilgrimage, there are more worthy choices.

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  The atmosphere here is lively and slightly noisy, so definitely kid friendly.  There are 2 TV’s at the bar in case you want to catch a game.  At the table they provide a wine menu rather than a beer list….maybe that is a Frontenac thing?  Note that the fried chicken seemed to be popular.  I didn’t try it but may have to in the future.

The Salted Pig on Urbanspoon

Reflection, Motivation, and Camera Phone Pix!

My blog post frequency has been sporadic lately to say the least.  To be honest, I needed some motivation.  I found my muse in the simplest of places, the memory on my camera phone.  Here are pictures that haven’t made it into the blog before, but deserve to be shared.

Dive Bars to Michelin Stars?

During the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to eat and drink at some of the most amazing places. I have experienced food prepared by James Beard nominees and winners, eaten at my first Michelin rated restaurants, and enjoyed my first trip to Napa.  Here are a few highlights.

During my last trip to New York, I had my first Michelin experience(s).  I was able to get a table at both Daniel and the Modern during that trip, and both dinners had me wishing I could have worn stretchy pants.  So many courses and so many amazing bites… Below is a picture from the beginning of a peaceful dinner at the Modern while I was enjoying a Blood and Sand.

blood and sand

You know those folks that always talk about hearing a band before they were big?  Yeah, we do the same thing with food.  Below is a chef’s gift during a five course meal at Bluestem before Chef Colby Garrelts won his James Beard award.

bluestem

In 2013, I went to Napa for the first time.  What an experience!  A weekend full of some of the best wine on earth and some of the best restaurants to go with it!  This is my favorite picture from the trip, a glass of Opus One at their winery.

opus one

 

What about Dive Bars?

Of course Dive Bars have continued to be a way of life for me.  They keep me grounded and it would be a shame to miss out on the entire spectrum of food and drinks available.

Did you know that I like PBR?  Yes, it’s true.  Here are two of my favorite pictures involving that beer that is best served in ice cold cans.  It’s no surprise that both come from watering holes in my home away from home, Lawrence, Kansas.

An excellent sign at Louise’s on Mass Street:

pbr

I just happened to be in Lawrence during one of their Final Fridays.  The Lawrence Arts Center helps setup an event where artists show their work in different spaces downtown. In the picture below you can see a PBR that I was enjoying while listening to live music and checking out vinyl at Love Garden sounds.

pbr2

What is the furthest thing from five and Michelin stars?  A buffalo roast in the middle of nowhere.  To be more specific, the 3rd annual buffalo roast:  It was cool that they kept the head each year on this tree.  It was a good hour and an half drive out of St. Louis, but worth it for the experience.  There is something special about eating meat prepared on a fire out in the woods.

buffalo

Libations Anyone?

I love all things boozy, whether it is beer, wine, or cocktails.  Here are a few favorites:

I have to mention Libertine, as the bartenders do an excellent job taking care of the regulars.  I drank the drink below (the tequila based Voodoo Glow Skull) so often they once told me that I have consumed more tequila than any other Patron…. I mean patron.

vgs

 

The best part about it was seeing a drink that I tasted in its’ earliest form be transformed into something that made the latest cocktail menu.

Skatalites in Jalisco

Skatalites in Jalisco

Just another Wednesday night at the Libertine waiting to see if Ben will accidentally set himself (or the bar) or fire.

old flame

I’m a little sad when I look at the picture below since it’s from the now shuttered Table.  I had some excellent times sitting at that bar.

table drink

Here is a view of my favorite spot at 715 in Lawrence.  I still get a Former Spy martini every time I go to that town.

715 lights

But of course the focus has always been about food

I have more pictures of this dish than any other. However this is my favorite!

Crispy Pig Tails at the Libertine

Crispy Pig Tails at the Libertine

A lobster that was alive just minutes before:

At the Chelsea Market in NYC

At the Chelsea Market in NYC

Some cupcake creativity:

cupcakes

My favorite sushi in STL at Central Table:

central table

 

And let’s finish it off with how my blog started:

My first post ever was an Entre Underground event.  I recently started attending another group’s underground dinners, Rogue Underground.

I love the uniqueness of their decorations:

rogueAnd they experiment with food in fun and creative ways:

Pickled Lam Tongue, Crispy Mushrooms, Arugula, and Tarragon Aioli

Pickled Lam Tongue, Crispy Mushrooms, Arugula, and Tarragon Aioli

"Live" Scallop, Roe foam, Sea beans, Black salt, and Edible flowers

“Live” Scallop, Roe foam, Sea beans, Black salt, and Edible flowers

So there you have it!  My blog will be two in July and these are my favorite pictures from my phone that were never posted.  Some are favorites for how the photo turned out and some just for the moment they captured.  Hopefully it has inspired you to try something new or at least go out and eat somewhere fun tonight.  Now let’s see if it has inspired me to get back on track with some more reviews!  CHEERS!