SoHa Bar and Grill, St. Louis, MO – Great Beer Selection but the Burger Needs Some Work

Admittedly, I have not spent a lot of time near the Hill.  I found myself near there and stopped in at SoHa for a quick dinner.  My first impression of SoHa was very positive.  I love a place that features bar seating.  I found a great spot at the bar right next to the fireplace.  With as ridiculous as this winter has been, it seems like I’m always on the search for a place to warm up.

As I was admiring the draft beer selection, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the bartender and another patron.  To make a long story short, one of the wings he ordered was not cooked.  I was a little bummed because they did smell good and who doesn’t appreciate wings at a bar?  They were now off my list for the night.  On a side note, they did make good on the mistake by bringing him out additional properly cooked wings.

I was starving so I went with a pretty big meal.  I decided to start with the fried goat cheese medallions and finish with “the Lipithor”.   The burger actually arrived first, but the fried goat cheese arrived 30 seconds later.

Fried goat cheese medallions:

soha fried goat cheeseNot a bad way to start.  They aren’t too breaded; they melt in your mouth.  They are very rich and pair well with the provided sweet onion dressing.  I definitely recommend these.

Next up, the Lipithor:

soha burgerLook at that 15 oz beast!  There were several people commenting as they saw this burger being delivered.  There’s bacon, pulled pork, cole slaw, cheddar cheese, and Swiss cheese.  It looked amazing, but unfortunately fell short of expectations.  First off, I ordered it medium and it was overcooked.  There was no pink at all in the burger patties and they were just plain dry.  That’s rough for such a large burger.  The pulled pork really didn’t have flavor.  The bacon was the only highlight here.  Maybe I should have ordered the Notorious BLT.

If you look to the left of the burger, you will see my side: mac n cheese.  What can be said about it?  It looked a little soupy and was topped with Doritos.  Surprisingly it was great.  Even after struggling through eating the entire burger, I didn’t waste any of the macaroni.  Now I understand why some people just come there and order this side at the bar.

SoHa is different breed.  My excitement level was all over the map during my experience.  I would recommend the goat cheese medallions and the mac n cheese but stay away from the burgers.  The beer selection is great and I seriously considered getting a growler to go.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.   Good selection of beer and good placement of TV screens.  Not a bad place to watch a game.  It’s a pretty small space and the parking is even smaller.  On a Monday evening it was just above 50% capacity and there were no parking spots to be found.  I’m sure if I lived closer I would enjoy the draft beer selection on a regular basis but likely would be limited on what food items I ordered.

SOHA Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

King Edwards – Kick Start My Heart

Time for another lunch excursion!  Can you believe this will be my third post about fried chicken?  It may earn itself a category on the blog soon.  To satisfy that constant craving most recently, I tried King Edwards Chicken and Fish in St. Charles.

This is a very small space; there are only about six tables. You can tell this place has not changed much over the years, they still have the old style Pepsi menu with the letters you can rearrange.  For seven bucks you can get the lunch special:  four pieces of fried chicken with a side and a drink.

Photo

As you can see it’s very simple: chicken in a basket on a bed of fries.  This chicken is unique because of the batter.  It is heavy and almost like a shell.  It isn’t a typical cornmeal batter and reminds me of something you would find on fried fish.  This meal comes with your month long supply of vitamin G (grease) and stays with you the rest of the day. I wish I could say I didn’t like it, but unfortunately I did.

King Edward’s is a fast and friendly restaurant in St. Charles that specializes in all things fried.  Most of their business is carry out orders, but you can dine in if you choose.  The fried chicken is different than what you would get at most other restaurants or fried chicken chains.  The batter is the difference.  Who serves your favorite fried chicken in St. Louis?

Dive 2 Five Scale:  1.  Technically, it’s not a dive bar because there is no booze; but it is definitely a dive.  It’s in an old strip mall, there are several tropical photos on the wall.  Every table has a roll of paper towels, so feel free to get messy.  It’s kind of dirty, very simple, and very greasy.  I don’t recommend touching the M&M’s and skittles from the candy machine, that’s not why you would go there anyway.

King Edwards Chicken on Urbanspoon

Element – Was I in My Element?

You have all heard about my “list” of places to try.  Well Element has been on there for a long time.  It was time to cross this one off.

My visit was a Friday so of course, a drink was in order.  At the time, they were redoing the cocktail menu so I can’t say if they have any custom creations.  I stuck with a Cabernet so I could keep things simple and focus on the food.  The server shared that the menu does change based on what’s fresh and they stick with as many local ingredients as possible.  Since I had already reviewed the menu before going, I had a few things that I knew I wanted to try.

For appetizers, I went with the country fried foie gras and the Pork Belly.  I’m sure the pork belly isn’t a surprise to anyone at this point.  In case you didn’t know, foie gras is a must order for me as well.  I love the decadence and texture.  I’m sure that PETA won’t be showing me any love after that confession…

This is my first time having country fried foie gras so I was a little unsure of what to expect.  It was paired with greens and green tomato chow chow.  The dish had a very southern feel and frying the foie gras made me think of fried chicken liver.  It’s a completely different take on this delicacy.

foie gras

My quest to eat pork belly more than any human should continues!  This pork belly was served with prunes, pear, walnuts, and blue cheese.  I love dishes like this.  Each bite gives you the opportunity to mix-and-match different flavors and textures.  My personal favorite was the belly, walnut, and blue cheese.  I loved the pairing of the pear, walnut, and blue cheese. Be careful; the blue cheese is strong, so a little goes a long way.

pork belly 1

The first large plate was the lamb pot roast.  I needed a dish to redeem lamb after my experience at RJ’s.  This was not your mom’s pot roast, unless hers is also tender and rich.

lamb pot roast

The second large plate was the duck breast with scrapple, brussels sprouts and apple butter.  I haven’t had a vegetable surprise me in a while, but I really liked the brussels sprouts.  Wait, did I say I liked brussels sprouts?!?!?  They weren’t over cooked so they stayed crunchy.   The apple butter was a solid accompaniment to the duck breast.  I always love fruit pairings with duck.

duckAfter all that food I was going to stop, but thank God I didn’t.  Dessert was the payday and I felt like I hit the jackpot.  The peanut butter cake and caramel was fantastic.  If you don’t like things that stick to your teeth, you may not like this dish.  Personally I was happy to be able to save that flavor for later. This made the struggle to drive down I-64 through the traffic and construction completely worth it.  I would go back just to eat this and hope it stays on the menu.
payday

Element has an adventurous menu that changes frequently so each visit will be unique.  It’s clear they like to have fun and like to experiment.  The highlight of my meal was the dessert.  Hopefully the Payday is frequently part of the regular menu.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  This place is hard to find in the dark if it’s your first time.  Look for the rock climbing gym.  It’s very contemporary inside and has a lively atmosphere.  They have small and large plates to fit all appetites and dining preferences.

Element on Urbanspoon

RJ’s Bob-B-Que – Lamb Ribs, Pig Tails, Bison, and More!

During a recent road trip to Kansas, I was slowed by an ice storm on my way back.  While passing through Kansas City, I decided to get fuel for both the car and myself before getting back on the treacherous roads.  Since it was Kansas City, the choice was clear.  It’s time to try a new BBQ restaurant.  This time, I tried RJ’s Bob-B-Que.

When you pull up to RJ’s, you will find that it is a shack on a side street.  Once you are inside, it’s a small shack.  The walls are decorated with lots of ribbons and awards from competitions and there are oldies playing in the background. They have so much love for John Wayne that an entire wall is dedicated exclusively to the face of “The Duke!”

Enough about the decor, I was there to check out their “Bob-B-que”.  Their menu will set them apart from most barbecue joints, with interesting features such as lamb ribs and pig tails.  As you all know by now, I’m a very adventurous eater, so I was excited.  I ordered the pig tails, brisket soup, and lamb ribs.

I must admit that any place serving pig tails is going to struggle to impress me after what I’m used to from the Libertine.  They are battered and fried, which reminded me of calamari.  Definitely use the Sriracha that they put on the edge of the bowl to give them some kick.  I prefer them to have a crisper outside; these were much chewier.

pig tailsNext up was the brisket soup.  This reminded me of a creamy minestrone but with brisket.  On a cold day like the one I was experiencing this was a great way to warm back up; a very solid choice.

One of their highly acclaimed dishes is the lamb ribs.  I am a huge pork fan so it was a stretch for me to try this rather than going with what I love.  There is a pretty clear difference between pork and lamb ribs.  These were very tender and yes, “fall off the bone,” but they were also very fatty.  For some reason I couldn’t stop eating the cheesy corn bake.  It is nothing fancy, but it reminds me of something someone would bring to a family gathering.

lamb ribs

RJ’s is not your typical Kansas City barbecue place.  They feature some unique menu items like pig tails, lamb ribs, bison, and many other palatable offerings.  It would not be a place to which I would make a special trip.  There is just too much other barbecue to sample and some old favorites that are too hard to pass up.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  It’s a shack so it’s definitely a 2. You are getting barbecue in a dive, but the service is quick and friendly.  There are plenty of TV’s showing sports, plus it is family friendly.  I think I could do without the golden oldies.  :)

RJ's Bob-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Pastrami Joynt – New York vs California Style?

Finally back at it again with some new blog posts!  Expect to see something about  a bourbon that was just released in Missouri as well as another Kansas City BBQ place soon…  However; today is about another lunch adventure in St. Peters:  the Pastrami Joynt.

The Pastrami Joynt claims to be “a different kind of deli”. They have sandwiches of all types with most being $7.50.  When you order you pick the bread, cheese, and dressing.  They also offer lettuce, onion, and tomatoes as optional included toppings.  I decided to start with the namesake and ordered pastrami.  Being somewhat of a purist, I went with rye bread and mustard but did opt for the lettuce, onion and tomatoes.

Pastrami whole

Pastrami Joynt serves the thin sliced California style pastrami rather than the thicker hand cut style you expect in New York, but they do at least give you a good amount of meat.

Pastrami half

I prefer the New York style with juice dripping down your arms but this will satisfy any life threatening pastrami cravings.

Pastrami Joynt is a small place in a strip mall off of Mexico Rd.  This is a no frills place with the main decorations being two small TV’s. You order at the counter and pay after you eat.  There was only one person working both the kitchen and the register.  That slows things down and makes it awkward to pay when you are having to wait in line again.  Would I try it again?  Maybe for take out or a call ahead order.

 Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Small strip mall place with a friendly person manning the counter (and kitchen).  Most of their business seems to be takeout. They offer reasonable lunch options if you are tired of chain sandwich shops like Subway.  They offer drinks in cans and bottles and have a list of standard sides.  I have not located a website but you can have a sneak peek of their menu that I scanned:  Pastrami Joynt

Pastrami Joynt on Urbanspoon

Daddy Ray Burgers, O’Fallon, MO – St. Charles Shack Attack

What’s up with food prepared in shacks in St. Charles County?  I found some excellent fried chicken at Chicken Coop last November and this year I stumbled upon Daddy Ray’s Burgers on the day of their one year anniversary.
Since it was my first time, I ordered their namesake:  the Big Daddy Bacon Cheddar Burger.  It doesn’t come with lettuce, tomato, or pickle but you can ask for them.  It does, however, come with their pub cheddar which I’ll admit I was leery of.  Remember my experience at the now shuttered Fatted Calf?  I also ordered the garlic Parmesan fries as my side.  After only a quick 5 minute wait I had my food.

Daddy Ray burger

This is a meat lovers burger.  It’s a 1/2 pound burger topped with crispy bacon that is clearly a diet crasher.

After Two Big Bites

As you can see, the middle isn’t pink but they still keep it juicy.  The pub cheddar was creamy and added a nice contrast to the beef and bacon.  It was nothing like what I had at the Fatted Calf.

fries

The fries are thin and crispy.  They loaded them up with Parmesan and just enough garlic so you would notice it, but not so much that you would offend all your co-workers after lunch.

I usually bring my lunch to work so I can save my calories for dinner or the weekend; however, I’m starting to find reasons to change that.  Daddy Ray’s Burgers is one of those places.  They make a mean hamburger without a lot of fluff. Wanna go eat a burger without anyone watching? Daddy Ray’s gives you that option.  My only recommendation would be for them to ask you how you like your burger cooked.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 1.  Although Daddy Ray’s is a bit nicer than the Chicken Coop, I had to stay consistent with my earlier shack rating.  Daddy Ray’s is in a small building in O’Fallon along Veteran’s Memorial Parkway.  I bet a lot of people have driven passed it without noticing. Their business is completely take-out or outside dining.  They do let you call ahead and you can pick up your order behind the building. This is appreciated now that it is getting colder and you may not want to get out to order at their window.  As an added bonus, they have a loyalty program that after 9 burgers you get $5 off.

Daddy Ray Burgers on Urbanspoon

Gobble Stop Smokehouse, Creve Coeur, MO – Where’s the Beef? Nevermind, It’s Not Needed!

Can you believe it, time for another BBQ post! Gobble Stop Smokehouse in Creve Coeur opened in 2012 and I was confident it was going to fail.  Why?  They serve only turkey and chicken.  How can you have a BBQ place without any pork or beef offerings?!?!?  Since they found a way to survive, I figured I better finally give it a try.  Once I did, this place quickly earned a spot in my regular rotation of dining options.

The dish I order the most frequently is the smoked wings.  Take a peek at this:

gooblestop wings

The wings have a perfect smoky flavor without being dried out. They serve them with a sweet sauce that they will put on for you or you can have it on the side.  They do have a spicier sauce available if you request it.  After eating these wings I don’t see a need to ever eat a breaded and fried wing again. One time I was so excited I didn’t wait to get home, I just opened the box outside at one of their tables and went to work!.

I have tried a handful of the sides and all were satisfactory.  There really hasn’t been one that will steal the show from one of the turkey or chicken main dishes.  I typically stick with the baked beans or their creamy potato salad (pictured above).

St. Louis does get some love for its BBQ, but in my opinion not enough.  When you can have a restaurant that only does chicken and turkey and it survives, we are unique.   Is it enough to make me swear off pork?  I wouldn’t go that far!.  It is good enough for me to not miss it, and I clearly must not be the only one that thinks so.  I have had days where I’ve had to move to a third or fourth option because my old standbys are already sold out. Some of the other dishes I like are half smoked chicken, pulled chicken, and the turkey ribs.  This is my favorite place to eat in Creve Coeur.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  Gobble Stop is located in an older strip mall at Fee Fee and Olive.  It’s a strip mall that I have driven passed daily for 2 years and didn’t see any reason to stop until now.  The inside is clean and small.  The owner usually is the person taking your order.  I see a bright future for this restaurant but I hope they don’t move to a different location!

Gobble Stop Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Black Thorn, St. Louis, MO – Bring on the Cheese Please!

Notice a disturbing trend on my blog lately?  Where are all the dive bars?  I had noticed that too and chose Black Thorn Pub to help balance things out.

Looks like a great neighborhood dive

Great dive bar style curb appeal.

Black Thorn pub is a true dive bar.  It’s slightly dirty and run down, but all in an inviting way.  There is nothing pretentious about this place at all!  Black Thorn specializes in pizzas; they offer thin and pan crusts as well as a Chicago style pie.  As a Black Thorn virgin, I decided to try the style I have heard the most about: Chicago!  I chose three of my standard toppings: pepperoni, mushrooms, and onion.

Once I had ordered with the bartender, I took a spot at the corner of the bar with an adult beverage to pass the time.  Trust me, you may need a few to pass the time; it took well over an hour to get our pizza.  Not a big deal for me since I was in no hurry and had good company.  Even if I had gone alone, the people watching at the Black Thorn is top-notch and the other patrons were friendly.  There was a Pat Benatar look-a-like at the bar…what more do you need?

Once the pizza arrived, I was ready for it…or at least I thought I was.  This is one heavy pizza.  I ate half of a medium (four slices) and had to throw in the towel.  I could have squeezed in a fifth but would have been miserable.  Take my advice: just eat two to three slices.

Look at the cheese in the crust

Very hefty pizza

How was it? It had a smokey tomato paste based sauce with a lot of seasoning.  It seemed to have a bunch of oregano and was topped with a ton of cheese, including some in the crust.  I wouldn’t call it a true Chicago style pizza, but that’s not a favorite style of mine anyway.

I tip my hat to Black Thorn for providing balance back to my blog.  They have a unique pizza that I can’t wait to try again.  I also found that it reheated well the next day, which is important considering you’d need to bring along a healthy group of friends to finish an entire pie. The only reasons NOT to go here:

  1. You are in a hurry.  Still not a deal breaker, call ahead!  Like I stated above, there is great people watching.  They also have shuffleboard and 80′s arcade games.
  2. You don’t like dive bars (then why are you on my blog?!?!?)
  3. You don’t like pizza (what’s wrong with you?)
View from the bar

View from the bar

Dive 2 Five Scale: 1.  Based on my exploration of St. Louis thus far, this would be my top recommendation of a true dive bar.  What makes it a true dive bar?  If you are sitting at the bar, you may see large stacks of PBR cases waiting to become the next “dead soldiers“.  The bathroom has humorous graffiti everywhere.  They serve you on foam plates but with real silverware.  The building is a mixture of brick and 70′s style wood paneling.  I think you get the point.  Go there for the dive bar experience and enjoy the pizza!

Black Thorn Pub on Urbanspoon

Shaved Duck – St. Louis, MO – If it Looks Like a Duck and Tastes Like a Duck…

One of the many things I love about St. Louis is how it’s made up of many neighborhoods with each having it’s own unique personality.  Typically each of those neighborhoods has a restaurant or bar that is deeply rooted into the fabric of that small community.  One such restaurant in Tower Grove is the Shaved Duck.

I originally found the Shaved Duck while searching for a restaurant in St. Louis that had duck fat fries.  Unfortunately duck fat fries are no longer on the menu but there is plenty of unique items to choose from.  During my most recent visit I tasted the Big Jimmy Sampler and the smoked duck entrée.

big jimmy

The Big Jimmy Sampler is St. Louis style spare ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken.  Unlike a lot of BBQ places where you smell the smoke when you walk in, at the Shaved Duck I only noticed it when the food landed at my table.  The ribs were good but not as tender as you might get at Pappy’s (they have a bit more chew to them).  The pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket were all on the dry side.  All of them have good flavor, but I typically prefer my BBQ to be more juicy.  The Habanero BBQ sauce though was killer. I would put it on everything.

The highlight of my most recent visit was the smoked duck breast.

smoked duck

It had a subtle smoke flavor.  The cherry juniper jam was the perfect way to top the duck.  It is an idea that I have stolen and made my own when preparing duck at home.  I will definitely order this dish again.  My only complaint was that it was gone so quickly!

The Shaved Duck is a neighborhood favorite in Tower Grove.  I am typically a fan of more tender and juicy BBQ but there is still plenty of food I enjoy at this restaurant.  Besides the smoked duck, I love the walnut and sugar encrusted bacon, the smoked chicken wings, and the confit pot pie.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  I love the neighborhood feel of this place.  It’s a very small and intimate place.  If you are going on a weeknight, try to arrive before 7 so you can avoid waiting outside.  It has a great selection of beers featuring several local breweries.  There is live music on a regular basis, but it’s not so loud that you can’t enjoy a conversation at your table.

The Shaved Duck on Urbanspoon

Melt – St. Louis, MO – Waffles Aren’t Just for Breakfast Anymore

Looking for something completely different?  Melt on Cherokee street could be just what you are looking for.  Melt specializes in waffles, but not your frozen Eggo waffles.  They serve both sweet and savory types of waffles.

From my preliminary research, I was set on getting the Wake ‘N Bake.  The Wake ‘N Bake has bacon or sausage cooked into the waffle.  It’s topped with cheese and an egg, cooked to order.  The server stated that it was a “safe choice” for a first visit.  She also shared that repeat customers quickly start to trust them and move on to something more adventurous.  DAMN…I think she was trying to pull my man-card.  I quickly changed my order to the Little Piggy.  Not only that, but I had her throw an egg on top!  The challenge was on!

DSC00610

The Little Piggy is a waffle topped with pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, and cheddar cheese.   While the BBQ sauce was sweet, the green onion really shined on the dish.  One piece of advice; just because there is syrup on the table it doesn’t belong on all waffles!  Luckily that was only a one bite mistake so it didn’t ruin my meal.

Melt has an exciting selection of waffles.  The combinations range from fruit or chocolate on some of the sweet waffles to chicken, pork, or brisket on some of the savory varieties.  I look forward to exploring the menu more on future visits.  How brave will you be?

Dive 2 Five Scale: 2.  Time for me to step on my soapbox.  Cherokee Street is a great area in St. Louis.  I recently was discussing this restaurant and I instantly received an eye-roll when I mentioned its’ location.  I don’t understand people who limit their options by singling out an area for one reason or another.  What a waste!  Stepping off soapbox…

When I walked in, I can honestly say the eclectic atmosphere and mismatched furniture was overwhelming. There was a lot to take in, including pinball and shuffleboard! However, once I was settled at the table, the atmosphere was very laid back with a knowledgeable and helpful staff. If this is your first visit to Cherokee Street, take some time and explore! STL Style  and Firecracker Press are just two of the fun stores that have a lot of St. Louis pride.

Melt on Urbanspoon