Monday, April 12, 2010

st. louis culinary landmarks?

I normally go online, like so many other people, for my news. The days of waiting at home and reading the day's paper, when most of the day is finished as you sit on the couch at home in the early evening, is long gone. Why would I wait all day for the day's news when I can go online and find it?

Anyways, Bill writes a good article for stltoday here about the history of a st. louis steakhouse, starting in 1925 and still going on but slowly.

The story is being interpreted by some as a sign that the chains are taking over and the single independent restaurant is dying but that is not the case. The real reason why places like this is dying is because of two things: price & location.

In this story, Al's, a high-end steakhouse, seems to be going out-of-business as less people are eating there. But as the author of the article shares, $38 for a steak and $35 for a cut of veal is a bit pricey. I have only paid that much for meat, once in my life and that was at Emeril's restaurant Del Monico's in Las Vegas. Probably with the same type of insides, at the Las Vagas place, my wife and I were greeted by the head waiter, who then sat us to a table where we were attacked by a clan of waiters and bussers, taking glasses and dishes away while unfolding our napkins and pulling our chairs out and so much more. That experience was way more than we have had and it was especially great because we were there during our honeymoon. I'm not a big carnivore, but I paid the $40 for a steak and a few sides as well. Al's is suggested that including the steak and veal, salads, sides and drinks, brings a total bill to $155!

I have eaten in some nice places: Del Monico's, Mesa Grill, Pearl and Chez Leon, and at none of those places did my wife and I end up paying more than $125! So, having a place in STL, of all places, charge that much for food, has to be a great place with the type of steak that is so tender that you can eat it with a straw. Money is a big issue when people want to eat and when they think about other things that they can get for the same amount, they turn away. So, if Gordon Ramsay was going to show up and help this place, he likely would suggest that they lower their prices. I don't feel sorry for this restaurant as it is not an issue of a local place competing and losing but an issue of a local place charging more than its competitors and dying. When places compete, they normally lower their prices in an attempt to get people in and in this case, it looks like Al's has been raising their prices.

Location is equally as important. There was a great restaurant off of Kingshighway called Space. I had never eaten there but the sign off of the bridge pointed down in a 1950's space style. From what I have heard and read about, the place was adorned with loud colors and old radios and other electronics. The location may have been prime, 50 years ago or so, but now it is only accessible from taking the back roads and you have to drive under the bridge, that is known as Kingshighway. When the bridge was built, who said "you know, let's not move somewhere else but stay right here"? It has always been so out of the way to get to that we never have and now it is out of business and closed down for good. I heard that it good food and now think we may have missed on a hidden gem, but eh, that's life.

In Al's case, where it was once by working and usable warehouses and businesses, those places have left or been unusable now and instead of moving to another location, Al's can still be found surrounded by warehouses and in a Gotham style looking area of downtown.

My thoughts: if you are keeping your prices high to hold out for the st. louis elite and you are fighting to stay open, maybe those elite really don't care about your store and you should lower prices. Moving to a location that has people may help as well. Now, if you want to stay there, like everything else in stl, if you wait long enough, someone may take one of those warehouses and make something of it. If I had the money, I would turn one of those warehouses into reasonable prices apartments and a store and make downtown a center again, but most STL elite like having downtown as a slum.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely agree about owning an Ice Cream Machine especially because summer will be coming soon! Your recipe sounds fantastic. Quick question - wondering if I could possibly replace the heavy cream with something lower calorie such as soy milk and still get the same type of flavor?

    Unfortunately we are on a low calorie diet so we can have cut the calories in our recipes but love the idea of making banana ice cream.

    Definitely going to try - thanks again for sharing!