Thursday, October 31, 2013

Murphy's on 21, on 21

While I was in the area a few days ago, I grabbed my youngest child and went into this pub and sandwich shop for a quick dinner.  Notice that this place is not a bar.  Bars by nature do not allow children or anyone under 21 after a certain time and since this time that I went in was around 6pm, this shop and pub was allowing children in.  Anyways, I went in and while noticing several women working the tables and taking orders, after sitting down, for 15 minutes, I took it upon myself to walk up to the bar and make an order.  I know you may be thinking that this is what I was supposed to have been doing the whole time, but after seeing these servers walk up to tables and people with their menus on ipads or a similar tablet, I thought they would do the same to me.  While I at first thought that this was a clear discrimination against me because I had a 5 year old with me, seeing a selection of food items separated on their menu as a "kid's menu" would indicate that children are in fact welcome.

After placing my order for food items that should not have taken more than 10 minutes, and since when I looked around the room and everyone else had food plates on their tables, I figured that our food would come out fast.  I didn't think that 20 minutes was fast though.

My son ordered the hot dog and it was described as a hot dog on a bun with mini pretzel knots.  What is a pretzel knot, you may ask?  Pretzel knots are typically described as the actual tied knot parts of pretzels. This can be a physical tied knot or part of a braid in a pretzel.  Unfortunately, what Murphy's on 21 means, is that you get a regular store bought hot dog, on a bun, bare, with a handful of Rold Gold pretzels.

So, what did I order?  I ordered a specialty called Smackers.  The Smackers are described as "baked Italian sausage bites tossed in our sweet buffalo or BBQ sauce and served "wing style".  This is what had been delivered:

Now, besides being disgusting, a miserable 1 out of 5 stars, this is what they were.  The description sounds better than what they were.  Baked sausage bites, makes me think of something more like a sausage with other things and flavors mixed into it.  These were clumps of store-bought sausage, heated up and then a mixture of BBQ sauce and hot sauce poured over them.  They were spicy, hot and way too tart to even consider eating more than one.  I guess that one someone says that something is served "wing style", that means that a single stalk of celery is chopped into three pieces and offered as a side.  Where is the ranch sauce?  Where are the napkins?  Not here.  None of them even offered.  These had a horrible pepper and vinegar aftertaste that made me eat some of the crappy pretzel knots on my child's dish.  Would I eat at this place again? No, it just wasn't for me.  If you are into bars that serve food by nice girls with ipads and a large tv playing sports games, then this is for you.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Casinos and Restaurants

This piece may sound a bit strange, but it is about something my family and I experienced over the past week.  My wife was taking a class near Baltimore and as such, the whole family went.  While there we did a lot of things and of course, tried food.  In Hanover, near Baltimore, they have a good sized Mills mall, with a casino attached to it.  While this seems like a great idea, I guess in a sexist type of world it could work.  You know, send the mom off with the kids to go see a movie or do some shopping while the dad stays at the casino and gambles their life savings away.  At any rate, the casino is owned by a company called "Live" and their little tiny casino floor is about half of the size of River City's.  They have a lot of slot machines.  The entrance to the casino, faces the food court of the mall.  Not only that, but as you enter the doors, you are flanked by a Cheesecake Factory and a restaurant called Bobby's Burger Palace.  Then there is the entrance to the actual casino floor where on the map showed a number of additional restaurants.

However, you had to be 21 to access them.

The reason I say that this may seem strange, is that in Missouri, the casino designers were smart: they made parts of the casinos available to minors.  What I mean is this: the casinos in the city here, have restaurants that are separated from the actual gaming areas.  This allows families to enjoy a meal with children and others under 18 years of age.  This further allows the casino to become a restaurant or dining destination for those who cannot gamble, thus broadening their market and creating a greater financial potential.

The casinos in Las Vegas are the same way.  As children and anyone not of gambling age can even access the casino floor, provided that they stay on the walkways and keep moving.  So, fancy restaurants or eateries located in the very bowels of a fancy Las Vegas casino, can still be reached by young kids and thus, whole non-gambling families can access them.

This is not the case at this Live casino, so close to a shopping mall for all ages.  While this seems as simple as business is business, the idea of a casino not wanting to help greet greater amounts of cash flowing in, seems something a bit off and quite stupid.  I have written before about a local bar and grill that just recently decided to not allow minors in anymore.  Yes, they are getting money from their video poker machines, but they have just lost the attraction of families or people with kids.  What more with that, is that this particular establishment is where the company I work for has had their Christmas party, every year.  Imagine the loss in revenue that a restaurant could have from not having 50 people, including kids, eating their food, the adults drinking all they want, and just enjoying their space.  That is all gone and the way that they actually treated the children; yelling at them and yelling at the adults and parents as the kids got within a certain distance of the video poker machines as they were right next to the dance floor and bathrooms, was just wrong.

My verdict?  Be happy about St. Louis and Missouri and the casinos nearby.  If you are a casino owner, thank you for allowing ways to include families and children into your money making happiness.   

Thursday, October 10, 2013

J. Gumbo's

So, two weeks ago, my family and I was at the Strange Folk Festival, near Belleville, where people sell their home made items and there was some people selling yummy food.  What was different this year than last year, was the new faces of these guys:

These guys are the faces of J. Gumbo's.  This restaurant is located downtown St. Louis and they specialize in yummy gumbo and other Creole style dishes.  We tried two of the 4 items they were selling that day.  The first we tried was one called VooDoo chicken, which was chock full of spices and had a bit of heat to it.  It was delicious.  I'd give this an easy 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5.

The other one we tried was called the Drunken chicken and was actually so good and tender that my 5 year old said "it was the best thing I has ever eaten".  He also decided to eat as much of it as he could.  The chicken and rice were so tender and flavorful that it was a great dish.  I'd say the same and maybe even as a 4 out of 5 for this one.

So, go check out J. Gumbo's, at 312 N. 10th Street, Suite B, St. Louis, MO 63103.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A robust experience....

A nice out on this past Saturday meant that my wife and I could enjoy an evening out at a restaurant of my choice.  We already were doing something downtown, so I figured that checking out Robust, on Washington, would be ideal.  This restaurant does something unique to St. Louis restaurants: Robust pairs and even teaches the customer how to pair wines and beers or spirits with their meal.  So, you don't have some waiter pushing an expensive glass of red wine which tastes like crap when eaten with a nice steak or something similar.  The menu is very informative and the waiter we had was very friendly as well.  We were greeted nicely and taken to a nice table, by the window.  After a nice introduction and greeting by our waiter was a good explanation on how everything works, we ordered, waited and food arrived.   Everything was perfect with that time frame, from the time it took us to get our drinks to the time it took for my wife to get her salad.  Nothing took too long and even though the place was starting get busy and fill up, everyone was on the ball.

My wife ordered the Robust salad, which was filled with fresh raspberries, greens and even some large dried figs.  It was a tasty salad.  I think it could be safe to give this one a 3 out of 5 stars.

She then ordered the scallops, which came in this creamy sauce and I didn't try them because I don't do seafood, but my wife loved them.  I'd say that she was happy enough for a 3 and 1/2 out of 5 for them.

I ordered the steak, which was an 18 ounce steak and I normally do not eat steaks.  But let me say, that this was cooked the way I wanted it and it tasted awesome.  I actually ate most of my steak.  Let me say this: you take a steak and place a glob of herbed butter on it and it will taste even more amazing.  Perfectly cooked and seasoned french fries with a little salad next to it and this was just an awesome dish.  I'd give it an easy 3 and 1/2 out of 5 as well.

The fact is that our server, Mark, was so perfect of a server, even though it was getting busy and crowded, he stayed with us as much as he could and didn't stop taking care of us.  I recommend going there as soon as you get a chance and if you want a perfect time, ask for Mark.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My trip to Bailey's Range

Situated nice and not too far away from the bigger things downtown, Bailey's Range is right on the SW corner of 10th and Olive.  It is a two story restaurant and the main kitchen and bar area are downstairs while the upper portion has a view more tables and an open balcony area so you can see the restaurant below.  It is done in a very industrial and clean style, so there is glass and stainless steel around with a few great pictures of animals in nature.  Bailey's Range is a burger place, but unlike other burger places, this one is using grass fed cows or other animals as its main source and all the beef comes from Missouri.

So, we get there and order a soda, off of their huge soda drink menu and then order food.  I order a burger called Dave's Smoked Burger, which is described as "smoked beef patty, grilled onions, fontina, lettuce, tomato, rooster mayo".  I opted out the cheese and went with everything else.  I also ordered a side of fries and what is cool here, is that they have your regular fry sauces like mustard, ketchup and mayo, but they tweak this by adding variations of flavor and spice to each one of those.  My burger comes up:

The burger was big and juicy and tasted good.  It had a very nice smokey flavor to it and the grilled onions were huge, like whole petal size.  The buns were nice and home-made and had some butter on them before grilling.  There was also the rooster mayo on it and it just tasted really good, like an easy 4 out of 5 stars.

The fries came secondly in their own container.  The dipping sauce I picked was some more of that rooster mayo.  All sauces come in these tiny and sometimes little glass jars which add to the atmosphere considering that the water decanters on the table are giant water bottles and the glasses that you get to drink from are mason jars.  The fries were cut well, tasted fine and were seasoned perfectly.  An easy 3 out of 5 on those.

I will say this, when I got here for my meal, I was with a party.  So, the 8 of us were well taken care of and unlike other restaurants, had a good sitting area and so forth.  There was no problems with the two kids we had with us too.  This means, that if you are a family, whether you are large or small, this place seems to be able to take care of you well.

Just like politics

I have to break the silence, but just about everyone who is into a category that is voted on, in the Best of St. Louis, from the RFT, knows that it is a complete joke.  Let me sum up the judging requirements and standards with a simple example:

DB's Sports Bar has been more than reasonable with the requests of Insidestl, when it comes to providing many of their girls to interact and enact in foot fetish frolics over the radio show.  They take it serious and their regular menu even has a photo of a woman's legs, from her waist down.  It would seem that when Insidestl needs a girl for any reason, all they have to do is ask DB's and then *poof*, they have their girl.

So, if I was to act like the RFT and hold a whole week of articles about the Best of..., in St. Louis, when it came to best Sports Bar, I would choose DB's.  The RFT doesn't care if the food is good, if the service is good or even if the idea is sound.  They pick their favorites and by selecting them as their best, they help promote them even further.  This is also seen because every selection has in fine print below it: "Reader's choice...".

I don't have a best St. Louis Indie Pop group or a best dance club bouncer name, but I have some ideas about food.  Some of the Best of winners make sense while others like how a restaurant on the Hill wins for best Italian restaurant (not cheap) is beyond me.  In St. Louis, we have this idea that just because the Hill is where the Italian immigrants first arrived and set up as their home, in St. Louis, we have this idea that the best Italian food comes there.  But what if we were wrong?  I am not suggesting that this restaurant is bad, but there are a lot of really good Italian restaurants NOT on the Hill.  Oh yeah, did I mention that this restaurant has also a whole page ad, in the Best of section on food, in the RFT?  I am sure that the ad was not cheap.

Besides how advertised restaurants seem to win the Best of, in their category, a pet peeve of mine is when the RFT suggests that a restaurant can win a Best of St. Louis section when it is not in St. Louis.  I know this sounds very simple, almost as simple as back and white, but there is a lot of grey area.  I grew up and was raised in Affton.  Affton, is not in St. Louis, it is in Affton.  I remember being young and riding my bike to the actual large and marble monument, signifying the boundary of the city and the county.  So, we get that: Affton is not St. Louis.  But Affton is within St. Louis county.  So now we have something different.  Now, we have a broader selection and can have a special on St. Louis while looking at places like Glendale or University City.  But, you will have a hard time suggesting that a "dining destination" in Brussels, Illinois can be a best of St. Louis selection.   From the Arch, that location is 1 hour and 40 minutes of driving away, using the fastest route through Google!  How is that within St. Louis?  Places like Eureka, which is 34 minutes away from the Arch or Collinsville, which is 6 minutes away from the Arch, I can understand.  Does this mean that we can select Chicago as having best Pizza in St. Louis?  Or what about a restaurant in the Ozarks for best Farm-to-table?

I know I may get flak for saying it, but there are a lot of politics involved in the culinary world of St. Louis.  I just think that it is a rotten shame that organizations like the RFT choose to push those who don't need or deserve these winnings.  You have friends who are friends and friends who want to rule the world with their friends and thus only want to support their friends.  That is how it works, just like politics. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A project runway show in st. louis is like a bad iron chef competition.

Let me explain my thoughts on the fashion week in St. Louis, Missouri.  First of all, let me explain even more on a few things.  I am not a fashion person.  I am one of those people who wears things because I want to or like it.  I remember sitting and watching The Devil Wears Prada and thinking to myself that the woman was so wrong.  I'm sorry, but what I am wearing now, has nothing to do what some insanely skinny and pale-skinned model wore on a runway several years ago.

Now, we watched the Project Runway show in the Fox and while my wife expected it to go like the show, she was not expecting the woman with the money, to come up on stage and talk about how her friends, who all of lots of money, donated to get the show running.  So, what you have is a rich St. Louis native whose daughter wanted to pay to have people from Project Runway come to St. Louis and show their stuff.  So, she gets money from daddy and then there you go.

So, let's use a special from Iron Chef America, as my example of what happened that night:

We start the live episode by having the Chairman come out and greet everyone.  He tells us of his amazing suit, what martial arts movies he has been in lately and then tells us that with his infinite wealth, he has made this all possible.   Then a video display comes down and it talks about how the owners of the Fox like eating food and what their favorite foods are.  We also see how a relative of the Fox owners, came out with their own line of Artisan Sea Salts and how we should all stop buying our salts at Dierburgs and instead pay as much as $600 for a small container of salts.  So, then Iron Chef Bobby Flay comes out with Iron Chef Michael Simon and they gab, off the cuff, about how cool salt is and how wars were fought over it and how that relative's salts are so much of the best of salt.  Then, Bobby Flay talks about how cool he is and everyone else is just...okay.  So, then the lights go out and we have a video of Iron Chef Morimoto.  The video has him sitting down and just talking about stuff, like the weather, his shoes or his food.  The video ends and then Iron chef Morimoto demonstrates his skill by making some sushi that looks impeccably flawless, in less than 2 seconds.

Everyone is amazed.

So, then, after Morimoto leaves the stage to a standing ovation, the lights go out and a new video plays.  This video is about how some guy named "bob" who is a new chef and likes to eat chips.  Then he comes out and Bob tries to make some fancy dish and screws up in the process, spilling things and eventually cutting himself. He bows like he is as awesome as Morimoto.

This was the pattern: they had a person from one of the previous project runway seasons come before a nobody.  So, we have Bobby Flay making awesome BBQ ribs and then next we have Ted, from next door show us how he makes his ribs.  Then we have Martin Yan de-bone a whole chicken in less than 30 seconds and then Fred comes on and slowly and carefully cuts an apple.  Then James Beard comes up and talks about food and all of the incredible adjectives and nouns that it may be compared to.  Then you have some guy off the street telling us why he likes pop corn or Snickers.

After the last chef, or person imitating a chef, the Chairman comes out and says "that is everybody", and everyone claps and all of the chefs come out and take a bow as everyone claps.  Then they go in the back and leave.  No chefs come out to interact with the crowd.  No one comes out to even say "hi" or "thank you for coming".  There is nothing to explain the cost of a $45 ticket when you watched a show that was about an hour long.

But again, this comparison isn't that good.  The runway models all walked in slow motion, one even fell.  The woman to my left was loudly clapping and even yelling at a friend of hers' who was a runway model.  The music was the most dull and loud music I have ever heard.  Beethoven would have said that the music sucked, on most of the shows that night.  It didn't make sense either.  One of the Project runway designers had music from Tron Legacy playing, as his models walked slowly down the runway. I think that also what I disliked from this show was that it was filled with the stereotype art people.  You know the people who start with a blank canvas and then splash a tiny dot of blue on it and then tell you something as BS as "the tiny dot of blue is merely a representation of the human soul as it cascades through an endless spiritual journey and trial through the human body.  Much like Gilbert Ryle's Ghost in the Machine work of extraordinary nature and regard, this blank canvas suggests that the tiny dot represents much more and begs to the viewer whether or not our essence is really something that can fill our physical body or if there is room to grow."  


"My work is a combination of cocoons and spider webs," he says as we watch tightly fitted pale outfits walk down the runway.  They are tightly wrapped dresses, they are in no way looking like a spiderweb.

The banter between the Project Runway person, who is from St. Louis, and her friend who is from one of the local News channels, was the best.  It was like the old Saturday Night Live skit Coffee Talk (  Women sitting there and chatting about things that no one cares about for a few minutes and then as they compare which one is wearing the more expensive shoes or drives the larger car, they remember that they are in front of an audience and they remember to move along the show.  To say it was boring would be an under-statement.

Let me say this: the Project Runway show, made about as much sense, and was as productive as this: