At Ricardo’s Italian Café, the combined culinary skills of the Adams family, which has run the restaurant since 1989, transport palates to the land of Europe's boot via hearty pizzas, pastas, and meats. Chef Mark Adams and his wife Michelle lead the crew and reward staffers with gold stars cut out of cheese as they whip up Italian classics such as chicken parmigiano and Sicilian-style pizzas. In the dining room, exposed-brick walls and painted murals of Italian cityscapes surround diners in an Old-World ambiance, amid which waiters fill glasses with dozens of domestic and imported wines.
A quaint combination of exposed brick, hardwood paneling, and the bright, colorful woven fabrics of Latin America, Arcelia’s Mexicana dishes up its title in more ways than one. Of course, the chefs back up the décor with a robust menu of Mexican eats both familiar and obscure. Hand-made flour tortillas wrap up classic enchiladas and empanadas. Spicy gravies add flavor to the albondigas – chicken meatballs – or the bistec ranchero, thinly slice beef with potatoes.
The owners of Harry's Restaurant & Bar are just as passionate about music as they are about food. The restaurant hosts live music performances every Friday and Saturday night, as well as a summer Thursday-night concert series, and staff provide shuttle service to concerts and sporting events around town. In the kitchen, chefs fuel their guests for music appreciation with a range of casual American dishes. Using bread from Fazio's Bakery, they assemble steak burgers, creole-style grouper sandwiches, and their signature beef tenderloin sandwich. They also create regionally inspired entrees ranging from veal-mushroom ravioli to grilled salmon and Cajun-style chicken pasta.
Whether accompanied by a large private group, a few dinner companions, or just a few past and future versions of themselves, visitors to Harry's Restaurant can partake of food and drink in four areas. For special events, Harry's accommodates audio-visual needs in the Atrium, a private dining room with a historic fireplace. Meanwhile, the main bar features several wide-screen TVs, and a multi-level outdoor patio houses its own stage for live performance. The restaurant's onsite nightclub, Horizon, offers views of the St. Louis skyline.
The Soulard building has come a long way since its days as a turn-of-the-century shoe factory. Its newest tenants, however, still pay homage to their space’s industrial origins, keeping the original concrete pillars and exposed brick walls in Franco's dining room. That isn't to say the owners scoff at modernity—they've updated the charmingly rustic environs with sleek, undulating light fixtures. This balance between past and future extends to the cuisine, which has been lauded by St. Louis Magazine as a “minor masterpiece.” Chefs spotlight classic French meats and cheeses and infuse them with Midwestern flourishes such as molasses-bourbon gastrique sauce. Additionally, servers happily recommend wine pairings or the best wine bottles for trapping genies, a feat that earned Franco’s staff the Best Service in a Restaurant award from Riverfront Times.
In his 2010 review, Riverfront Times reporter Ian Froeb revealed the origin of Ernesto's Winebar?s distinctive name. Instead of honoring a chef or long-lost relative, the name pays homage to the owners' love for Ernest Hemingway's simplistic style. Chef Stephanie Hay has risen to the challenge, translating the clean complexity of The Sun Also Rises or the masculine energy of Green Hills of Africa into a menu of tapas and hearty entrees. Diverse flavor profiles mimic Papa Hemingway?s wanderlust, corralling global flavors including chili lime, wasabi tobiko, and even red pepper sauce to create festive tapas such as the truffle-infused grilled cheese, which was named the best grilled cheese of 2010 by Riverfront Times.
The cheese-and-charcuterie menu details hearty repasts from all corners of the globe, with plates of smoky blue cheese from Oregon and salchich?n white pork from Spain joining notes of green peppercorn, tomatillo, and even brown sugar for nods to Latin America and the Mediterranean. Ernesto's has also gone to great lengths to locate wine varietals from France, Germany, and Spain for pairing with large steaks and seafood entrees delicately saut?ed in a wide array of wine sauces.
Ernesto's butter-hued walls appear to melt in the light from wall sconces and flickering red candles. Above lush hardwood paneling, several framed photographs offer a glimpse of Hemingway at his most virile??aggressively writing at his desk, and using a large steak as a body pillow. For a touch of warmth during fall weather, patrons can also retreat outdoors, where a mammoth brick fireplace casts rich glow on Ernesto's sleek cobblestone patio.
The chefs at D's Place add their own spin to three classic pub staples: wings, pizzas, and burgers. They toss their traditional and boneless chicken wings in 14 sauces, including Atomic and lemon pepper, and top pizzas with ingredients such as whole pieces of roasted garlic, and hamburger. When not sprinkled onto pizzas, hamburger meat arrives in the form of half-pound patties.
Glasses rise in toasts full of domestic beers and cocktails in the exposed-brick dining room. After meals, guests can enjoy weekly rounds of karaoke and trivia, vie for a hole in one during games of PowerPutt, or play rounds of skeeball for rewards such as free beer or pizza.