In 1972, Herbie Balaban opened a café in St. Louis’s West End, turning his former beatnik-boutique space into a French-inspired café. He grins from old pictures of the restaurant, a handlebar mustache curling upward toward a jaunty beret in crisp black and white. Though the space has changed hands in the ensuing years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said it “would be an excellent restaurant in any era.” Aaron Teitelbaum, now the executive chef, honed his craft in New York City while working with Bobby Flay and Daniel Boulud in their kitchens. Aromas drift from Herbie’s own kitchen, hinting at French, Asian, and American influences. Those culinary traditions swirl together in truffled lobster mac 'n' cheese and shrimp with grits and buttermilk-fried leeks. Goat cheese steeps in smoke before melting with peppered bacon across burgers alongside a trout salad, of which a writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch said, “I’d normally prefer no adulteration to well-smoked trout, but in this case folding in a gentle horseradish crème fraîche was a perfect foil for a fluffy, slightly sweet corn pancake underneath.” Grilled duck breast pairs with a duck-confit crepe served on an original Duck Hunt game cartridge, and Herbie’s Vintage 72's wine list is carefully curated to incorporate vintages from around the world, prioritizing US and French wines above all. The interior at Herbie’s Vintage 72 was designed by co-owner Jeff Orbin, whose past triumphs include restaurants such as Miso in Clayton and Monarch Restaurant & Wine Bar. Much like the food, the décor blends French and American influences, incorporating some of the antique French posters that decorated the walls of the café in the ‘70s. Inverted teardrop lamps and tableside candles illuminate the restaurant, which is surrounded by exposed-brick walls. Patrons settle in at curved corner booths or opt for open-air dining to enjoy their meal, and chatter drifts up from private parties amid the wine cellar’s barrels and rough stone walls.
Featured on the "Deli Delights" episode of the Food Network's The Best Of program, the team at Kopperman's Specialty Foods & Deli works hard to deliver a classic delicatessen experience. They serve breakfast all day as well as overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, poaching eggs for benedicts and frying potato pancakes for orders of latkes. Smoked salmon and trout top bagels with cream cheese and housemade chopped chicken liver dresses up slices of rye bread. Carnegie Deli salami, corned beef, and pastrami come in from New York City, as do cheesecakes, black forest cakes, and apple crumb pies baked in the Statue of Liberty's torch.
West End Grill and Pub boasts a laid-back neighborhood atmosphere and an extensive selection of upscale pub grub for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Raise the curtain on the night's curtain-raises with the grill's signature Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in a green curry sauce ($9.95), or frolic through a garden of arugula, blue cheese, pistachios, and caramelized pear tossed in red-wine vinegar and oil ($6.95). To gear up for an epic performance of Shakespeare's hundreds of spec scripts for Major Dad, feast one's heartiest buds of taste on the 16-ounce bone-in pork porterhouse ($15.95)—topped with apple compote and served with braised kale and sweet-potato gnocchi—or the Sonoma steak ($18.95), which comes crowned with blue cheese crumbles and flash-fried leeks atop a bed of horseradish mashed potatoes and zucchini. Bears poorly disguised as restaurant reviewers can delve into the salmon fillet ($14.95), served with turnip cakes and lemon-thyme brussels sprouts. Lengthy intermissions can also be passed with burgers, soups, salads, and the ethereal substance known as al-co-hol, which West End's owners personally conjure from behind the bar each night. Theater-goers are allowed to bring drinks into the Gaslight Theater so that they don't disrupt performances by trying to surreptitiously distill their own moonshine.
The chefs at Central Café and Bakery showcase the flavors of the Middle East with a menu of authentic Lebanese dishes. During dinner, chefs speckle chickens with house spices and grill them whole ($24.99), half ($12.99), or on kebabs interspersed with fresh vegetables ($12.99). Similarly, lamb kebabs pierce meaty morsels that lay atop a bed of rice with a choice of side, such as tabouli or spicy potatoes ($14.99). Sautéed tilapia basks in a Lebanese-spiced white-wine marinade before a frying pan whisks it to a crispy finish ($15.99), and the hospitable staff accents the fresh-baked shawarma pizza with Mediterranean moxie ($12.99 for a 14”). At lunchtime, the kitchen pumps out falafel sandwiches ($4.99) and chicken shawarmas ($5.49), both wrapped in a toasted pita for efficient handling during table-to-table relay races.
Saint Louis Workout helps members get fit with a fleet of weightlifting equipment, high-tech cardio machines, and more than 30 weekly classes. Elliptical machines assist in bouts of calorie singeing, and free weights tone muscles more efficiently than replacing one's hands with bowling balls. A full roster of classes includes Zumba, yoga, and interval-training sessions, and the brigade of seasoned certified personal trainers customize workouts, drawing from experience in such fields as running, health science, and bodybuilding. With onsite showers and a whirlpool, the gym helps workouts and relaxation fit into busy days.
Lola's chefs bring the aromas and flavors of creole cuisine to their casual brick-walled space in the heart of downtown. Menus scrawled on chalkboards feature dinner plates such as barbecue shrimp and grits, creole-style chicken breast, traditional jambalaya, and spanakopita-stuffed portobello mushroom. On Saturdays, the kitchen opens for a brunch characterized by inventive takes on traditional dishes such as biscuits and crayfish gravy, savory creole bread pudding, and chicken and waffles with maple butter. The eclectic drink menu features cocktails blended from champagne, flavored vodka, and bourbon, as well as refreshing or hearty craft beers and flights of cognac. On some nights, Lola welcomes DJs and bands onto a small stage set in front of framed posters of famous musicians, which start glowing if they approve of the performers.