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.
The Vino Gallery—located in a renovated police substation in the Central West End—houses an impressive selection of small-production and artisan wines, beers, and other libations amid an ever-evolving collection of local art. The staff guides visitors to the tasting bar or the outdoor patio, allowing guests to sample selections and avoid pouring wines they don’t like into a roommate’s humidifier. Rachael Buehrer, wine enthusiast and educator, and coowner Alex Head, promote informed wine consumption with complimentary tastings after 5 p.m., Monday–Friday, and all day on Saturday. One-hour wine classes lend imbibers further wine expertise, and the wine-of-the-month club helps customers branch out from go-to varietals.
Llywelyn's menu introduces an impressive assortment of traditional pub classics to salads, flatbreads, wraps, and ambitiously portioned sandwiches. Start with an order of Welsh potato chips ($3.95); flaky, fried Irish pies ($7.95); beer-battered fried pub pickles ($7.25); or the much-talked-about chicken chili ($4.95 for a bowl). Then wrap mouth muscles around fish and chips ($10.25): two beer-battered and fried cod fillets served with house-made tartar sauce. From meaty chunks of lamb, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and green beans swimming in Guinness-Jameson stock ($9.95) to shepherd's pie ($10.95), the selections side well with a sudsy sip. The beer menu includes an exhaustive library of selections by the draft or bottle. Llywelyn's also offers a menu of kid-friendly fare.
Club Viva lets seasoned rug-cutters and beginning boogiers alike feel the beat in salsa-themed dance nights on Thursdays and Saturdays. A great way to woo a love interest or wear down a sugar-buzzed manchild, today’s deal includes the club cover charge and ensures a table at which tired feet can rest between dances. Salsa skills that aren't up to snuff can be polished in the one-hour lesson offered from 8 p.m.–9 p.m., and dance-floor mouth-droughts can be relieved with four drink tickets redeemable for libations such as Latin Kiss cocktails and specialty Bacardi mojitos. With mambo, African, reggae, Arabic, and European music, the high-octane dance nights give lovers of dance the opportunity to shake it like a hated roommate's bottle of soda.
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.
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