The modern flourishes on Copia's menu are grounded in the kind of American culinary tradition that chef Dave Rook knows best: raised in a family that ran a drive-in burgers-and-root-beer stand in Alton, Illinois, an appreciation for the comfortable side of dining runs in his blood. Globally inspired dashes of red chilies and champagne-goat-cheese cream take off from Midwestern classics, such as slow-roasted rotisserie chicken, house-smoked trout, and pork-rib chops.
Aided by a wine market whose bottles pour into the dining room at retail price, the downtown eatery aims to shuttle city dwellers directly into wine country with 18,000 square feet of exposed brick walls, wood-beam ceilings, and white tablecloths. Elsewhere within the rambling complex, natural light pours into an atrium garden, a glass waterfall neatly partitions off the bar to prevent diners from impulsively ordering every dish and drink they see, and stainless-steel vats age several of Copia's own wines. Much missed after a fire shuttered its initial incarnation, Copia was roundly welcomed back onto the St. Louis scene in 2010: among other praise, St. Louis Magazine called its calamari "as crispy-crunchy delectable as any seafood you’ll find in a New England clam shack" and its smoked ribs "the best upscale version of barbecue in the area."
Blondies Salon's experienced cosmetologists revamp visages by mowing down rogue hairs with their waxing services. Guests can sit back and let professional hands shape and slim unsightly eyebrows (a $7 value) and evict wandering whiskers from the chin and lip (a $10 value). Patrons can also have a follicle artist lop off dead ends and uneven layers, styling locks to and around their hair-heart's content. Afterwards, mono-toned manes receive a splash of highlights that brighten up the hair like a prison searchlight locked on an escaping tin-man.
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 salchichón 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 sautéed 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.
With its striking architectural ceiling, focal finishes of bamboo and recycled butcher block bar, Vino Nadoz is the ideal retreat for indulging in savory small plates, salads, oven fired focaccia pizzas, crepes, decadent desserts, and American Fusion entrees that are perfect for sharing and pairing with wine.
Wooden shelves bear the weight of wine bottles behind the wraparound bar at Erato Wine Bar and Restaurant. Bartenders climb a wooden ladder to retrieve a 2006 Louis Latour pinot noir or a 2009 PlumpJack merlot, reading the labels in the dim light of hanging lamps. Around them, laughter bounces off the exposed bricks and spring-soled shoes bounce off the dark-wood floors. Yet the boutique selection of wine isn't the only thing that draws guests in. The bar also hosts high-end spirits such as St. Germain and an international selection of beers. The kitchen, meanwhile, complements this array of libations with tapas-style delicacies that change weekly. Cheese plates come with cured meats, nuts, and fresh fruits, and local ingredients enhance delicacies such as caprese salad. Chefs also whip up meal-size portions of pasta and seafood drizzled with truffle oil and sherry reductions.
Vivian's Vineyards serves fine food and palette-pleasing wine in a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere. Like the makers of Hungry Hungry Hippos, Vivian's has fun with food. Its kooky culinary personality is evidenced by its genre-bending menu, which has everything from chicken amaretto ($18.95) to peanut-butter-and-jelly for two ($11), and leftovers du jour, a dish that requires a day’s notice to be assembled ($69.95). The lengthy wine list is complied of bottles meticulously swirled, sipped, and chosen by owner Jim Ogden, who is often on hand to offer suggestions on pairings for wine or socks. In addition to grape-based libations, Vivian's also pours a selection of beers and specialty drinks.