Sunday, April 05, 2009

St. Louis Randomness: Part 1

Ratings Guide:
Half handshake, half chest-bump hug – 5 stars
Chest bump – 4 stars
Fist bump – 3 stars
High five – 2 stars
Handshake – 1 star
Manly ass slap – ½ star
Fone and fone – 0 stars

St. Louis Randomness: Part 1

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so rather than spend a couple hours trying to spit out one crappily written review, I’m going to spend a couple hours spitting out several crappily written reviews. And again, I’m pretty far behind, so I’m splitting this up into two parts. Ratings for each are at the very end of the review. Enjoy. Or don’t. I don’t give an F either way.

Restaurant: Racanelli’s
Location: 6655 Delmar (U City) and 8161 Big Bend (Webster)

I actually have two different reviews here, because there’s the newly opened Racanelli’s Cucina next to where I work, and the classic Racanelli’s that’s a couple blocks from my house.

When the new Cucina opened up on Delmar I was excited. It had a lot going for it: newly renovated and relatively nice inside restaurant that would be great for client meetings, a bar with flat screen TVs that would be perfect for March Madness, outdoor seating that would be great for the summer, and they still had the classic walk up window where you could get a typical NY slice or calzone.

The whole idea behind the Cucina was that it would be more of a full menu with pastas and wood oven pizzas (or coal, or something) that were a little different from their NY style at the takeout window. The first time I went there I loved it. They have a lunch special where for only $9 you can get a pizza (they only offer once size) and a salad. And the pizza is incredibly big and filling. Classic pizza crust with mozzarella, not some crappy 6” thin crust that just makes you made you didn’t get lunch someplace else. And it was good. But the next two times I went weren’t so good, and in fact, one of the pizzas actually made me sick in more ways than one. And I’ve got an iron stomach, so the normal human being doesn’t stand a chance.

Luckily I’ve never had that problem at the normal Racanelli’s in Webster. Since moving my wife and I have eaten there just about every week. It’s become a bit of a Friday night staple because it’s close and we like the taste. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t the best NY-style pizza joint in the world (or even St. Louis, which I would award to La Pizza). It’s too greasy, a little too heavy (which I know doesn’t make sense, but it’s the best way I can think to describe what it is I think I mean), and the service is a little too suspect. But it’s close, the slices are big, and you know what your getting when you go there. And their calzones aren’t too bad either. Can’t say the same about their terrible salads.

Restaurant: Joey B’s (On the Hill)
Location: 2524 Hampton

I could tell you all about how Joey B’s is a pretty good place to watch a sporting event. I could tell you about the good-looking waitstaff and bartender who will make you question all the decisions you’ve made in your life. I could tell you about the spinach and artichoke dip that had just the right amount of garlic. I could even tell you about the bacon and salami covered St. Louis-style pizza that I somehow didn’t hate even though I hate St. Louis-style pizza.

But I won’t waste your time with any of that. Instead, I want to tell you about the pretzel bites. These were little round balls of the most deliciousness you’ll ever eat. First, they come in a bowl, not on a plate. This is important because the bites are COVERED (yes, ALL CAPS COVERED) in butter. So much so, in fact, the bottom of the bowl has a pool of it that continues to coat the bites as they sit in front of you. And they are so soft and chewy, yet have just the slightest amount of crispiness when you bite into them. They are perfect. I can only describe them as pretzel-flavored donuts. And I haven’t even mentioned the cheese sauce that comes with it. We had five orders of it while watching the Mizzou game last week. And frankly, I’m mad we only got five. If Joey B’s wanted to improve their pizza they would just cover it with these pretzel bites and cheese.

Restaurant: Robust
Location: 227 W Lockwood

Went there a couple of weeks ago with some friends, and overall I really enjoy this place. The atmosphere is laid back, and there’s like three sections of the place. There’s the wine store part, where you can buy bottles and glasses and other wine-related stuff. And the tables near this section actually feel like tasting tables in a wine shop rather than part of a wine bar. Then there’s the bar section, with the actual bar and all the tables that surround it. And then there’s kind of a back room that is walled off from the bar area. We sat in this last section, which is nice with a large group of people because it’s a little quieter and makes it easier to talk. But, it’s also missing that charm that the other two sections have. The back room is quiet and kinda boring, while the front of the place is packed with people, loud, and feels like there’s some action going on. And that’s the kind of thing that I prefer. What I’m taking way too long to say is, sit in the front, not the back (which might be the only time I ever prefer the front over the back).

The food is just so-so. The flatbreads and soup were really good, but everything else was just very average, if not below it. And I feel like everything tries to sound fancier than it really is. For example, they have this artichoke dish with some special cheese and what not, but it’s just spinach and artichoke dip, except served on a plate instead of a bowl. And it’s not all that good. I did get a bowl of the Robust chowder, which was the soup special, and it was probably the best thing I ate. Not enough to fill you up, but that, combined with a flatbread, and you’d be making the best of the menu. And again, the food is more of a tasting-menu-and-share-with-friends type of thing – and that’s never going to be my cup of tea. So take this with a grain of salt. Or an entire shaker.

But the wine is great. The waiter did a great job of up selling us from a $30 bottle of Malbec to a $70 bottle. But it was one of the best wines I’d ever had. So good, in fact, that we ordered a second bottle. It was the Catena Alta, from Mendoza, vintage 2004 (I know what none of that means, but it translates to “really fucking tasty and you walk out nice and tipsy”).

I’d go back for drinks in a heartbeat, but when I’m looking for a good dinner, I’ll be heading somewhere else. However, the food is pretty reasonably priced, so if you’re just looking for an inviting place to have good drinks and enjoy nice service, and food is just something you’ll nibble on so you don’t pass out at the table, then Robust is your place.

Restaurant: Dickey’s
Location: 9200 Olive

Um, do you like crappy BBQ that you can barely stomach? Then Dickey’s is the place for you! Beef brisket that tastes like roast beef that will give you food poisoning? They got it! Mac and cheese that tastes like water yet is somehow 600 calories? Step right up! Do you like free ice cream cones? Yeah, me too, actually. But other than that, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Racanelli’s Cucina: Hand shake with a manly ass slap
Racanelli’s: Fist bump
Joey B’s: Chest bump
Robust: Fist bump
Dickey’s: Fone and fone


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