It had been a long, long time since I'd been to O'Connell's Pub in St. Louis for a great cheeseburger. When we were in St. Louis this summer, while Scott Schroeder and I went to the ballgame, Cindy and Marcia Schroeder went to the Missouri Botanical Garden and then had lunch at O'Connell's. I was jealous and vowed to get back to O'Connell's sometime soon.
O'Connell's has a rich history, but the building they're housed in has an even more storied past.
O'Connell's began in the early 60's in the Gaslight Square District of St. Louis. The Gaslight District was the home for many theaters that featured some of the top performers of the day. When the theaters closed and the area turned into urban blight, O'Connell's moved to their present day location at the corner of Shaw Ave. and South Kingshighway near on the outskirts of The Hill (see map).
The building that O'Connell's is in was built in 1905 by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company as a bar that served their beers. In the late 90's, commercials featuring A-B chairman August Busch III talking about the heritage and history of the brewery were filmed at the bar of O'Connell's. O'Connell's has been in their present location since 1972.
O'Connell's is famous for their burgers - a ground sirloin, hand-pattied burger that is juicy and thick. It's been a long time since I'd had a burger at O'Connell's, so when I had a chance to meet a couple guys there for lunch recently I wholeheartedly agreed to go there.
We met up early - about a quarter to 12 - mainly because the lunch time crowd gets the place filled up rather quickly. It's not a huge place - it probably seats around 100 people. Just after noon, the line to get into the dining room was about 15 to 20 people deep.
I love the old bar at O'Connell's. The two guys bartending looked like they were aging hippies, but were having a lot of fun. Our waitress was young, but efficient and pleasant. She was just trying to get people in and out as soon as possible to turn the tables.
I've been wanting to try the burger again since I was out in Denver. One of my dealers from St. Louis was the one who turned me on to Duffy's Cherry Cricket for their great burgers. When I asked him and his colleagues if Duffy's burgers were better than O'Connell's (or "Oc's", as the locals call the place), they said that, hands down, Duffy's was better. I had to try an "Oc's" burger to make sure.
My two dining partners went a different direction. One of the guys, obviously a regular, went with the "Roast beef, rare, juice." The other guy went with the lunch special - a roast pork sandwich. Both sounded great, but I was set on the burger.
When our lunch came, even though I knew the burger would be good, I knew I'd made the wrong choice. The guy with the roast beef sandwich had this huge pile of lean rare roast beef served on a hoagie, topped with a generous amount of au jus sauce. It looked fabulous and he said it tasted great.
The other guy's pork sandwich looked almost as equally as good - a bunch of sliced pork on a hoagie with a ton of gravy over the top. You had to eat it with a knife and fork.
My burger was very good. It was thick and juicy with a great taste quality. The bun was also soft and chewy and helped give the burger a great taste. I still can't say good as the burger's at Duffy's Cherry Cricket in Denver, that's for sure. But it was still one of the best in St. Louis (O'Connell's regularly wins the Best Burger category in local voting).
But I have to tell you - I got the short end of the stick. The burger may have been very good, but the roast beef sandwich is going to be the next thing I order at "Oc's". And if they have the pork sandwich as a lunch special the next time after that, I'll have that. Both just looked killer and the reaction of my dining partners seconded my observation.
O'Connell's has limited parking, especially during the noon hour, but the wait is well worth it if the dining room is full.
(Update - I did go back to O'Connell's not long after this particular visit to get a roast beef sandwich. Click here to read that entry.)