I was driving to St. Louis a couple weeks ago to have a meeting and dinner with one of my dealers in town. Driving through Peoria, I noticed my "Low Tire Pressure" light came on. I reset it, thinking the tires were running at a different RPM because of the rain-slick roads. When it came on again about five miles later, I thought I'd better pull over and check it out.
I pulled over to a convenience store/gas station and, sure as shit, I had a tire that was rapidly going flat. Thinking that I'd rather have AAA fix the tire, considering that I was in a dress shirt and slacks, I pulled the car into the parking lot of the Par-a-Dice Casino and called the road service. As soon as I got a hold of AAA to come out to fix the tire (I DO pay a lot for AAA's services), I called my dealer and told him I'd be late. He begged off for the meeting and dinner, knowing full well that I wouldn't be in town until about 8 p.m.
After getting the tire repaired at a local Goodyear store, I was back on the road and knowing I'd have a free night in St. Louis, I began to wonder where I'd have dinner that night. Dinner at one of the great Italian restaurants on The Hill is a good option. I thought about a great steak at Citizen Kane's. I thought about getting Mexican food or just a good ol' St. Louis style pizza. And I remembered there's a couple of good restaurants near the Hampton Inn Union Station where I was staying at that night.
Pulling into the hotel, I was still wondering where I was going to eat. I wasn't overly hungry. But I was in dire need of a cold beer and something good to eat. After I got into my room, I looked at one of the in-room guides and my eyes caught an ad for Schlafly's Brewery Tap Room. I'd always liked Schlafly's beer and I knew their brewery/brew pub was nearby. I did a quick Mapquest search and found that it was less than four blocks away as the crow flies, easy walking distance from the hotel (see map). But also knowing how dicey the neighborhood could be after dark, I decided to drive over.
There's only two cities in the United States whose names are truly synonymous with beer - Milwaukee and St. Louis. While Milwaukee has a number of brew pubs throughout the city, St. Louis only has a couple brew pubs - Morgan Street Brewery located in Laclede's Landing; and Schlafly's. That's it in St. Louis proper.
Now, there is a rich history of breweries in St. Louis and I always thought Schlafly's was one of those old time St. Louis breweries that went out of existence, but was brought back by entrepreneurs when the microbrewery craze hit in the 1990's. In doing research for this blog entry, I found that was not the case.
Tom Schlafly (right) was a lawyer in St. Louis who was instrumental in getting Missouri laws changed in the late 80's to allow the existence of brew pubs in the state. Schlafly teamed with Dan Kopman, a local brewmaster who worked in breweries in the United Kingdom, to open the St. Louis Brewery, the corporate parent of Schlafly's beer. Their goal was to bring back the German-styled brewing tradition that St. Louis was known for before Anheuser-Busch became the literal 800-pound gorilla.
Schlafly and Kopman bought a nearly 90-year-old building north and west of historic Union Station. The building had been empty for nearly 20 years. Prior to that, it housed a printing company for nearly 65 years. They set about to attain their goal of becoming the first brew pub in Missouri.
Schlafly's Tap Room brew pub opened on Dec. 26, 1991 and Schlafly's served only two beers - their Pale Ale and their Hefeweisen wheat beers. Immediately, Schlafly's was a hit among beer connoisseurs looking for something more interesting to drink than Budweiser or Michelob in St. Louis.
Schlafly's offers six year-round beers to choose from, as well as over 30 seasonal beers brewed at different times of the year. Most of their seasonal beers are cask-conditioned double-fermented draft beers, hand-pumped to the bar from Schlafly's cellar which is constantly at 55 degrees. Schlafly's offers their Pale Ale as a cask-conditioned beer on tap. It's good stuff.
Even though it's not in a great neighborhood, Schlafly's Tap Room has adequate - and safe - parking directly behind the building. As you walk in from the parking lot, there is a bar to the left that features pool tables and dart boards, along with televisions. There's also the Schlafly gift shop located in that area.
The Tap Room is toward the front of the building and to the right. There is an outdoor seating area that is open when the weather is nice.
I really wanted to watch some baseball while I had my dinner, but the game room part of Schlafly's doesn't serve food. And the Tap Room doesn't have televisions. So, I sat at the bar with my newspaper and ordered a Pale Ale and a menu. The Tap Room was dimly lit and even though they had a number of large windows on the east side facing the street, and on the north side that faced the outdoor dining area, it was still pretty dark in the place. That's OK - it gave it kind of a nice, intimate feel even though it was a pretty large room.
The menu was pretty extensive featuring a number of appetizers, salads and sandwiches. However, there were three or four entrees that caught my eye.
The first was a traditional British steak and mushroom pie - steak slices, onions, carrots and mushrooms cooked in Schlafly's Oatmeal Stout beer - and then topped with either a choice of a puff pastry or Schlafly's beer biscuits.
The second one was the Tap Room's Fried Steak - breaded fried steak topped with gravy and served with a side of their fresh mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans. That sounded really good.
The other thing I saw was the chicken andouille pasta - grilled chicken breast chunks served on a bed of linguine with andouille sausage in a cream tomato sauce. Given the amount of great Italian restaurants in St. Louis, I thought it would be blasphemous to have Italian food in a brew pub. But it still sounded delicious.
But what I went with was the Tap Room's weiner schnitzel - a pan-fried breaded pork cutlet topped with a spinach, gouda cheese and bacon sauce; served with fresh mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage. That sounded like it could be a real spot-hitter.
Since all the food at the Tap Room is made from scratch, prepare to wait at least 20 to 30 minutes to get your food. Just sit back and enjoy another beer while you're waiting for your food to show up. I guarantee it will be worth the wait.
When the bartender brought out my weiner schnitzel, the breading looked like it was severely overcooked. It was pretty crunchy and dark. But when I cut into the pork cutlet, it was very moist and the taste of the breading was far from burnt. It was very good. As were the mashed potatoes and the red cabbage. Along with my dinner, I got one of Schlafly's Pilsner beers - a very nice mix of German and Czech heritage flavors that went perfectly with my meal.
My meal and three beers came to about $28 bucks. And even though I felt the bartender could have been a little more attentive, I gave him five bucks as a tip. The place was about 1/3 full - a lot of that was one table of about 20 guys - and the ornate old bar only had six or seven people around it.
Schlafly's also has a second restaurant location at their brewery in the southwest part of St. Louis (see map). Called The Bottleworks, it features a significantly different menu than the Tap Room. As with the Tap Room, the Bottleworks offers lunch and dinner seven days a week, and they also have live music from time to time (as does the Tap Room). And brewery tours are available at The Bottleworks.
Schlafly's beers are available at bars and restaurants throughout the St. Louis area. Their beers are available in a number of stores in the area, as well. But because their bottled beer isn't Pasteurized, it can't be out in extreme heat for very long. It's best to buy the beer cold and get it into a cooler on ice immediately.
Schlafly's beers are very good, and the Tap Room is a very good place to get a meal in St. Louis. Although it's not in a great neighborhood, it's still safe enough to visit the place at any time. I would certainly recommend a visit to Schlafly's Tap Room during a visit to St. Louis.