We made our annual trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals earlier this summer with our friends Scott and Marcia Schroeder. Actually, I was already in St. Louis on business, so Scott and Marcia drove Cindy down with them. After the Friday night game, we decided to eat dinner at a place that we've always wanted to try - Mike Shannon's. It's just a short walk from Busch Stadium over to Mike Shannon's, a popular place for fans and ballplayers, alike, after a game.
Mike Shannon is a former Cardinal baseball player who has been the lead announcer for their radio broadcasts since 2002. Before that, he was paired for 30 years with the great Jack Buck before Buck's death in 2001. Shannon is a native of St. Louis, was a big sports star while in high school before going on to the University of Missouri to play both football and baseball. Shannon was a budding superstar in football when he decided to quit school and sign a professional baseball contract with the Cardinals. Shannon has said in the past that he probably would have stayed at Mizzou and played football had the salaries in professional football been better back in the 50's. But baseball paid more back then. And that still wasn't very much.
Mike Shannon's style of announcing is down-home and folksy, but he is also known for his malaprop's. Some of his doozies over the years are:
"The Yankees and the Mets are playing at Shea tonight. After four innings, New York leads 3-2."
"We have Rick Ankiel on the mound tonight, pitching on his twenty-first birthday. Yessir, folks, this young man, just as of today, is old enough to vote!"
"The outfield is deep and playing him straight-away, and the infield is the same, except first, second, third, and short are playing him to pull."
But he's also come up with some good lines along the way, such as:
"A hit up the middle right now would be like a nice ham sandwich and a cold, frosty one."
"I said something yesterday about letting sleeping dogs lie, and this time the dog's on the porch grabbing the newspaper and stealing the baby!"
"He was trying to hit a three-run homer with the bases empty. To my knowledge, no one in the history of the game has ever done that. But it could happen someday. You never know in this world of baseball."
Cardinal fans take Mike Shannon in stride and acknowledge his deficiencies behind the mic. But don't let a fan from another team criticize Shannon. Then the Cardinal fans turn venomous. They'll say, "Yes, Shannon's an idiot, but he's OUR idiot!"
After watching the Cardinals get smoked by the Colorado Rockies, we walked over to Mike Shannon's for an after game dinner. Shannon's is located in the former Mark Twain Bank building at the corner of 7th and Market. (See map) Mike Shannon's moved to their present location in 2006 just as the new Busch Stadium was getting ready to open. Their old location - in which they were in for about 20 years - was just a block away, across Kiener Plaza at 7th and Chestnut. Mike Shannon's also boasts The Outfield in what used to be an enclosed parking area on the back side of the building facing Busch Stadium.
While Mike Shannon does show up from time to time, he really doesn't have much to do with the day-to-day operation of the business. For that, he relies upon his daughter, Pat Shannon-Van Matre (right), who has been in charge of the restaurant for over 10 years. Her son, Gary Van Matre, is the general manager for Shannon's. Nick Zotos, who worked as an executive chef for the upscale steak house chain Smith and Wollensky for a number of years, is the executive chef at Shannon's.
Although Mike Shannon's is a pretty fancy place, the maitre d' welcomed us to the place even though we had Cardinals t-shirts and shorts on. We were seated in the large dining room with ceiling to floor windows looking out into Kiener Plaza. The tables were large and covered with fine linen. The chairs were comfy. As we were seated, a man came out and placed our napkins on our laps for us. This was a real high brow joint, I'm tellin' you.
We looked through the menu and while we knew the prices would be high, even I choked a little bit at some of the prices. Their beef tenderloin filet was $48 bucks. Whoa. They also had a 34 oz. "club cut" bone-on rib eye that was $80 dollars! Oh man! They had a number of sides including baked and mashed potatoes, wild rice, asparagus, onion strings, creamed spinach - all of which were $8 dollars. Except for the Lobster macaroni and cheese. That was $12 bucks. Of course, Cindy spotted the Lobster mac and cheese and asked if we could get that as a side.
Our waiter came over and took drink orders and gave us a run down of their specials that evening. Actually, their appetizers including something called "Tuna - Two Ways", as well as carpaccio, calimari and Cajun shrimp all sounded interesting. But the one thing I wanted to see was the "64", a large amount of chilled seafood served over crushed ice. And Shannon's wanted $64 bucks for that. Nope, not tonight.
Over in the corner of the restaurant, a radio crew had set up for the after game radio show that Mike Shannon does on Friday nights after home games. It wasn't long after we got there that Mike Shannon, himself, showed up and walked over to the table to talk with the guys. I've seen Shannon a number of times from far away, but never up this close. I was actually amazed at how big of a guy he is. (6'3", about 220.) He's in his early 70's and looks like he could still go out and smack a fastball up against the wall.
We ordered up our food. Cindy and Marcia each got the beef medallions - small tenderloins topped with Bleu cheese, with a truffled marscapone potato cake, with confit Roma tomato. Scott got the 16 oz. bone-in New York strip steak, and I went with the 16 oz. dry-aged organic rib eye. I also got a wedge salad to go with the steak. Oh, and we had to order the Lobster mac and cheese to satisfy Cindy's curiosity.
During the radio broadcast, another gentleman in a cowboy hat walked into Shannon's and made his way over to the round table where Shannon was conducting his radio show. It turns out it was Tracy Ringolsby, a former writer for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, and one of the founders of Baseball America. Ringolsby also founded and writes columns for Inside the Rockies, a web site devoted to the Colorado Rockies baseball team, and is also enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame with his 2005 J.G. Taylor Spink Award given to baseball writers who excel in their writing. Our table was across the room and we couldn't hear the conversations going on, but we could hear the occasional loud laughter coming from the table.
I got my wedge salad and dug in. I have to say it was very, very good. The bleu cheese was very flavorful, as were the small bits of real bacon on the top of the wedge. Even though it was a good sized wedge, I made short work of the salad.
During a break in the broadcast, Mike Shannon got up and started to go around to individual tables to great the customers. He came over to our table and said, "Did you folks go to that sorry game tonight?"
Scott said, "Oh, yeah. Only I wouldn't use the term 'sorry'. I was thinking of something stronger than that."
Mike Shannon got a hearty laugh on that one. "Yeah, me too," he laughed. "Only it wouldn't be for mixed company."
It wasn't long after I finished my wedge salad that our steaks showed up. We were all pretty hungry, so we dug right in. Right away, Cindy declared the beef medallions to be "great!" She marveled at how tender and flavorful they were. Marcia agreed wholeheartedly with Cindy's assessment.
Scott literally tore into his bone-in strip steak and was very impressed with the taste. My organic rib eye. It was good. Not the best steak I ever had, but very good. I don't know if it was worth the $34 bucks or whatever they charged for it, but the ambiance and service was definitely worth it.
Cindy had me try a couple bites of the Lobster mac and cheese. It featured bites of real lobster meat mixed in with macaroni noodles and a multi-cheese sauce. It thought it was OK, nothing to write home about. It was very rich and all I needed was a couple bites before I knew that it was probably overpriced for what it was.
As we finished up our meal, Mike Shannon was wrapping up his radio show. He stopped by our table and asked how our dinner was. We made some more small talk and I said, "Hey, Mike! Can we get your picture?"
Scott, who is a huge Cardinals fan, jumped up to get his picture taken with Mike Shannon. We had Cindy's camera for the weekend - the nice little Panasonic "point-and-shoot" that we had taken with us to Savannah on vacation. It takes good pictures. But for some reason, I couldn't get the flash to go off - even when I thought I had it on the flash setting. I took three pictures of Shannon and Scott standing there, each time the flash didn't go off. Finally, Shannon said, "I've got to go, folks." And he followed a lady (who may have been his daughter) outside to an SUV parked in front of the restaurant in a loading zone. Shannon hopped in the passenger side and took off. I tried to clean up the pictures a bit and this was the best one of Mike Shannon and Scott. It didn't turn out too bad, but that light behind them screwed up the pic.
Before we left, we took a look around different parts of the restaurant to look at all the baseball memorabilia they had on display. Shannon's also features a couple of "private" rooms where baseball players, celebrities and dignitaries can eat without fans coming up and hounding them for autographs. Shannon's also has a large and very vibrant bar area to the right of the main entrance. There were a lot of people in there after the game. It's also known to Cardinals fans as a popular watering hole for some of the Cardinals players after the game.
All in all, Mike Shannon's was very good. Very expensive - but very good. I know that Scott had been wanting to go to Shannon's for dinner for quite sometime. (We tried to get into Mike Shannon's old location a few years ago for lunch, but they weren't open that day.) The service was wonderful, the decor was very classy, the memorabilia was to die for if you're a baseball fan. And on top of all that, we got to meet and talk with Mike Shannon. If you're a big Cardinals - or even baseball fan - Shannon's is a great place to visit. But if you're looking for a good to very good meal and money is no object, Shannon's is tough to beat.