Culpeppers is an 8 location local St. Louis chain that features pretty good St. Louis style pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and other food. Culpeppers touts themselves as the "favorite St. Louis grill and bar" and they have a loyal following that has continued since the first Culpeppers was opened back in the mid-30's right after the repeal of Prohibition. It had been quite some time since I'd been at a Culpeppers, and I set up a lunch date with my former boss for whom I worked up to the point when I took my current job with Audio Plus Services over seven years ago.
The original Culpeppers opened in 1935 at the corner of Maryland and Euclid in the Central West End of St. Louis (see map). That original location is still going strong today. My old company was out in St. Peters, almost equidistant from the Culpeppers in St. Charles (see map) and from the one in O'Fallon, MO (see map). We seemed to eat at the one in O'Fallon more often because it wasn't far from my ex-boss' former home.
Culpeppers is known for their good burgers, sandwiches and salads, but they're probably best known for having some of the best - if not THE best chicken wings in St. Louis. The pizza is above average for a St. Louis style pizza and is a good choice if you're in the mood. Culpeppers menu also features steaks, pasta and some seafood. It's difficult to find anything that isn't appealing on their menu.
I left my old company on civil terms, even though a messy divorce and other factors ended up closing the doors of the firm a couple years after I left. I've stayed in contact with my old boss and he continues to work in the audio/video industry. We like to get together to check notes, talk about industry trends and to help each other with leads and the like. I was in St. Louis earlier this summer and I set up the lunch for around 1 p.m. I had to go out to the St. Charles area for a meeting and called and left messages for my ex-boss to meet me for lunch at Culpeppers. I got a cryptic text message back from him that said, "Culpeppers - fine".
I got there around 1 p.m. and sat at the bar waiting for my ex-boss to show up. I continued to wait for a half-hour. I tried calling him a couple times, text messaging him, as well. I even e-mailed him from my Blackberry to see if he'd possibly gone to the O'Fallon location. I didn't hear anything back from him. That wasn't overly unexpected - he has garnered a reputation for making appointments and not keeping them. (He contacted me the next day and apologized, saying that he had an appointment that had taken a little longer than expected.)
I ended up asking the bartender for a menu around 1:45. It had been a number of years - probably well over seven or eight years - since I'd last eaten at a Culpeppers in St. Louis. But I do remember their bacon cheeseburger was one of the better ones in the area. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with pepper jack cheese. In place of either waffle or steak fries, I also ordered one of Culpeppers very good house salads - a generous bowl of chopped lettuce, cherry tomatoes, olives and red onion slices topped with Culpeppers' wonderful homemade Ranch dressing.
A Culpeppers burger begins as a half-pound USDA Choice beef patty, charbroiled and then served on a sesame seed bun. They're usually a meal in themselves. It had been quite sometime since I'd had a burger from Culpeppers, but I certainly remembered the taste when I took my initial bite. While the pepper jack cheese wasn't all that spicy, the bacon was flavorful and helped add to the taste sensation of the burger. While it may not be the best burger in St. Louis (I'm having trouble finding a place better than O'Connell's Pub or Burger Bar), it's an above-average burger. It works in a pinch when you need something for lunch or a casual dinner.
In all honesty, Culpeppers isn't much different than any number of national chains that permeate the landscape with their varied menus that are designed to whet the appetite of any diner. And while I usually disdain those big, souless chains, I'd eat at a locally owned chain restaurant like Culpeppers. They do everything pretty well, not great, but well enough to keep them in business for nearly 75 years.