(Update - Thanx to Joey H who informed me that Newstead Tower has recently closed. But this burger is still available at their sister restaurant, Five Bistro.)
I have to apologize to whoever it was who gave me the suggestion of trying a burger at Newstead Tower Public House in St. Louis. I try to give "shout-outs" to those of you who periodically read "Road Tips" when I get suggestions, but I struck out in trying to find where I'd gotten the suggestion. Nonetheless, I did make it to Newstead Tower Public House on a recent visit to St. Louis.
Newstead Tower Public House calls itself a "gastropub", fashioned after similar public houses that serve food in the United Kingdom. The gastropub concept has been popping up in larger metropolitan areas in America over the past couple three years and they usually offer unique foods to go along with a wide variety of beers to choose from. Actually, the food takes precedent over beer in gastropubs.
The owner and executive chef of Newstead Tower Public House is Anthony Devoti, who also runs the acclaimed Five Bistro restaurant just down the street. (Update - Thanx to "St. Louis Steve", Five Bistro has moved to The Hill near Rigazzi's.) Along with Five's chef Cory Shupe, Devoti brought his proven concept which features locally-grown foods and seasonal produce to Newstead Tower Public House when he first opened the restaurant in late 2007.
Newstead Tower Public House is only open for lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and opens for dinner only at 5 p.m. on Saturday's and Sunday's. I was sort of lucky - I got in there just before they opened at 11:30 on a Wednesday. The restaurant is located on Manchester Road in an area known as "The Grove" to the local residents (see map). The building that houses Newstead Tower Public House underwent a radical renovation before the restaurant opened. In fact, the whole neighborhood looked like it was getting some TLC from developers and property owners. I went in the side door and took a seat at the bar.
The decor of Newstead Tower Public House was, well, spartan, at best. One could probably squint and see a contemporary version of an English pub, but the interior was very minimal with a bar along the west wall and about a dozen or so tables in the dining area. A large window ran the width of the south side of the bar looking out onto Manchester. There were only a couple pictures hanging on the 3/4 wood paneled wall and three or four flat-panel televisions tuned to sports stations.
I got a menu from the friendly bartender who didn't mind that I was a few minutes early. I ordered up a Schlafly Pale Ale while I looked to see what all they had other than burgers. Newstead Tower looked like the type of place that would have some interesting food - the menu cover, itself, was pretty interesting.
The menu selections, while not all that extensive, were interesting, leaning more toward traditional English foods such as rarebit and fish and chips. But they also had some intriguing items such as grilled farm trout, free range chicken and Prince Edward Island mussels. I have a colleague in our main office in Montreal who is from Prince Edward Island and he claims - and I can personally attest - that the best mussels in the world are from P.E.I.
But I was there for a burger. Newstead Tower gets their beef from Fruitland American Beef near Cape Girardeau, about 100 miles south of St. Louis. Fruitland American Beef is well-known for their grass-fed beef which I'm neither here-nor-there in deciding if it's better than corn-fed beef. Both are very good - different, but very good. The burger at Newstead Tower is a 1/2 pound of lean ground chuck and you have your choice of caramelized onions, fresh grilled mushrooms or even a farm fresh fried egg along with five different choices of cheese.
I ordered up a burger with Monterey pepperjack cheese and the grilled mushrooms. Homemade potato chips come with the burger, but you can substitute pommes frites (what Europeans call French fries) for an additional $1.50. Like I say, I was there for a burger and not necessarily the sides. I ordered my burger medium.
As I waited for my burger, people began to roll in for an early lunch. It wasn't very long when the bartender brought my burger out. Actually, he should have waited a little longer.
The burger, itself, was more rare than even-medium rare. But I didn't know that until I had dressed it with the organic lettuce that comes with it, along with some homemade ketchup and a little bit of a stone-ground dijon mustard and then bit into the burger that was sandwiched between the top and bottom of a toasted and chewy homemade bun. Now, I like rare beef, but I like my hamburgers to have a little bit more of a cooked quality to it. I didn't have the heart to ask the bartender to take the burger back to the kitchen and get me another one - or at the very least to throw it back on the grill - especially since I'd already dressed it and had a couple bites.
And actually, it wasn't all that bad. The grilled mushrooms were flavorful and the cheese was a nice complement to the burger. The homemade pickle slice was tangy, but I preferred not to stick it on my burger. Other than the burger being severely undercooked for my liking, and the bun being a little more chewy than I care for, the Newstead Tower burger was very good.
The homemade potato chips, while light and flavorful, were way too salty for my taste. I only had a couple three because of the high salt content, but if they weren't so salty I probably would have eaten more. Then again, what's salty to me may be just right for others. I hardly put salt on any food and I'm much more sensitive to salty foods.
Newstead Tower won the Riverfront Times "Best Burger" award in 2008 and given the ingredients they use I'm not surprised. Everything was fresh and flavorful, albeit the ground chuck was undercooked. If I was a professional food critic, I'd have to go back again and make sure the burger was cooked before I could give it a better rating. But don't take that as an indictment of the food at Newstead Tower Public House. It's an upscale burger (and not cheap - $9.50 plus $3.00 for the cheese and mushrooms) and they feature quality menu items. Burger and a beer ($4.50 for a pint of Schlafly) with a nice tip for the bartender used up a $20 dollar bill plus some accumulated change in my pocket. I didn't expense it on my company credit card - I rarely do for lunch because they're so tolerant of my dinner tabs. But next time I go back to Newstead Tower Public House to try a burger I may have to pull out the card.