Being a big baseball nut, I was sorry to hear about the closing of the original Ozzie's Restaurant and Sports Bar out in Westport Plaza about a year and a half ago. (See that post here.) But almost as soon as I wrote that entry on Road Tips, I was informed by a number of people that Ozzie's would soon be reopening in downtown St. Louis in an area of rehabbed and gentrified buildings along Washington Ave. (see map) It so happened that I had an appointment with a prospective dealer just down the street one day on a recent trip to St. Louis and I made it a point to have lunch at Ozzie's new location.
The original Ozzie's out in the Westport Plaza featured a plethora of baseball memorabilia courtesy of Ozzie Smith, the former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and Baseball Hall of Fame member. It was the ultimate sports bar with televisions throughout the place and a menu that was above average for a typical sports bar. Over the final couple three years of its existence out at Westport, the food had seemingly gone downhill and Ozzie's was getting a lot of pressure from another sports themed restaurant in the area, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols' own Pujols 5.
Ozzie Smith was associated by name only in the restaurant, and owner Ray Gallardo - who was the founder of the Casa Gallardo Mexican food restaurants based out of St. Louis - was the owner of the establishment. Gallardo had a contract with Golub and Co., the Chicago-based owners and developers of Westport Plaza, which said his establishment would be the only sports-theme bar in the complex. In 2006, Westport allowed Puhols to open a restaurant and told Gallardo that it would be an upscale restaurant with a sports theme. It turned out that Puhols 5 was closer in theme, style and menu to Ozzie's than it was to an upscale sports restaurant such as Mike Shannon's.
After three years of losses that totaled nearly $500,000, Gallardo filed suit against Golub and Co. for allowing Puhols 5 to open. He dropped the suit against the developers before he ultimately closed down the original Ozzie's after 20 years of business. I believe, however, that Gallardo was counter-sued by the owners of Westport, but I never heard of what happened with that particular suit.
In the meantime, Gallardo's son, Roberto, spearheaded the move of the original Ozzie's to what was once an old garment manufacturing building in the Washington Ave. Lofts District in downtown St. Louis. Ozzie's occupies the first two floors in the building with the main floor being the restaurant and the upper floor being a large party/reception/over-flow room that features a number of autographed jerseys from former Cardinal players on the wall, along with Smith's 13 Gold Glove awards in a large display cabinet along the front wall of the room.
It was around 1:30 when I made it into Ozzie's. Parking was available just up the street from the restaurant and I went in the front door. Just behind the hostess stand was sort of an artsy display of baseballs suspended with wires. It was actually kind of cool. A hostess asked me if I wanted a table or if I wanted to sit at the bar. I decided to sit at the bar and she handed me a menu and I made my way toward the left side of the large rectangular bar.
As I sat down, I looked over to my immediate left and noticed that they had a television literally implanted into the bar (above right). It had a plexiglas top over the screen which was angled down for better viewing as you sat there. I thought it was a neat little touch to the place. I took a quick look behind me at the wall of booths in the place and noticed that each of them had their own personal flat screen television. A number of larger flat screens were distributed throughout the main floor at Ozzie's.
It appeared the items on the menu weren't much different from what the original Ozzie's offered before. Actually, it might be a little smaller than before, but Ozzie's still featured some burgers, sandwiches, the typical bar-type appetizers, salads, and a number of specialty entrees such as steaks, a marsala pork chop and a garlic and herb grilled chicken breast. One thing that I don't quite remember from the original Ozzie's was breakfast served on the weekends. The new Ozzie's location features breakfast on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - something worth thinking about during an upcoming baseball weekend this summer.
I just wanted to get something simple and I ordered up the marsala mushroom burger - a 1/2 pound burger topped with provelone cheese and a mushroom marsala sauce. Lettuce, tomato and onion slices came with the burger and I got a side of Ozzie's seasoned fries. I also ordered up a cold Budweiser to go with my burger for lunch.
It was well past the lunch rush and there were only a few people in the place when I was there so my burger came up relatively quick. I remember the burgers at the original Ozzie's to be pretty good and this one was just as good as I remember. I was a little worried that the sweet marsala mushroom sauce would be a little overpowering, but it was a nice fit with the burger and the provolone cheese. The burger was thick and juicy, full of flavor on its own. The lightly toasted bun didn't disintegrate from the juicy nature of the burger and the somewhat sloppy marsala mushroom sauce. It was a multiple napkin burger to say the least.
The burger, itself, was more than enough for lunch, but I tried a few of the fries. They were OK, but the burger was much better.
Before I left, I went upstairs to the second floor room to look around. It was exceptionally bright up there due to two huge south-facing windowns letting in abundant sunshine into the room. I couldn't get a good enough shot of all the Gold Glove awards that Smith garnered during his illustrious career, but I was able to get a close-up shot of one. And it took my time looking around the room at the jerseys and other memorbilia that Ozzie's had up on the wall. Sitting in front of the display case with the Gold Glove awards, Ozzie's had three double sets of seats from the old Busch Stadium that Smith played in during his career.
I'm certainly glad that Ozzie's is back in business. Not so much because I think the food is great (it's not - but it's good bar food) or the ambiance is all that inviting and cozy (it's not as nice as the old Ozzie's). But it's Ozzie's - one of my all-time favorite sports bars. While the new location appears to be a little smaller than the original, the upper floor offers more space for Cardinal fans to enjoy a few beers and some food before, during and after a Cardinals game. It's a little bit of a walk from the new Busch Stadium - about 15 or 16 blocks in all - but it's not far from the Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues, major concerts and other sporting events. Ozzie's was always a "must visit" when we came to Cardinals games in the past. I'm sure we'll be back to Ozzie's at some point in the near future.