On a recent trip to St. Louis, I had a late day meeting with the guys from one of my dealers. Knowing that we'd go out for beers and food afterward and talk a little more business, one of the guys was telling me about a place that he had gone to after a concert a few weeks prior. He said, "I'd heard about this place, but I'd never been there. Actually, the beer and the food was pretty good." The name of the place was Kirkwood Station Brewing Company in the near St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood - a nice little upscale community with a number of shops and restaurants in its downtown area. I thought that sounded good to me.
Kirkwood Station Brewing Company has been in business since 2009, but they've only been known as Kirkwood Station for a little over a year. When they first opened, they were called Highlands Brewing, named after an old upscale resort that was in Kirkwood over 100 years ago, Meramec Highlands Resort. However, the Highland Brewing Company in North Carolina filed suit against the Kirkwood brew pub for copyright infringement. In the summer of 2011, a judge ruled that Highlands Brewing Company had to change their name, so owner Mike Willerton held a contest through Facebook asking patrons to rename the business. Their new name, Kirkwood Station, pays homage to the nearby historic Kirkwood Train Station.
Dave Johnson oversees the brewing operation at Kirkwood Station which features nearly 20 year-round and seasonal beers on tap. Johnson was formerly the assistant brewer at O'Fallon Brewery, and before that he was the brewmaster at Buffalo Brewing Co., a brew pub in midtown St. Louis. In addition to their craft brewed beers, Kirkwood Station also offers the usual domestic and imported beers for those who prefer those brands.
Kirkwood Station Brewing Company is located just east of the corner of E. Jefferson and N. Kirkwood Ave (S. Lindbergh when it's not going through Kirkwood) in a building that used to be the old Alandale Brewing Company before Willerton bought the business. (see map) There is parking on the street in front of the business, but there's also a large parking lot just to the east. But because there are a number of eating establishments in the immediate area, that lot can be full - like it was when I drove in there around 7:00 p.m. However, a couple people were leaving and I only had to wait a couple minutes for a parking place to open up.
Kirkwood Station has an outdoor seating area in front of the restaurant/brew pub. It was a nice night and we contemplated sitting outside for a moment, but the close proximity of Jefferson Ave. and the traffic going back and forth told us that it probably would be sort of loud from time to time.
Coming into Kirkwood Station, they have a large blackboard with a listing of the beers they have to offer that day, along with food specials and upcoming bands that will play at the brew pub. In fact, Kirkwood Station is sort of split in half. To your right as you come in is The Tunnel, Kirkwood Station's live music venue that also serves as a secondary bar and dining area. The Tunnel is named after the locally famous Kirkwood Tunnel that was built back in 1883. The Kirkwood Tunnel, also known as the Frisco Tunnel after the St. Louis and San Francisco rail line, was 400 feet in length, 20 feet high and 12 feet wide. When he bought the brewpub back in 2009, owner Willerton stated that he wanted to make his place the "Blueberry Hill" of live entertainment on the southwest side of St. Louis. (Blueberry Hill is a hip and funky restaurant/entertainment establishment in the Delmar Loop area of St. Louis that features the Duck Room, their main stage entertainment room where local legend Chuck Berry plays once a month. Click here to see my entry on Blueberry Hill, but I really need to get back there to do a more in-depth look at the place.)
We took a seat in the main bar/dining room to the left as you come into Kirkwood Station. There was a lively crowd in the brew pub that evening, even for the middle of the week. We were given menus and not long after our waiter for the evening, Kevin, came by to greet us. One of the guys who had been there before said, "We only had appetizers the first time we were here and the beer seemed decent." He looked at Kevin and said, "What are you guys known here for food?"
Kevin said, "Ah, I'm probably not the one to ask that. This is my first night working here. I mean, I've been here three days so far getting trained, but this is my first night of waiting on tables. I've had the burger and it's pretty good. And some of the appetizers are good. But I'm not going to B.S. you and tell you what we're famous for."
We weren't certain what we wanted to order for our first beer, so we asked for a couple minutes to take a look at the beer menu. As he walked away, my guest said, "Well, that's great. It's his first night. But at least he didn't bullshit us."
The bar/dining room area features a large bar that snakes across the east side of the room. Three long shelves on either side of a middle partition hold a large number of liquor. There were a number of flat panel televisions interspersed throughout the room. Thick wooden tables with sturdy chairs were spaced across the floor and a handful of booths lined the wall opposite the bar.
The brewing facility was in a room with large windows to the left of the bar as you were looking at it. With the high ceiling with exposed rafters and the wooden floor, it was sort of loud in the place. One of the guys said, "Maybe we should have gotten a table outside. It's loud in here and it's not even half full."
Kevin came back and I ordered up their India Pale Ale. It's more of an American-style IPA with a forward hop taste. One of the guys ordered the Brown Ale, also an American-style brown brewed with 9 different types of malt. The other guy got the Altbier, one of their seasonals that they had that particular evening. It's a German-style that uses a warm-fermenting yeast during the brewing process.
We decided to order up some appetizers. My guest who had been there before said they had the crab dip appetizer when they were there before. It's served warm with tortilla chips. I also saw that they had fried pickles on the menu. I asked the guys, "You guys ever had fried pickles before?" They both said they had not. I told them of my experience of having fried pickles at J.K. O'Donnell's in Fort Wayne, IN. I said, "If these are even half as good as the ones I've had in Fort Wayne, they'll still be delicious." They agreed to give 'em a try.
While we waited for the appetizers, I took a good and long look at the menu. Kirkwood Station featured a number of salads, sandwiches, and a handful of entrees including a 12 oz. ribeye steak, barbecued ribs, chicken Florentine, a shrimp basil pesto capellini pasta dinner. They also had four or five different types of burgers and they also had pizza. In fact, one of the guys said, "I saw their pizza when we were here before. It looked good. In fact, I may have to try that tonight."
Kevin brought out the appetizer plates just before we were ready to order. The crab dip had creamy and buttery texture and taste with lumps of crab meat throughout the warm mixture. Chopped fresh parsley was sprinkled on top. The chips were fresh, but we ran out of chips before we finished the dip. We weren't shy as we finished up the dip by spooning it into our mouths. It was that good.
The fried pickles were equally as good. They had a nice light batter around the pickle slices that were cut long and thin. The ranch dressing dip was a nice complement to the fried pickles. They weren't as good as the ones at J.K. O'Donnell's in Fort Wayne, but were still very good. One of the guys said, "I don't think I've ever had fried pickles before. These are damn good!"
It was time to order our food and one of the guys order a pizza, the other ordered the Kirkwood cheeseburger - a half-pound patty with your choice of cheddar, American, pepperjack, Swiss or provel cheeses. I thought about getting either the reuben sandwich or the Highlands Cuban - slow roasted pork and sliced ham topped with melted Swiss and jack cheeses, garlic dill pickles and mustard and served on a baguette roll. But I'm always disappointed in any Cuban sandwich I've had outside of Miami. There's nothing like the sweet bread they have for their Cuban sandwiches down there. However, I took a complete turn and I ended up going the comfort food route, getting Patsy Ann's Meatloaf - a slow roasted meatloaf with a tomato glaze and served with garlic mashed potatoes with gravy and veggies.
About three minutes after Kevin took our order, he came back and told us, "Well, I've just been told that the pizza making machine is down. No pizzas until it can get fixed." We were all sort of taken aback and sort of surprised. "Pizza making machine," the guy who ordered the pizza asked incredulously.
Kevin said, "I don't know. That's what I was just told by one of the cooks in the kitchen when I placed the order." (Turns out it was the pizza oven that had gone out.)
My guest took a look at the menu that Kevin brought back with him and he ended up ordering the crispy chicken club sandwich - a battered and fried chicken breast topped with a slice of ham, melted cheddar and ranch, then bacon and served on a bun.
The food came out in a timely fashion and even though I was a little full from the appetizers (they were pretty rich), I was ready to dig in. The meatloaf (below left) had the gravy on it and not on the garlic mashed potatoes. I sort of wanted to try the meatloaf without the gravy as I thought it would go on the potatoes. A side of fresh steamed broccoli sat opposite the potatoes. The meatloaf was good, not necessarily outstanding, but I really couldn't tell because of all the gravy on top. But I ate all of it. And because I was somewhat full from the meatloaf and appetizers, I hardly made a dent in the potatoes and the broccoli. What I did have of the potatoes, however, yielded a nice garlic taste.
The Kirkwood cheeseburger (above right) came with a large beef patty and two slices of melted cheddar cheese. My guest had a choice of a number of sides and got the creamy cole slaw. After eating about half of his burger, I asked him how it was. "It's very good. They cooked it perfectly," he said as he showed me a bit of pink in the middle of the burger.
Across from me, my guest who had the crispy chicken club sandwich also said it was good. He got fries as his side - the big, thick steak fries that are the best to have. He said, "Well, I sort of had my heart set on pizza, but this is still pretty damn good."
Finishing up the evening, we had one last beer before going our separate ways. The food at Kirkwood Station Brewing Company was pretty good. For as varied a menu they have, it's difficult to do a lot of things well. But I was happy with my meat loaf, but if I were to get it again I'd ask for the gravy in a bowl on the side. The others guys liked their burger and/or chicken club sandwich. And Kevin did a fine job for his first night working the tables. (He was doing such a good job for his first night we surmised he had waited tables before.) As we left, one of the guys said, "Yeah, I'd come back here. This was pretty good all around."