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Great Dates in The StL
By Sean Hixson
Posted On: 02/01/2003   

Lonely and bitter souls decry February 14 a Hallmark holiday. Gold diggers vie for the material goods, while players see roses and chocolates as metaphorical.

Admit it. You want a Valentine– - if for nothing else than to shut your friends up. You're sick of their attempted set-ups. Stop whining and grab the digits of the hot blond(e) on the corner, and ask her (or him) out for a drink.

Listen though, rube. One thing you don't want is a place more crowded than the New Halls Ferry White Castle. This is a date. In addition to going classy, you have to be able to charm (via audible conversation) and preferably sit. Intimate words and long eye gazes are important to your blossoming relationship. Hence, my Valentine's Day suggestions:

For two … Hotel bars are unique in both style and substance. Usually small, sparsely populated, and well decorated, they are almost always devoid of locals. St. Louisans can easily slip in and slip out unnoticed. Yeah, the STL metro area has 2.5+ million people, but come on, when you're out you always see the same faces. A free-of-locals hotel bar allows you to devote all your time to your date rather than the requisite hellos that come with running into acquaintances.

When it comes to hotel bars, the Hyatt Regency St. Louis (Union Station) Grand Hall Lounge epitomizes opulence. Amidst 65-foot barrel- vaulted ceilings, Romanesque arches, stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and gold-leaf ornamentation, the stunning Grand Hall reflects the grandeur of the proud STL past. When he built it in the 1890s, architect Theodore Link spared no detail and no cost.

Today, saved for sporadic conventioneers, the Grand Hall Lounge is nearly empty of any patrons. In the middle of this dimly lit 10,000-square-foot sublime grotto is a small 20x20 20-by-20-foot bar placed among street lamps, palm fronds, dozens of club chairs and tables, model trains, and a single grand piano. Unless distracted by the surroundings or the random tourist from the Bootheel playing "Sister Christian" on the grand, you and your date can focus solely on each other in a fabulous setting. The small and pricey menu offers classic cocktails (i.e., the Old Fashioned), bottled AB products, a few imports, ports, sherries and a light appetizer menu. So, head over to the Grand Hall’s whispering arch to woo in style, order a Rob Roy, and compliment your date's eyes, and head over to the Grand Hall's whispering arch to woo in style.

Other suggestions: The Renaissance Suites, The Lobby Lounge (Ritz-Carlton).

The fashionable & the few… Most people on dates need a background scene to feel comfortable. Some music to kill the awkward moments of silence. Some other patrons to prove your worth in choosing a locale. A familiar, yet intimate, setting to puts one at ease. The bars of trendy, popular restaurants fit the bill here.

Upon entering Modesto Tapas Bar & Restaurant, one almost warms 10 degrees with the décor's red and yellow shades of southern Spain. This is a sophisticated that spot that will impress your date. The swooping V-shaped bar - –illuminated by track and candle light - –anchors the smaller bar/smoking side. Above the four- and two-person tables are single candle mini-chandeliers. The west wall is almost entirely glass, as is the alcove entrance. The junction between the wall and entrance literally corners the best seat-for-two in the house. Grab this table and be in Modesto (and its mostly 25- to 45-year-old crowd), yet slightly removed from it - –again, allowing more attention to your date.

The drink menu of more than 100 selections offers excellent sangria, along with original cocktails, and martinis named for famous Spaniards like Julio Iglesias and Don Quixote. Other than the usual AB beers, look for Estella Galacia Lager and Paulaner Hefe-weizen. The wine list specializes in Spanish selections, and is broken down into whites, blushes and reds, with other Spanish regional labels. Cordials, winter warmers, sherries and ports are also offered.

Other suggestions: King Louie’s, Lynch St. Bistro

See and be seen… These are the places the players prefer. The popular nightspots to show off your date and see whom others are dating–Hey, look at me; hey look at her.

On many weekend nights, Café Eau in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel buzzes. Rubbing elbows in its huge crowds can give a sense of superiority. These are the 25- to 45-year-old pretty people of the STL, the genuine and the $30,000 millionaires. The Chase and accompanying Park Plaza have welcomed royalty, rock and opera stars, athletes and politicians, including every president from the 1920s to 1980s … and wrestler Harley Race.

The main marble-topped rectangular bar in Café Eau sits in the center of the room surrounded by tables and chairs above a marble checkered floor. An ice-topped side bar peers from the northeastern corner. The stage in the southeast corner showcases live music Friday. and Saturday from. 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Along the south walls are intimate and eclectically patterned tall, round booths that shield their inhabitants from the masses. (I suggest an early arrival to grab a booth.) The 20-plus+ selection wine list covers the bases - –whites, reds, and sparklings. All are available by the glass and the bottle. Boulevard, Fat Tire, Schlafly and others are on tap, while AB products and the usual imports are available by the bottle. After being corporately run by PB&J, Chase Park Plaza recently bought Café Eau, so, as of press time, the cocktail menus were being updated.

Other suggestions: Balaban’s, WS Bistro (formerly Mandarin Bay).

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