Posted On: 09/03/2003
Rumor has it that residents near the I-64/Highway 40 intersection with Kingshighway may soon be able to purchase a nuclear-winter-lasting supply of Beef-a-Rino (“Rusty!”) at a Sam’s Club. If the plan comes to fruition, multiple city blocks will implode. With much of the streetscapes derelict, a big box could actually be a welcome addition to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Wal-Mart presents the large-scale rebuild rebirth.
Still, interesting old buildings make St. Louis unique. From Kingshighway, drive east down Manchester and imagine the hoary storefronts as they were in their prime. Obviously, some people have, as a few are being, and have been, restored (JaBoni’s anyone?)
Jump a few blocks south and do the same on Vandeventer. Admire the revived art deco skyscraper, the Continental Building, in the near distance. At Boyle, enjoy the marble arches of the Liberty Bell Oil Company building. Look across the street to see another rehab – 1449 Vandeventer. After sitting vacant for years, it’s a bar again, as it was decades before. The Billy Goat’s co-owners, Brian Roth and Rob Lyons, present the small-scale rehab rebirth.
The look …
Constructed of our town’s signature red brick, the Billy Goat juts to the curb with a rounded corner at the Boyle/Vandeventer intersection. Inside, few walls meet at right angles, which seems to highlight the bar’s woodwork even more. You’ll see original wood floors, worn wooden booths, a refinished wooden bar, wooden pillars, wooden bar stools, wooden tables and handsome wooden columns in front of antique mirrors behind the bar.
Tavern décor lines the walls – beer signs and cigarette-box art. High ceilings keep smoke from lingering, which is even more important with the open kitchen adjacent to the bar.
Two flat-screen TVs show the game, and a Ms. Pacman/Galaga combo lures nostalgic-nerd Gen-Xers, while the Golden Tee keeps present-day-nerd Gen-Xers entertained. Out back is a neatly landscaped small patio with an as-yet-unused second bar. Lyons swears there’s room for washers, but there’s not room for my long toss.
The scene …
Lyons and Roth are taking things slow with the Billy Goat. Hours of operation are pretty limited thus far, at least until the neighborhood and its tavern-goers reach critical mass. Forest Park Southeast is not Soulard. The Billy Goat shuts down at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and, surprisingly, at 6 p.m. on Saturdays when the owners host special events. Being that most of their business comes from those who work, rather than live, in the neighborhood, it makes sense.
Friday, however, gives an idea of what may come to be. Happy hour keeps patrons longer as TBG stays open until midnight with live music – usually acoustic rock and cover free. TBG has hosted the “acid folk” of Rodney Branigan and will host folk singer Jan Marra this month.
Lunch brings a mix of blue-collar steelworkers and white-collar MDs. Friday night brings a larger casual crowd of both. You’ll see 25- to 50-year-old easy-going city dwellers of both sexes. No hipsters wearing sunglasses inside. This is the denim-and-khakis, shorts-and-flip-flops crowd.
The products …
As evidenced by the order of the words in its full name, the Billy Goat – at this time – is a restaurant, then a bar.
While presenting a simple tavern look with simple tavern prices, the Billy Goat offers food that is more upscale. After serving as an award-winning apprentice at Old Warson Country Club, Roth sees the Billy Goat as a way to show his culinary skill. All the grub is made from scratch: original stocks, meat hand ground for the burgers and hand cut for the steaks, wings dry-rubbed, onion rings hand battered, salad dressings and soups house made, bread baked fresh locally by Fazio’s. There’s sushi-grade tilapia for the fish and chips.
Mmmm, Billy Goat chips. The tasty fried potatoes slices are made on site and subtly seasoned. Simple. No artificial “flavor rush” coating your fingers. The full menu is served until 3 p.m. on weekdays and until 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Munch on appetizers after that.
In further proof that it’s more than a Busch-draft tavern, the Billy Goat shuts its doors on select Saturday nights for special menus, $30 to $60 a plate, depending on what’s being served. Purchasing a ticket in advance gets courses like “poached pear salad with blue cheese soufflé” and “grilled chop and roast leg of lamb with rosemary.” Other special events are listed on the restaurant’s homepage.
TBG claims to have the longest St. Louis happy hour, which makes draft drinks that much cheaper. Schlafly, Fat Tire and Shiner Bock pints are under $3; PBR me ASAP for a dollar and change.
Import bottles go for $3.50, and domestics sell for $2 and change. Mixed drinks ($2.75 for rail, $3.50 for call and $4.50 for top shelf) are poured with Lyons’ heavy hand. The $2 blackboard details what cocktails are on sale. Lower-end wines – Merlot, Chardonnay and white Zin – sell for $3.50 per glass.
The owners keep a small crew. Thus far, Lyons is the only bartender; Roth the sole cook, with one apprentice. Two waitresses work the floor. Unless the place is jam-packed, service is never a problem.
The straight 411 …
To get in at the ground floor of the Forest Park Southeast “scene,” and give the owners a reason to extend the hours, hit the Billy Goat. Good food, developing nightlife.
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