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Aug 22, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Cheap Date

Cheap Date: Twilight Tuesdays

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Bad news for all the job seekers out there: Now that universities have loosed another crop of little overachievers onto the unemployment line, your resume has an even worse chance of inching its way up the already jammed inboxes of the human resource managers whose eyes you’ve so desperately been trying to catch. While underemployment breeds despair, it’s important to take solace in the fact that St. Louis is one of the most accommodating cities to loiter in – especially in terms of free amusements for the broke and weary. With the warm season upon us, now is the time to plan a date and take advantage of the plethora of admission-free outdoor concerts and shows. Case in point: Every Tuesday, for three more weeks, the History Museum plays host to Twilight Tuesdays, a stellar concert series held under the stars. Music kicks off at 6 p.m., but it’s best to grab a spot on the lawn at least 30 minutes prior. Grab a few lawn chairs and stock the following thrifty meal:


{Gyro}

Insanely cheap, but still respectable, bottles of wine are held in surplus at The Wine and Cheese Place at 7435 Forsyth Blvd., just a stone’s throw from the History Museum. Try the 2011 Frontera Cabernet Merlot blend, a dark, unpretentious, medium-bodied red that tastes like it should cost $15 a bottle but retails for just $4. Now that the booze is covered, head northeast to the Gyro House at 6152 Delmar Blvd., where $16 will secure you a takeout order of two gorgeous gyros stuffed with thick, tender slices of lamb – these are easily the best in town. (Be sure to have management include plastic knives and forks as well as extra napkins for these monster-sized portions.)


{Floating Island at Brasserie by Niche}

As the music winds down, grab your date and head east up Lindell Boulevard to the sleepy side streets of the Central West End, where you’ll find Brasserie by Niche – a romantic, nineteenth century-style French hideaway. Cap off your evening by sharing one of Brasserie’s stellar desserts – i.e. profiteroles, chocolate mousse with hazelnut shortbread, floating island, cherry clafouti with brandy ice cream, for $8 each.

— Brasserie photo by Ashley Gieseking

Cheap Date: Love on the Half Shell

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

It’s hard to explain the fascination behind consuming raw oysters. Maybe it’s that juicy, salty-sweet flavor, coupled with a heavy hit of sinus-clearing horseradish. Maybe it’s the massive pitchers of beer that seem to drain themselves while you’re eating. Or, perhaps it’s the oyster-induced surge of dopamine and testosterone flowing through your veins as you pass an afternoon away on a crowded patio.

Yeah, it’s probably the beer. Regardless, for serious seafood fans, raw oysters are a gold standard, and these classic appetizers have kick-started romances for decades. Unless you’re dating a less-than-adventurous type of eater, an icy tray of raw oysters coupled with a smooth lager or a crisp glass of white can be an ideal cheap date.

Whether you know it or not, this is actually a great time to be a raw oyster fan. St. Louis is flush with raw bars and seasoned shuckers who ship live oysters in daily from both coasts, offering fresh treats on the half shell all year long. This means the summer season as well. (The old wives tale about oysters only being safe to eat during months with an ‘r’ in them has been effectively debunked by modern refrigeration and harvesting technologies.) Think of oysters as an affair reserved for the 1 percent? Think again. Any oyster bar worth its salt has weekday specials. Here, a sampling of the best year-round raw deals in town:


{DeMun Oyster Bar}

Since opening in late 2010 on the sleepy strip of restaurants, wine bars and workweek hideaways, DeMun Oyster Bar has consistently shelled out an impressively eclectic variety of fresh undersea creatures for a multiplying fan base [http://www.saucemagazine.com/a/1477]. Usually cracked open and served for $2 to $4 a pop, every weeknight from 4 to 6 p.m. and Monday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to close, chef’s choice oysters are available for half off. Booze is marked down appropriately: $5 house wines, $6 select specialty cocktails and $2 Schlafly products (May I suggest the summer lager?).

740 DeMun Ave., Clayton, 314.725.0322, demunoysterbar.com


{Sqwire’s}

Sqwire’s might not offer the largest oysters in town (honestly a little small for my taste), but they sure do have ‘em in bulk. And the chic, power player atmosphere is fun in itself. Friday night happy hour at this Lafayette Square institution sees the main bar teeming with thirsty young professionals on retreat from a long week downtown who order up tray after tray of oysters for $1 per. Drinks are also discounted Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.: $3 drafts, $2 domestic bottles, $4 house wines and $3 well cocktails. Monday through Thursday, happy hour offers oysters for $2.

1415 S. 18th St., St. Louis, 314.865.3522, sqwires.com 


{Coastal Bistro & Bar}

Picking up in the central Clayton location where Mosaic Bistro took a nose dive, Coastal’s raw bar offers the well dressed, see-and-be-seen crowd slimy little aphrodisiacs for just $1 every weeknight from 4 to 7 p.m. For a dollar more, patrons can opt for oyster shooters – swimming in their choice of pepper vodka or tequila and spicy tomato. Drink specials aren’t shabby either: house wines for $4, well cocktails for $3 and domestic beers for $2.50.

14 N. Central Ave., Clayton, 314.932.7377, coastalbistro.com 

{Bristol Seafood Grill}

To put it lightly, this Creve Coeur seafood powerhouse is not usually known for its bargain basement prices. But Sunday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., Bristol’s opens its doors and lowers everything on its raw bar for the huddled masses. Fresh oysters are served up for $1 apiece alongside $5 house wines, $5.95 martinis and handcrafted cocktails, and $1 off all beers and well cocktails.

11801 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, 314.567.0272, bristolseafoodgrill.com

 

 

 

Cheap Date: Mediterranean Tuesdays at Venice and Vine

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Once upon a time, the patio at The Venice Café was the place to be in the up-and-coming Benton Park neighborhood just west of Anheuser-Busch. Hot summer nights swelled with throngs of regulars and first-timers who sipped tall rum and cokes and frosty bottles of Red Stripe while pondering the mismatched, Xanadu-esque décor that transported them out of the Midwest for a few hours. Some came for the eats: massive plates of beef kabobs and jerk chicken pasta. Others arrived to watch the bartenders drop live mice into the snake terrarium behind the upstairs bar. But most came for the live music – and still do. Beginning at 9 p.m., regular groups of local talent – bluegrass, rock and folk bands – let loose on the downstairs main stage. No cover. No credit cards, either, in this wacky paradise, so bring some actual dollars.

To wash down all that free music you’ll be snapping to, take advantage of Venice’s sweet weekday deals. (You know CheapDate loves weekday deals.) When the sun goes down on Tuesdays, Venice treats patrons to an all-night happy hour with obscenely low prices: $1.50 cans, $2.25 A-B beers, $2.50 rail cocktails and $2 shots. No doubt Venice has begun to show her age – crowds have thinned out and the food is but a distant memory. But with stellar specials and psychedelic scenery, St. Louis’ most eclectic hipster hideout remains an underrated nightlife gem.




Though Venice’s kitchen has closed, the good news is the diverse and über-cheap fare of the South Grand strip is within striking distance. Before grabbing a spot at the bar, swing by The Vine Mediterranean Café and Market to partake in traditional Lebanese finger food. The romantic little venue with a bargain basement menu has earned serious street cred among discerning falafel fiends. Shared plates are always a plus. This place is flush with them.




Start out with the Hummus Deluxe for $6, topped with your choice of chicken or beef. Follow with a pair of grilled, pita-wrapped kabob sandwiches. Two standouts are the Sujok ($6), a spicy Lebanese-style burger composed of peppery ground beef, lamb, onions, peppers, tomatoes and pickles, and the Beef and Chicken Shawarma ($6), which pairs slices of marinated chicken and beef with tomatoes, pickles, and tahini or garlic sauce.

Cheap Date: Picnic Under the Stars

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In honor of all the incredibly enjoyable weather that’s been happening as of late, this week’s Cheap Date focuses on evicting you and yours from those well-worn spots on the couch and rediscovering nature. It’s time to switch off Netflix, head outside, lay a blanket down, pop a cork and enjoy an evening under the stars.

Starting in a few weeks, the best time and place to do so will be Forest Park after dark during the monthly Star Parties.Beginning April 6 from 6 to 9 p.m., the St. Louis Astronomical Society will set up super telescopes outside of the Forest Park Science Center Planetarium. Grab a spot on the lawn and stick around till 7 p.m., when the party moves inside the Planetarium for a free showing of a Star Trek movie or episode in the Omnimax theater. The stargazing will be held on the first Friday of each month through October, but the indoor showing of Star Trek only runs until May 28, when the Star Trek exhibit ends. The best part: These star-studded events are free.



Your evening picnic menu can be as light and fun or as sumptuous and sensual as you want. Our advice: Aim for someplace in between. Throw in a cheap bottle of wine, and try to avoid foods that can’t be eaten with your hands. So, in the spirit of ditching sweater weather for good (hopefully), here’s our inexpensive and relatively easy-to-prepare suggestions for the perfect picnic that will only set you back about $34.



Croque Monsieur Sandwiches
A decadent ham and cheese snack made famous in Parisian cafes circa 1900

Makes 2 sandwiches

1 French baguette
Dijon mustard
½ lb. deli ham
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, divided
Butter

• Cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Spread a thin layer of mustard on one side of the baguette. Arrange a few slices of ham on the mustard side, then top with 1½ cups of the Gruyère.
• Cover the sandwich with remaining slice and butter the outsides. Starting with the bottom side up, broil for 6 to 7 minutes on a baking sheet. Flip the baguette so it is right side up, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese, and broil for another 5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Cut in half.



Herbed Roasted Chicken Drumettes
These finger foods can be enjoyed hot or cold and nicely complement the sandwiches.

1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ to 2 lbs. uncooked chicken drumettes
2 Tbsp. olive oil

• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
• Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the raw chicken and coat with the herb mixture.  Drizzle with olive oil and place in a casserole or baking dish.
• Bake for approximately 75 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and the juices run clear.

For dessert, consider strawberries dipped in Nutella. Wash everything down with a decent, inexpensive red.

Cheap Date: Trivia Nights

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Under normal circumstances, all the random knowledge bouncing around in your head does about as much good as a personal IOU from the late, great auto exec John DeLorean. Moreover, it’s sad to say that (unless you’re dating the coolest female in the world) your uncanny ability to recite every line from Stephen Seagal’s Under Siege isn’t exactly the most direct route to her affections. Sigh, it’s a cruel world – but the pain can be dulled considerably by grabbing a pint and putting that stockpile of absurd information to good use in this week’s cheap date: trivia night.

The folks in St. Louis may not have invented trivia night, but they’ve definitely taken to it. Not quite as overblown as they were a few years back, local trivia nights have settled down into tight little factions, forging a subculture of raucous, pop cultural conjurers who would love to have you and yours join the action. If you’re into the whole parish rectory scene or softball league crowd, check out TriviaNights.net for extensive local listings. But for a date night, it’s much better to find an empty booth at a local pub, loads of which offer brazenly low-priced food and drinks. Here are a few standouts:




WEDNESDAYS:

Mike Duffy’s – Richmond Heights

Successful teams are handed buckets of free beer at this much heated, Richmond Heights showdown. Starting at 9 p.m., enjoy four rounds of trivia while passing around $6 pitchers of A-B products or $3.50 Boulevard Wheat pints. 6662 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights, 314.644.3700, mikeduffys.com

Market Pub House

A newcomer on the Delmar strip, Market Pub offers an increasingly popular trivia night every Wednesday from 8 till 10 p.m., followed by $1 PBR pitchers, a late-night happy hour including: $2 PBRs, $3 16-ounce drafts, $3 wells, and $4 you-call-its.
6655 Delmar Blvd., U. City, 314.727.8880, marketpubhouse.com

The Post Sports Bar

This Maplewood trivia night mecca is not for the faint of heart. Five rounds of intensity, beginning at 8 p.m., match teams vying for free buckets. Champs take home $50 gift cards. Show up in advance for a solid happy hour that features $5 appetizers, $2 domestic pints and $3 wells. Specials start back up at 9 p.m. with $3 Jaeger bombs and $2.50 domestic bottles. 7372 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.645.1109, thepostsportsbar.com




SUNDAYS:

Llywelyn’s Pub – Soulard

This trivia night has been a personal favorite for many years. Show up at 7 p.m., slide into a booth, order a $2 pitcher of Pabst, and prepare for the madness. Happy hour prices ($3 drafts, $3 well cocktails, $12 domestic buckets, half-priced appetizers) are available from 8 p.m. (when trivia kicks off) till close. 1732 Ninth St., St. Louis 314.436.3255, llywelynspub.com

Cheap Date: Wrestling Night at South Broadway Athletic Club

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

In the early stages of a romance, common sense dictates a certain amount of fiction. With the honeymoon phase in full effect, inevitably you’re compelled to mask those undesirable traits that might put you out of your would-be partner’s good graces. It starts with making an effort to do the small things: open doors, make your own bed, floss your teeth more than twice a year. Suddenly your clothes are impeccable. Impossibly, your apartment floor is visible. Out of nowhere, you’ve become a non-smoking, amateur wine connoisseur with an eye for the finer things.

Living this brand of lie can get expensive. Happily, it can be effectively sidestepped before it even starts with one of the cheapest dates our fair city has to offer. Wrestling night at Soulard’s infamous South Broadway Athletic Club. There’s no better way to gauge a significant other’s humor, personality and long-term compatibility than by an evening of gritty, lowbrow, so-bad-it’s-good entertainment.



Some of the hottest in town, advance tickets at South Broadway are $7. For that, you get a night’s worth of chair-smashing, choke-slamming, pile-driving action in a fantastically dingy, church rectory setting, surrounded by a crowd who fails to see the problem with mullets and clashing camouflage tank tops. The bar (choking with cigarette fumes and straight out of your uncle’s basement) shells out pitchers of A-B products at $8 a pop (single cocktails are $3). Hot dogs ($1.50) are courtesy of the SBAC Ladies Auxiliary Club.



Expect at least one “Why are we here again?” After that, if your date still can’t appreciate the ambiance, cheap beer, trashy entertainment and junk food, it might be time to rethink your future.

Warning: Do not attempt this until you’ve been on a minimum of three prior dates. Also, you’ll need some friendly backup in the form of at least one other (good-humored) couple.

March 12 is the next match up.  Call now.

Cheap Date: Arty Party at the Four Seasons

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

CheapDate_logoMore often than not, St. Louis is billed as a cultural wasteland. But beneath the city’s sometimes-Philistine facade, a healthy little nest of artists toil into the night, transforming canvas and clay. This week offers a rare opportunity to impress a date by schmoozing it up in the local art scene (or, at least, faking it) and, in the process, grabbing some free intoxicants.

Tonight kicks off the first Arty Party, an event series showcasing local artists in the vanguard of the creative world. The good news: It’s hosted at the gorgeous Four Seasons Hotel.

020212_CD_Bird

Jeff Kapfer art

The better news: It’s free of charge and open to the public. From 6 to 9 p.m., guests are welcome to join painter Jeff Kapfer at his display in the Four Season’s swanky Presidential Suite, where they can mingle, check out the art, chat it up with the artist and grab some free cocktails and light snacks. Booze, schmooze and a little culture thrown in? Hello brownie points.

020212_CD_Cielo

Cielo’s pan-seared tuna caponata

Following the showing, escort your date over to Cielo Restaurant and Bar – the hotel’s rooftop eatery – for an informal cocktail reception. From there, you can break off on your own and still enjoy a 30-percent discount on your tab. At that rate, four indulgent appetizer plates – like marinated shrimp, calamari salad, arancini, veal-stuffed olives – will run you less than $20. Better still, Cielo boasts some of the most expertly poured drinks in town in a great, upscale atmosphere for a weekday date. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Cheap Date: A Tuesday Night in Soulard

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

CheapDate_logoThe beauty of planning a date for a Tuesday night is the element of surprise. No one expects a romantic rendezvous two days into the workweek, on perhaps the most wretched of days. There are also certain underestimated perks of playing the Tuesday night card – namely intimate, sparsely populated venues with fantastic weekday deals.

With a little homework, it’s possible to mastermind a casual night on the town for much less than you’d be laying down on a crowded Friday night. Here’s a cheat sheet for one recently designed:

International Tap House leads the pack in a fantastic little trend: local pubs that, rather than offer food, focus on the booze and encourage patrons to bring in carryout. I-Tap’s Soulard location is flush with nearby takeaway options, one of which is arguably the best example of non-St. Louis-style pizza brilliance in all of downtown: Feraro’s Jersey Style Pizza. A large, hand-tossed, brick-oven beauty with two toppings will run you about $20. Well worth the trip.

111711_CD_zwickel

Grab a to-go order from Feraro’s 10th Street location, just blocks away from iTAP’s Soulard beer mecca. On Tuesdays, from 8 p.m. till close, customers can enjoy Local Brewery Night, which features $3 drafts and bottles of Missouri-based microbrews. There’s a leather couch with your name on it. Looking for something smooth to wash down that slice of Feraro’s? Try what is fast becoming a local barroom staple: Urban Chestnut’s Zwickel – a smooth drinking, classic European lager crafted in the Midtown brewery.

111711_CD_1860s

Though i-Tap has regular installments of live entertainment, Soulard’s real music epicenter is two blocks down South Ninth Street at 1860’s Saloon and Hardshell Cafe. Make this your next destination. Tuesday nights at 1860’s feature $2 PBRs – as well as no cover for the electric, blues and classic rock of the Jason David Cooper Band, a local mainstay that hits the stage every Tuesday at 9 p.m. And let’s be honest: Nothing pairs as well with the sounds of Muddy Waters and The Allman Brothers Band as cheap beer. Thankfully 1860’s doesn’t disappoint.

Cheap Date: Romance by the Amoco sign

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

CheapDate_logoI enjoy the bells and whistles (surround sound, stadium seating) of a state-of-the-art multiplex as much as the next man. But a date night calls for something less sterile than sitting in darkness for two hours at the Galleria or a faceless strip-mall movie theater.

Luckily, our town is flush with cinematic alternatives (the best of which offer alcohol). Easily one of the most underrated of these is the Hi-Pointe Theatre, a classy old joint teeming with nostalgia. It’s the perfect spot for an easy, inexpensive and memorable date. The old-school décor and giant marquee hearken back to a simpler time. So do the prices.

High Point

Hi-Pointe Theatre

Monday through Thursday is the prime time to go, when tickets are just $5 a pop. For a dollar more on weekends, you can get in on the campy wackiness of late-night grind-house films, complete with zany pre-show trailers starting at 11:30 p.m. The theater also offers a classic film series on Saturdays at 10:30 for $5. Before the lights dim, grab a glass of wine for $4 or a brewski for just $3.

Par

Par Lounge

The cherry on top of this cheap date: Par Lounge, a laid-back, intimate and equally overlooked spot that is all but built-in next door to the Hi-Pointe. An upscale little hole in the wall where stiff drinks are enjoyed on leather couches, Par is the ideal starting or finishing point for this date. Even better, the cocktails won’t set you back much. Get there before 8 o’clock Wednesday through Saturday nights, and enjoy bottles of beer for a measly $2, well drinks for just $3 and calls for $4. House-made specialty pizzas at Par are likewise low-cost ($7) and available till the doors close at 3 a.m.

Cheap Date: Turkey Cutlets au Vin

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

CheapDate_logo

Welcome to Cheap Date, a new online column that takes the stress out of planning your next date. Every other Thursday, Nightlife reviewer Matt Berkley will reveal how you can enjoy all our city has to offer for under (or around) $30.

Only a few things are certain when it comes to your girl. First, not sticking up for her in a crowded environment (actually, make that any environment) is a deal breaker – regardless of how tall, dark and broad-shouldered you are. Second, she’s naturally more drawn to a guy who opts for a single-malt Scotch over a Red Bull and vodka. Third, if you want to make her happy, wait for the booth; a table is OK, but – trust me – she prefers the booth. Finally, if you want to make the lady really happy, cook for her. An intimate meal fashioned in your own kitchen signals not only that you care for her but also that you have a clue as to how to care for yourself. The best part about this date (aside from being a fraction of the cost of a decent restaurant meal) is that it can be easily tailored to your significant other’s tastes.

121511_CD_booth
Booth at Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood

For a cheap, easy dessert, hit the baking aisle and grab a packet of chocolate mousse mix. Prepare as directed, refrigerate for a few hours and serve with a handful of fresh strawberry slices. But first, dinner. This recipe is relatively simple and can easily be made for under $30, assuming you have few of these items in your kitchen.

121511_CD_CoqauVin

Traditional Coq au Vin

Turkey Cutlets au Vin
An alternative to the hearty French bistro classic, coq au vin, by Matt Berkley
4 Servings

4 boneless, skinless turkey cutlets
Flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. garlic powder, divided
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
Olive oil
¼ onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
¼ lb. sliced ham, finely chopped
½ cup red wine*
¾ cup chicken (or beef) stock
6 oz. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups uncooked penne pasta
1 lb. raw green beans

• Coat the turkey cutlets with flour and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder on each side.
• Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and a dash of olive oil in a deep sauté pan on medium-low heat.
• Add the coated turkey cutlets to the pan and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.
• Using the same pan, sauté the onion, carrot and chopped ham in 1 tablespoon of butter until the onion is translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
• Stir in the wine, stock, mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, thyme and several dashes of salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on medium-low heat.
• Meanwhile, prepare the pasta until just al dente. Drain immediately and add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pasta.
• Add the cooked turkey cutlets back to the pan and spoon the juices over the meat. Cover and simmer for 8 more minutes.
• Place the green beans inside a steam basket in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and steam until bright green but still firm. Remove from water and set aside.
• Divide the pasta between four plates. Top each with a cutlet and spoon the pan sauce over each plate. Serve with the steamed green beans (cooked last).

*Use whatever bottle of red you have on hand. I used Yellow Tail cabernet sauvignon.

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