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Nov 18, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Dogtown’

Extra Sauce: Casting a line with Friday Night Fish

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

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I met Stephen Ibendahl in the basement of St. James The Greater Catholic Church in Dogtown. I wasn’t searching for any religious experience, but rather a plate piled high with golden fried fish. And who better to ask than the man behind Friday Night Fish, a website dedicated to that most popular of St. Louis traditions, the Lenten fish fry.

Each year, Christians abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, a 40-day period of reflection and sacrifice before Easter. During this time, many churches host a Friday fish fry where those observing Lent or those hankering for a piece of battered cod can get their fill.

We staked out our place in line, which coiled around the perimeter of the basement, and as we inched forward, Ibendahl told me how his quest for the best fish fry in St. Louis began.

A decade or so ago, he lived in the Central West End, and his parish at the time, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, only hosted one fish fry a year. This forced him to find fries outside the neighborhood. A self-professed “stats geek,” he started keeping track of his favorites for fun, until his wife, Elise Ibendahl, encouraged him to take his hobby online.

Since then, Ibendahl, usually accompanied by his wife, three children and assorted other relatives, has been to more than 60 fish fries, and his website clocks 30,000 to 40,000 views each Lent. For many area aficionados, it’s become the definitive resource for all things fish fry.

“Between the city and the inner-ring suburbs, we’ve probably been to almost all of them,” Ibendahl said. In fact, he’s hit so many that he’s now circling back and revisiting ones he hasn’t been to in years, like St. James, which he reviewed in 2007 and 2013.

Ibendahl’s process is simple, his rules minimal. Fish fries are evaluated on four basic criteria: food, value, atmosphere and way finding/greening (how easy is it to find the dining room and whether recycling efforts are in place), then given a rating of one to four fishes.

Though he has occasionally sampled non-parish fish fries put on by organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ibendahl won’t review restaurants featuring Lenten fish specials – the fries he attends have to be volunteer-run operations. He pointed to St. Pius V Catholic Church on South Grand as a prime example of a fish fry that hits all the marks.

“St. Pius really has all of the elements,” he said. “Great atmosphere, really good food and they use real plates. It’s the quintessential fish fry.”

Ibendahl’s verdict on our St. James’ experience: three out of four fishes – a solid showing. Good fish, decent sides with pasta and desserts as high points, he noted, though signage was definitely lacking. As for me, I was impressed there was a professional card reader available for those without cash.

Ibendahl used to try a new fry every week, but now he’s focused on fish fries closer to home and smaller-scale fries held only once or twice a year. He figures he’s still got at least a few years left on the fish fry circuit. His desired end to this quest: support the local fish fry community … and maybe just a touch of notoriety.

“I’ve always wanted to be in The A-Hed column of The Wall Street Journal,” Ibendahl said. “I always thought it’d be cool to be mentioned on there.”

 

First Look: Mac’s Local Eats in Dogtown

Monday, March 6th, 2017

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Last year, a broken sewage line during Game 7 of the World Series shuttered Tamm Avenue Grill for several months, during which the Dogtown bar and restaurant underwent a total renovation. During the hiatus, co-owner Bob Brazell (who also co-owns Byrd & Barrel and upcoming Good Fortune) said he and his partners decided to up the bar’s food game.

They approached Chris “Mac” McKenzie of local food distributor Mac’s Local Buys to start a new concept that would a step or two above the usual bar food. McKenzie partnered with Completely Sauced owner Bob Komanetsky to operate an independent kitchen inside Tamm Avenue Grill. And so Mac’s Local Eats was born on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Mac’s menu features items made with premium ingredients like dry-aged beef for the smashed burgers (which come in single, double, triple and quadruple patty versions), sausage links and boudin balls. Most everything at Mac’s is made in-house, and since Mac’s buys whole animals, the menu frequently changes.

McKenzie said sometime before May, he’ll open Mac’s Local Market in the same building, where he’ll offer fresh cuts of meats and other local products. The market will also serve as Mac’s Local Buys HQ for CSA and meat share pickups.

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky

Related Content
The Scoop: The Corner Cup coffee shop opens in Dogtown

The Scoop: Chef Bob Brazell launches catering business, revamps The Corner Cup menu

The Scoop: Former J. Buck’s chef Patrick Viehmann steps into Seamus McDaniel’s

Monday, February 8th, 2016

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Former J. Buck’s executive chef Patrick Viehmann took his experience at the now-shuttered Clayton restaurant to Dogtown in January when he joined Seamus McDaniel’s as general manager. Viehmann said he plans to keep Seamus’ family traditions alive and said he hasn’t changed the Dogtown institution since his arrival.

“One thing I don’t want to do is make an abundance of changes to a restaurant that has already succeeded,” Viehmann said, adding that some patrons may have feared he would shake things up. Viehmann said he will keep the integrity of the food, staff and overall feel of Seamus, but he is working on additions to the menu.

Owner Susan Venincasa said Viehmann will balance his abilities and customer expectations. “He made a commitment to me to enhance Seamus with his skills and experience, but to keep the menu and integrity the same,” Venincasa said. “I’m very excited for him to be here.”

 

 

The Scoop: The Corner Cup coffee shop opens in Dogtown

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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Tamm Avenue Grill owners Rusty Eubank, Rick Destefane and Ben Strake have turned the empty former coffee shop in the corner of their building into The Corner Cup. Located at 1221 Tamm Ave., in Dogtown, The Corner Cup serves drip and espresso coffees and specialty breakfast items.

“People kept coming down the street going, ‘Do you guys do coffee? Do you guys do coffee?’ because this used to be a coffee shop years ago,” Strake said. “So it just became self-evident that there was a need for it in the neighborhood.”

The renovation of the 16-seat coffee shop features many refurbished and recycled materials, such as tabletops made from 100-year-old wood and a back wall paneled with a former chicken coop roof. Even the pastry case was made from a cabinet Strake said they found while cleaning out the garage behind the building.

The Corner Cup is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and serves food until 2 p.m. The breakfast menu features several paleo options like the portabella Benedict – two mushroom caps stuffed with sauteed spinach and topped with poached eggs – or the caveman omelet, which is a carnivorous dish stuffed with ham, bacon, hamburger and turkey sausage.

Vegetarian items are also available (The herbivore omelet features a mélange of mushrooms, onion, broccoli and green and red bell peppers.), as well as a rotating selection of grab-and-go baked goods like house-made muffins, croissants and vegan granola bars. Strake hopes to add pour-over coffees, smoothies and more vegan and gluten-free food options as the coffee shop grows.

“We want to cater to people who really care about what they’re putting in their body,” Strake said. “We want people who follow these different types of eating habits to have choices here. ”

On the other side of the building, Tamm Avenue Grill will see some big changes, too, beginning March 18. The game room, which current seats 20 to 30, is sectioned off from the rest of the bar and grill. Strake plans to knock down walls to open up the space,  add communal tables and new ceilings, and make space for live music performances and karaoke. Outside, the parking pad and garage behind the building will be transformed into a full bar and patio with 40 seats.

Once the weather warms, Strake will break out an electric car that will deliver Tamm Avenue Grill and The Corner Cup food to Dogtown residents. Strake even hopes to find a way to configure a mobile drip station to the vehicle to deliver fresh coffee right to customers’ doors. Strake expects construction to Tamm Avenue Grill to be complete by April 1. Grand opening celebrations for The Corner Cup and the newly renovated Tamm Avenue Grill will take place in early April.

 

 

Stocking Up on Pie, Pie, Pie

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

111611_pieThis time of year, we’re familiar with stories about Black Friday, when droves of people line up at big box retailers the day after Thanksgiving. Folks line up in Dogtown too, but not in hopes of snagging the latest electronic gizmo. There, they line up for pie.

Sugaree owner Pat Rutherford will have all the traditional Thanksgiving favorites on hand – pumpkin, apple-caramel and pecan – as well as more inventive interpretations like Berries of the Forest and something Rutherford calls Chocolate Seduction: a chocolate chess pie with a hot fudge glaze.

The bakery is also whipping up pumpkin whoopie pies and has added an autumn spice cake to its seasonal repertoire, which combines layers of sweet pumpkin cake with a creamy pumpkin mousse. “The one pie I won’t do is mincemeat,” Rutherford admitted. “I just can’t stand the taste of it.” For those of you who like to plan ahead, they do have several varieties that freeze well, including sweet potato and strawberry rhubarb.

Its name to the contrary, I Scream Cakes on Cherokee Street is also offering some nontraditional pie flavors for Thanksgiving, including a vegan option. Owner Kerry Soraci’s pies come with a nutty meringue crust (gluten-free!) and several choices of ice cream filling. We’re wild about the Mexican chocolate with a cream-cheese icing. Sweet, savory, scrumptious.

Both ladies urged customers to call ahead and place orders. You have until Friday. After that, you just might have to bake something yourself.

Nora’s sandwich fun

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

081810_NorasIf our August Art of the Sandwich feature didn’t make your mouth water for some goodness between the bread, maybe a trip over to Nora’s Sandwiches, Soups & Salads in Dogtown will.

The restaurant’s Beat the Clock offer encourages diners to arrive at the cafe between 5 and 7 p.m. Once you order, the time you walked through the door becomes the price you’ll pay for any sandwich on the menu. (Arrive at 5:05, and you pay $5.05, arrive at 6:50 and pay $6.50.)

Their impressive list of sandwiches include the new Big Bad Wolf, which, as the fairy tale goes, contains three pigs. This meaty meal layers on the swine, complete with pork loin, ham and bacon, and topped with spicy pepper jack cheese and sweet honey mustard.

The For Pete’s Sake, meanwhile, is named after The Brady Bunch’s Peter Brady, who, you will recall, was a fan of the phrase “pork chops and applesauce.” The sandwich touts apple-smoked pork loin, caramelized onions, melted brie, bacon and, of course, applesauce. Sounds yummy – and clever, too.

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