South City sophisticate

Imagine yourself in a comfortable, low-lit booth, silverware sitting in a Mason jar on the table, with ammo hanging near the rows of liquor and New Order playing on the jukebox. A two-decades-old poster on the wall announces former mayor Vince Schoemehl’s next run for office, and the neon in the window advertises Pabst, the new young person’s drink of choice. And while it’s obvious you’re not in a chic bistro, you are eating curried brussels sprouts, a salad topped with candied sunflower seeds and a BLT stuffed with basil.

The unassuming sophistication of The Bleeding Deacon is such that you never feel out of place. Want a hot dog? It’s got ’em. Hummus? Done. Chicken salad? Check. But none of these items are prepared the way you’d think a grunge-ish bar in south St. Louis would prepare them.

The side dishes, offered in two portion sizes, are the perfect starter for a visit to The Deacon. There’s the lemon-thyme hummus, heavy on the garlic with the right amount of lemon and thyme, that’s kicky and creamy, topped with scallions and paprika, and served with soft, warm pita bread.

Also offered is the spicy coleslaw, unexpectedly made with brussels sprouts; they’re chopped and mixed with a zesty spice blend. It’s perfect for those who, like me, dislike the creamy or vinegar sort and prefer something a little bit out-of-the-box.
Then there’s the smoked mashers, potatoes intensely smoked and not whipped but mashed, so as to leave you feeling like you’ve eaten something substantial. Flavored with scallions (seems to be a trend here) and a pat of real butter, it’s another of The Deacon’s unexpected twists on a familiar dish.

The Public House Salad, made with fresh greens – no iceberg! – is offered with candied sunflower seeds, Gorgonzola and your choice of house-made dressing, of which the choices are many. It’s also topped with bean sprouts, making this already fresh salad even fresher.

The Boudin veggie burger, made with white beans and rice, is moist and savory. Sage is the dominant flavor here, giving the burger a Thanksgiving-stuffing taste, but it’s nicely balanced by the Creole rémoulade, tomato, lettuce and onion.

I’m typically wary of meatloaf, but The Deacon’s version of the dish, touted as its specialty, is unreal. This slab of homemade goodness isn’t overly dense, and is perfectly spiced and blended. It’s topped with tender haricots verts and a dark bourbon ketchup, then served open-faced on a toasted wheat roll. All the flavor is well-distributed till the last bite.

The charbroiled chicken sandwich, on the other hand, isn’t as successful. It’s piled high (almost too high) with that delicious spicy coleslaw and sprinkled with anise, but the one thin slice of multigrain bread and the dry boneless breast are disappointing. The sandwich also lacks the flavor that the other menu options offer. The locally cured salami, Dijon and sprouts on the hot salami sandwich deliver on the flavor front, but overall fall short with a skimpy amount of red peppers and mozzarella cheese.

It’s obvious that each dish has been carefully constructed to offer patrons top-notch affordable food in a relaxed setting. Whether mashed with jicama, topped with scallions or mellowed out with some sprouts, The Bleeding Deacon’s offerings add a welcome twist to the world of bar food.

Filling Up For $20 or Less
Dine-In-Ability: The the dark and slightly punky vibe, attentive service and great jukebox are half the experience, so dine in. Fair warning: The room gets smokier the later you go, but it is well-ventilated.
Try It, You'll Like It: The Curly Dog, complete with charbroiled onions, barbecue sauce and pickles.
Feast or Famine: With its inventive twists on American homestyle cooking – including a veggie burger – there’s something for everyone.
Where: The Bleeding Deacon, 4123 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.772.1813
When: Mon. to Sat. – noon to 11 p.m. (Bar till 1:30 a.m.), Sun. – noon to 11 p.m. (Bar till midnight)