Review: Three Kings in University City
In an age of trendy wine bars and cocktail joints, it can be easy to forget how effortlessly enjoyable a classic pub can be if it’s done right. Authentic, understated and more comfortable with every deep sip of a cold, foamy pint – only a handful of places in town hit this chord, but the new Three Kings Public House does so with ease.
Immediately popular for its strong drinks and live music scene, Three Kings is a welcome addition to The Loop, which has seen abundant changes of late. Situated in a prime spot across from The Tivoli – the former home of Riddles Penultimate Wine Bar and Café – Three Kings emerged this spring from a massive overhaul, displaying a new coat of arms and revealing itself as masculine-cool reincarnate. The much-needed face-lift to the space was ably helmed by of a trio of new partners, including Derek Flieg (former Riddles manager), who held on to the original wood bar while tearing out the worn fixtures and lackluster décor.
When it comes to pubs, simplicity is good, kitschy is not – a fact well understood by the team at Three Kings, who focused on the clean, dark wood throughout. Neither a Ye Olde Country Inn nor a cookie-cutter faux Gaelic homage to Guinness and neon clover, Three Kings is of that rare breed of comfortable, contemporary public houses ubiquitous to the side streets of London and Manchester, at once both dark and brooding and warm and inviting. I could do without the flat screens, though.
Management terms the upscale scene “eclectic and intimate.” For some, these can be code words masking pretentious clientele and overpriced hooch. Thankfully, neither is the case here. Nightly, the sidewalk tables teem with casually dressed, unassuming young couples and groups of friends in flip-flops and T-shirts. After dark, the oversized side booths and high-top tables of the front room fill with fans of the live jazz, blues and rock bands that jam till the late hours (no cover charge). Hovering over these are immense photos of the neighborhood – a nice historical touch. Farther back, more tables in a dining room fill with older patrons dining on gastropub fare – house-made soups, flatbreads, char-grilled burgers, lamb and such. And through a side door, additional outdoor seating in a smart alleyway retreat for smokers.
Before ducking into any alleys, get yourself in the mood for beer. Set off from the main bar is a gorgeous independent row of draft beer taps, about 20 in all, a smorgasbord of imports and local microbrew options to explore. And well-chosen ones at that: Guinness, Newcastle, Strongbow Cider, Magic Hat No. 9, multiple New Belgiums and Boulevards, Bell’s Oberon and Urban Chestnut’s Zwickel. Not sure? Not a problem. Try one of Three Kings’ beer flights – grouped for you or mix and match your own. Otherwise, hit up the attentive staff for a stiff and quickly served cocktail.
With everything it has going for it – location, style, atmosphere, a smart selection of alcohol, a seemingly built-in client base – it’s little surprise that the pub has become a neighborhood institution almost overnight. More than an alternative, Three Kings is the destination on Delmar.
STL AFTER DARK
Where: Three Kings Public House, 6307 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.721.3355 When: Mon. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Sun. – 11 a.m. to midnight
Check It: No cover for live music on the Delmar strip four nights a week.
Hipser or Hoosier: Casual pubgoers, jazz fiends, Delmar hipsters, older couples, discerning drinkers.
Suds or ’Tinis: A serious draft selection of local and import brews.