the bar at scapegoat tavern & courtyard photo by jonathan gayman

Review: Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard

Editor's Note: Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard has closed.

Scapegoat is the Central West End’s latest and greatest haven for classic cocktail lovers. With an enviable location, a smart, understated look and a well-executed bar program, this joint has all the important things going for it.

Little brother to Scape proper, Scapegoat is a laid-back standalone bar complete with easy access to the former’s gorgeous, expansive back patio. The meticulously overhauled and shined-up space, which previously housed Crepes Etc., is a study in simplicity. A rich wood bar, bright subway tile backsplash, intricately tinned ceiling and black-and-white checkered floor give the relatively small room a clean, classic look. This dimly lit canvas is dressed with a long leather bench, a few high-top wood tables, metal bistro chairs and a handful of flat-screen TVs.

order the new orleans classic cocktail, vieux carre // photo by jonathan gayman

Don’t expect to fight for a seat. Though busy on Friday nights, the bar is rarely at capacity. Both the wait staff and the clientele are young and well dressed. You’ll have to go up the street for the college-aged crowd; Scapegoat is for those who have moved past the nightclub scene. If I weren’t a married man, I’d definitely be spending some quality time here looking for my next ex-girlfriend. Stiff cocktails, attractive young professionals and flirty singles abound.

A list of approachable beers and house cocktails make up the drink menu, but the true stars of the show are the classic cocktails. A real standout was the Vieux Carre, a New Orleans-style Manhattan of sorts, melding Courvoisier, Benedictine, Dolin sweet vermouth and two kinds of bitters with a healthy, though not overpowering, dose of George Dickel rye. Served up, this was one of the better whiskey cocktails I’ve ever had. Rum fans will be pleased by Scapegoat’s version of Planters Punch, flowing with Myers’s Dark rum and citrus with a grenadine topper. Patrons looking for something entirely different can choose from signature cocktails named after historical scapegoats. The sweet and sassy Pandora is a tequila-based Champagne cocktail mixed with St. Germaine and served in a tall flute. Or, leaning more toward frat strength is the Buckner, a beer-garita mixing gold and silver tequilas with fresh lime juice, triple sec and Schlafly Pale Ale.

While the drinks are high quality, I could find nothing dynamic or rewarding on Scapegoat’s food menu, which lulled me into submission with promises of fun comfort food. The bartender offered Scape’s larger menu as well, which is available since the two share a kitchen. Looking back, it would have been worth the extra few dollars. Instead, I dug into plate after plate of disappointment.

planters punch at scapegoat is a mix of myers’s dark rum, citrus and grenadine // photo by jonathan gayman

Lollipop-style Frenched chicken wings had a lackluster seasoning that not even a river of ranch or blue cheese sauce could rectify. But that side of ranch came in handy for the trio of pork tacos. A sprinkle of onions and dash of hot sauce on a bed of bland pork wrapped in an equally bland flour tortilla did not make for a good time. That the bartender swore by the tacos as the best thing on the menu made the experience worse. The fennel sausage flatbread, which promised a delightful sounding tomato basil sauce and mozzarella, delivered instead a drooping few squares with rubbery cheese worthy of a high school cafeteria.

This is hardly a deal breaker, though. Minus the lousy edibles, the swanky, informal drinking den pushes balanced, straightforward cocktails worthy of a return visit across its slick wood bar. An ideal spot for a first date, casual pre-dinner drink or nightcap with friends, Scapegoat is a sexy, no-nonsense, cosmopolitan cocktail oasis.

Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard
52 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis, 314.361.7227,