First Look: Platypus in the Grove
Platypus, a new bar from bartenders and co-owners Tony Saputo and Meredith Barry, opened in the former U.R.B. space at 4501 Manchester Ave. in the Grove in mid-November.
“Everything about this is very serendipitous,” Saputo said. Saputo and Barry met a few years ago on a bus ride to Uncle Nearest, a whiskey distillery in Tennessee, where they sat and talked like they knew each other for years. After decades of combined experience in the bar industry, they both knew that they wanted a business of their own. “Even though it was scary [to open] after Covid, it’s just been a dream of ours – this is something I’ve been saving and chasing after for a while,” Barry said. They put together the money they had to realize their goal of opening Platypus.
The concept for the bar is simple: There are five house cocktails that rotate, and there are several classic cocktails always available. “The drinks will change all the time,” Barry said.
Look for drinks like the clarified milk punch; the latest version had oleo saccharum, citrus, pineapple juice, baking spices, Monkey Shoulder scotch, cherry liqueur and tea. Milk is then added to the mix and clarifies the cocktail after being in the fridge for 24 hours. When the milk curdles, they strain the mixture, leaving a clear, velvety, easy-to-drink cocktail. Barry plans on experimenting with making vegan milk punches using oat milk or coconut milk. Cocktails like this show off Saputo’s and Barry’s technical skill and dedication to creating interesting and delicious cocktails. The Stone Hesher was also a popular menu item made with rye whiskey, cherry liqueur, housemade orgeat, lemon and bitters. It’s here today and gone tomorrow, which is part of the fun. Look for riffs on popular menu items – and even frozen cocktails – in the future.
“We’re just trying to keep it fun and light and not feel adherence to anything. We feel with a rotating menu we can continue to keep our creative minds flowing, and it’s more exciting than just having a giant set menu,” Saputo said.
On the food side, DuckBill, which is owned and operated by Grant Heman (formerly of Retreat Gastropub), offers five items that rotate. Don’t miss the menu’s mainstay: Chooch’s Gourmet Popcorn Chicken, named for Heman’s daughter, Chandler. The food menu items pair well with the beverages. The crispy tofu with hints of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and ginger are dusted with corn starch and fried, giving them a lacy, shatteringly crisp crust. The hand-cut fries are perfectly cooked and finished with a house seasoning that is a little sweet and salty and perfect with the house made-ranch dressing. A roasted cauliflower tossed in harissa makes for a nice vegetarian bar snack. “We have vegan, vegetarian options, gluten-free fryers," Heman said. "We’re respecting everybody in general.”
The 3,500-square-foot space is divided into the three rooms: the main bar area, a dining area and a second dining area where DuckBill operates. The space seats 115 seats inside and 30 on the patio. Lots of artwork from Barry’s brother and the co-owners' personal collections hang on the walls. Original murals are also on the walls from different artists including Joe Albanese of Flyrite and Jason Spencer of Killer Napkins. The large Jason Spencer mural depicting a platypus that sits behind the main bar is a memorial for Saputo’s friend Brian “Shagy” Kennedy, who passed away 11 years ago from cancer. Here and there on the walls are black-and-white photographs of different friends who have passed away. “These are all guys that I met through this business. When I finally [decided to open my own bar], especially in St. Louis, everyone said, ‘It’s about time,’ and these are all people I wanted to carry with me, but didn’t make it. It’s a small thing but it makes this home for me,” Saputo said.
Platypus is open seven days a week from from 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. The kitchen closes at 12:30 a.m. daily.