Charcoal House is a St. Louis landmark
When George Angelos and his brother Steve bought Charcoal House in 1980, they had a simple plan: to keep things more or less exactly as they were. “How can you change something that’s very successful?” George asked. That maxim has served the Angelos brothers well for 42 years. Their venerable Rock Hill steakhouse retains a distinct midcentury ambiance that’s only one strand of a St. Louis dining story that began at 9855 Manchester Road on Valentine’s Day 1961, when the restaurant initially opened.
When asked for the key to Charcoal House’s longevity, George Angelos responds without hesitation. “Because we’re here,” he said. “The owners are present, and we greet every individual customer. We know their first and last names, and they know us.” And “us” isn’t just George and Steve, but also the several employees who have been with the restaurant for as long as 30 years.
That continuity of personnel helps when it comes to maintaining the standards that have endeared Charcoal House to generations of customers. Repeat business is the restaurant’s bread and butter, and George is proud of a customer base that includes some of the region’s most influential families and business leaders. “From Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Glendale, Ladue, the city … we have the best clientele,” he said.
Customers who grew up celebrating family birthdays at Charcoal House now bring their children. Some diners observe personal rituals, such as ordering the same cocktail a much-missed grandparent would always sip on. It’s the kind of restaurant where customers have favorite tables, where every square foot has probably been the scene of someone’s proposal, graduation dinner or milestone anniversary.
For George Angelos, a visit to the doctor would ultimately alter the course of his own relationship with Charcoal House. Born in Greece, the Angelos brothers were then working at legendary St. Louis restaurant and hotel Busch’s Grove and dreaming of owning their own place. George’s doctor alerted him to a possible opportunity. “The previous owner and myself had the same doctor, and my doctor said, ‘I think Charcoal House might be up for sale,’” George said. Initially, the owner was not completely sure he wanted to sell. However, George and Steve were persistent, and on April 1, 1980, the deal was done.
The Angelos brothers never looked back. “Back in the ’80s and ’90s, we were four deep at the bar,” George said. “People would wait an hour and a half for a table.” On weekends, a pianist would sit at the piano in the corner by the entrance and entertain guests. The piano is gone, but most of what made Charcoal House a favorite haunt in earlier eras remains intact, from the dining room’s white-tableclothed elegance to evergreen signatures like the Steak by George, a center-cut filet mignon served with onion rings. In addition to the steaks, there are dishes like the rack of Colorado lamb with housemade rosemary sauce, Norwegian salmon and lobster.
One point of pride for George is the restaurant’s reliance on housemade sauces and dressings, such as the mushroom sauce that accompanies the Charcoal House Special filet mignon. “There’s no microwave oven in the kitchen,” he said, smiling. Behind the bar, cocktails are made with similar care. “We make the best martinis and Manhattans,” George said. “We’re very generous with our portions.”
When the time comes for himself and Steve to step away from the restaurant, George hopes Charcoal House will stay in the family. But retirement? “Not at the present time,” he responds, short and to the point. After all, he has a restaurant to run.
9855 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.968.4842, charcoalhousestl.com
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