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Photographs by Greg Rannells
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Benton Park Cafe
This is breakfast with attitude. Not the service, mind you, which is known for being personable. On paper is where the cheekiness shines through. The McGrittl This thumbs its nose at fast-food fare with scrambled eggs, cheese, and sausage sandwiched between fluffy pancakes, doused with syrup. The bombastic Chairman of the Board is filet mignon and eggs. A Benedict comes regular or Ultimate, rounded out with sautéed spinach, tomato, bacon, and avocado. Not even good ol’ biscuits and gravy escapes BPC’s sauciness—the biscuits are made with beer. 1900 Arsenal, 314-771-7200, bentonparkcafe.com.
Soulard Coffee Garden
You don’t eat at Soulard Coffee Garden. You dine. Since its humbler beginnings as a coffee-and-bagels joint a decade ago, this nabe favorite—already renowned for its pastoral back patio—has instituted table service and a full-on breakfast menu. It has six different omelets, four kinds of eggs Benedict, a quartet of breakfast sandwiches, steak and eggs, slingers, huevos rancheros…and a mimosa, poured tableside from your own single-serving bottle of bubbly. For dessert? Let them eat scones. 910 Geyer, 314-241-1464, soulardcoffeegarden.com.
The Mud House
An unofficial (read: imaginary) survey confirms: The Mud House is the only place in St. Louis (or on the planet?) where you can purchase a full English breakfast (fried eggs, beans, toast, tomato slices, sautéed mushrooms, buttered toast) and a used vinyl LP. At this wonderfully welcoming cafe, kickin’ it old-school is just how they do it—and not just when it comes to records. Traditional, straightforward breakfast items, like the heavenly French toast, are worth the (occasional) wait. 2101 Cherokee, 314-776-6599, themudhousestl.com.
Above the counter, there’s a framed copy of the 1974 album Flat as a Pancake by Metro East rockers Head East. The one-hit wonders (whose sole single was “Never Been Any Reason”) were photographed cramming pancakes here when it was known as the Rite-Way Diner. It’s all about the nostalgia—apropos for a joint that’s been around since 1958. The omelets, bacon and eggs, slingers, waffles, and pancakes are all solid, but it might just be the relentless Midwestern friendliness of the servers and cooks that keeps folks coming back. The photos of regulars on the walls and refusal to take credit cards complete the scene: This is a real diner with real breakfast for real people. 9638 Olive, 314-995-9945.
While purists debate the elements constituting an American diner, we’ll narrow it down to one: If the lights are on, breakfast better be as well. Make for a counter seat, an endless cup of Joe, and the forefather of the
St. Louis slinger—a hash of thick-cut corned beef, onions, and crisp breakfast potatoes, topped off with two sunny-side-up eggs. 541 N. Grand, 314-533-7500; 3139 S. Grand, 314-772-6100; citydiner.us.
Goody Goody Diner
All of a sudden, the buzz about Goody (pictured above right) is all about the chicken and waffles. But that’s only a small part of the largest, most definitive breakfast menu in town, which happily fulfills every hope of diner-lovers. The corned-beef hash is splendid. Lots of sunshine and friendly servers, a real cross-section of St. Louisans, and a fair amount of tourists fill the booths and counter. The wait on Saturday mornings is worth it; the wait on Sundays is not, as Goody’s is closed. 5900 Natural Bridge, 314-383-3333, goodygoodydiner.com.
Best Buffet at a Hotel: Provinces Restaurant, Hilton St. Louis Frontenac
Here’s a sleeper, or more accurately, a reason not to sleep away your Sunday. The nicely priced brunch at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac wins the bacon sweepstakes with crisp, thick slices and earns high marks for amazing baked chicken and a wide variety of traditional brunch fare. Fresh hollandaise brightens the Benedicts, served atop real Canadian bacon. And bonus points for special juices like strawberry-orange. 1335 S. Lindbergh, 314-993-1100, hilton.com.
Best Buffet at a Restaurant: Bristol Seafood Grill
Earning a lofty reputation in the brunch biz isn’t easy. Maintaining it is harder still. But 29-year-old Bristol has done just that, all the while remaining value-priced ($21.95 for adults). You can bet your bobber you’ll see some unusual seafood items—tempura-shrimp sushi rolls, cioppino, chipotle shrimp quesadillas—plus prime rib and a full breakfast bounty to maintain balance. Oh, and to those who think repeated offerings of fresh-from-the-oven, cinnamon-raisin biscuits are a diversion, we say divert already. 11801 Olive, 314-567-0272; 2314 Technology, O’Fallon, 636-625-6350; bristolseafoodgrill.com.
Best Buffet at a Casino: Landmark Buffet, Ameristar Casino
There are cheaper casino brunches in town, but there are none better than Ameristar’s $17.95 champagne brunch. One chef carves turkey breast, tri-tip, and bone-in ham to order; another stands at a circular, Mongolian-style iron griddle, awaiting your stir-fry request; a third, perched next to a three-tiered chocolate fountain, makes sure you’re aware of the myriad pastry selections. Even the pizza station goes all-out: The homemade pizza crusts have flaky, frilled edges. And yes, there’s the champagne bar—but somehow we were too dazed to indulge. 1 Ameristar, St. Charles, 636-949-7777, ameristar.com/St_Charles.aspx.
On a Sunday morning, we often crave something as simple as fried eggs, sausage links, and toast. When we can ramp up that order to farm-fresh organic eggs, chef Eric Kelly’s homemade chicken sausage, and lemon-currant scones or homemade sourdough toast—and can do so at one of Scape’s people-watching sidewalk tables, punctuated by steaming refills of illy coffee—we do. You’d like more privacy? ’Scape to the rear patio (pictured at left) or one of the semicircular booths inside, where chef Kelly’s food is equally delicious. 48 Maryland Plaza, 314-361-7227, scapestl.com.
Wild Flower draws guests to the corner of Euclid and Laclede avenues with a menu that goes beyond the same tired choices, with twists including a pulled-pork Benedict and a Monte Cristo sandwich. The quiche and pancakes change weekly; a bit of pumpkin brightens a waffle; biscuits and gravy comfort both stomach and soul. The lone difficulty at times is spotty service. Be patient. It’s worth the wait. 4590 Laclede, 314-367-9888, wildflowerdining.com.
Vin de Set
The expansive rooftop patio, complete with a heated tent to extend the alfresco season, provides a glimpse of the Arch and a great place to kick-start a lazy Sunday. Twenty bucks allows access to a buffet chock-full of the usual breakfast suspects, including made-to-order omelets and waffles and a prime-rib carving station. The real deal here, though, is the cocktails: A bloody Mary bar lets you fine-tune the classic eye-opener to your liking, and $10 unlimited champagne cocktails supply the perfect lead-in to an afternoon nap. Another mimosa? Yes, please. 2017 Chouteau, 314-241-8989, vindeset.com.
It’s hard to pick what’s most appealing about the patio at Table Three: the country air, the purl of the nearby fountain, the chatter of West County cardinals, that bartender making a bacon bloody Mary, the eggs Benedict with potato pancakes and fresh fruit… You decide. We can’t make up our minds. 16765 Main, Wildwood, 636-458-4333, table-three.com.
AND FOR THE CHEAPEST BREAKFAST IN TOWN...
For the times when dropping a Benjamin at brunch seems foolhardy (and that’s a lot of the time), try to snag a seat at the popular weekend brunch at Ari’s Restaurant & Bar. It’s hard not to be tempted by the slogan “same price, six years,” especially when that price is $6.95 for adults and $3.95 for kids. Sure, there are all the breakfast-buffet standards, but our preference is the omelet station and a request for one with fresh spinach, mushroom, Swiss, and feta. We stop for a scatter of link sausage and bacon, as well as a bit of fresh fruit from a bowl that’s the size of the Peloponnesus, and proceed to enjoy the bounty. At $6.95, the bloody Mary made with cucumber vodka is worth the splurge. Oh, and if you’re thinking Ari’s will get its evens by charging $2.50 for a cup of coffee with no refills, think again: Coffee and tea are included in the price—and have all the refills you want. —g.m. 3101 Hampton, 314-644-4264, arisrestaurantstl.com.
ST. LOUIS STALWARTS
• Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (two locations)
• Chris’ Pancake & Dining
• Majestic Restaurant
• Courtesy Diner (two locations)
• Eat-Rite Diner (two locations)
BEST SOUL FOOD
For those who’ve had enough of fancy, “rethought” morning food, this is the place. The cafeteria line doesn’t mean that eggs aren’t cooked to order, including tender scramblers. The potatoes? They’re fabulous, full of onions and gently sautéed to a tender brown. Beyond handmade biscuits and St. Louis’ usual breakfast items, think Polish sausage, salmon cakes, grits, sweet tea, and perhaps peach cobbler. The homey dining room, with its wide assortment of tables and chairs, gets lots of locals and everything from Bible study groups to post–night shift nurses. The only day of the week you can’t get breakfast here is Monday. 4909 Delmar, 314-361-0973.
BEST BISCUITS AND GRAVY
La Dolce Via
Long among the best bakeries in town, this place has morphed into a massively popular brunch destination. Maybe it’s the tiny, impossibly sweet wild blueberries in the pancakes, or the spicy-hot bed of potatoes hidden under the fluffy scrambled eggs. Probably, though, it’s the world’s most decadent breakfast that’s become the house specialty: cheese-threaded scone “biscuits” blanketed with a “gravy” of lamb sausage, topped with a fried egg. With desserts like mascarpone cheesecake and zabaglione, the via’s dolce here. It’s also brunch-o-licious. 4470 Arco, 314-534-1699, ladolceviabakery.com.
A LITTLE JAZZ WITH YOUR JAMBON?
The Sunday jazz brunch at Jimmy’s on the Park hits all the right notes. The brunch fare is decadent and over-the-top, the way brunch fare should be: eggs Benedict topped with tenderloin steak; real lump crabmeat folded into a “crablette” omelet; not tidy-and-trite crepes, but chicken-and-mushroom crepes bathed in a white-wine, lemon-sage cream sauce. Then there are the musical notes, scatted hither, yon, and onto the patio by the jazz duo of Jim Manley and Mark Friedrich, sounds made even sweeter by $5 cocktails. 706 DeMun, 314-725-8585, jimmyscafe.com.
A BETTER BREAKFAST... AT WHITE CASTLE?
While White Castle has served as the wee-hours breakfast of champions for generations, it’s now gone into the serious breakfast business. We call it serious because it cooks the eggs when ordered. White Castle’s square buns arrive laden with hard-fried egg and sausage, bacon, cheese, or—mirabile dictu—an original Castle, that onion-laden patty of heaven. An egg, a Castle, and jalapeño cheese is perhaps the most fabulous combination. Adding bacon might put this totally over the top. Bonus points to those locations that serve breakfast 24/7. Multiple locations, 800-843-2728, whitecastle.com.
Lu Lu Seafood
It’s noisy and always crowded. Whole families gather, awaiting those wheeled carts loaded with magic: plump shrimp dumplings, pork-stuffed buns, pot stickers, spareribs slathered in hoisin sauce, crispy spring rolls, custard tarts. As the trays roll by, you select what you want, eating at a leisurely pace while sipping steaming-hot tea and solving the world’s problems. Is there a more civilized way to start the day than with a dim sum brunch? Not likely. 8224 Olive, 314-997-3108, luluseafood.com.
Milagro Modern Mexican
Don’t let the label “modern” dissuade you. Milagro serves some of the best traditional and regional takes on Mexican cuisine in St. Louis. House-made chorizo spices up brunch classics like scrambled eggs and omelets, but the sausage also shines in Milagro’s take on breakfast tacos. A sleeper (siesta?) item is the traditional Mexican hangover cure chilaquiles (corn tortillas slowly simmered in salsa), the perfect companion to a sampling from the tequila-centric bloody Maria bar. 20 Allen, 314-962-4300, milagromodernmexican.com.
Taqueria El Bronco
Though it’s one of a trio of Cherokee restaurants that have recently relocated into expanded digs, El Bronco is the only one open early enough to enjoy a traditional Mexican breakfast. Consisting mostly of huevos scrambled with any number of meats, alongside a platter of beans and the best Mexican rice we’ve ever tasted, huevos con chorizo is the clear favorite. Scoop a little of each item into a freshly steamed corn tortilla, top it with one of two fresh salsas, and just try to tell us we’re wrong. 2817 Cherokee, 314-762-0691.
MOST UNLIKELY PLACES FOR BRUNCH
Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Café
Sure, you know the giant cupcakes—it’s what Jilly’s is all about. Except on Sunday mornings, when this cupcake bar becomes all about executive chef Dana Holland’s brunch fare. Holland puts out a helluva spread, served buffet-style, a gamut going from house-made pâtés and smoky lox to bananas-Foster French toast and stuffed egg stratas to six-cheese mac ’n’ cheese and even shrimp and grits. (Fair warning: Hot-pink walls, fluorescent lighting, and popularity with families means Jilly’s might be a bit rough on anyone who had a rousing Saturday night.) 8509 Delmar, 314-993-5455, jillyscupcakebar.com.
Three Monkeys holds court on its corner of the resurgent Morgan Ford strip in South City, enjoying the loyalty of neighbors, many of whom start their Sunday with an expansive brunch just a few feet from the lacquered bar where their Saturday night ended. Breakfast standards abound, but regulars make for the made-to-order omelet station and dig into lemon-kissed poached salmon between sips of a sinfully spicy bloody Mary. Wise monkeys, indeed. 3153 Morgan Ford, 314-772-9800, 3monkeysstl.com.
The Scottish Arms
For some, wrestling oneself from morning-after slumber merely to consume a meal is blasphemy; for others, Sunday brunch is a gustatory high holy day. We suggest a compromise: Indulge in The Highland Hangover (complete with Scotch eggs and bridies) or the Seamus MacBenedict (did he just walk by in a kilt?) at The Scottish Arms. Then embrace the dog that bit ye with a trip to the Arms’ bloody Mary bar, graced with more pickled veggies than Aunt Ailsa puts out at Hogmanay. 8 S. Sarah, 314-535-0551, thescottisharms.com.
BREAKFAST BEYOND ST. LOUIS
by dave lowry
Mel’s Illinois Riverdock
As if you need another reason to visit Hardin, Ill., the Riverdock’s fried chicken and house-made pies are legendary. But breakfast here, when the mist is rising off the nearby river, is special. Portions are daunting, from Frisbee-size Belgian waffles to giant slabs of sourdough toast. The Ramp Special provides caloric fuel for a river row to New Orleans. Mel’s is roomy, packed with rivermen and assorted Calhoun County characters. And how many breakfast joints offer an adjacent berthing slip? 310 S. Park, Hardin, Ill., 618-576-2362.
Breakfast is served all day here, and the emphasis is on the protein. Eggs are served with pork loin, salty country ham, or rib-eye steak. Buttermilk biscuits are a must. A four-egg ham-and-cheese omelet defines “hearty.” Worth the trip, the century-old brick building on a charming street is redolent of small-town charm. There’s a reason our ancestors regularly breakfasted on pie, and you can find out why here—the blueberry crumble can cure almost any problem. (So too the lemon meringue.) 114 Elm, Washington, 636-239-3213, cowansrestaurant.com.
Norman Rockwell would paint—and eat—at this iconic diner, complete with swivel stools, cozy booths, and coffee-cup chitchat. It has standard—and outstanding—breakfast fare, from silver-dollar pancakes to a nest of omelets. The draw, though, is the delectably offbeat: cheese-crammed quesadillas, cranberry-walnut bread, breakfast burritos swimming in green enchilada sauce, and a formidable chili–and–cheddar cheese slinger with hash browns and a fried egg that’ll pay for your cardiologist’s summer home on the Côte d’Azur. 130 N. Kingshighway, St. Charles, 636-946-5556.
Little Hills Winery
That classic breakfast staple, Riesling, just happens to be nearly perfect with a ham steak—and it just happens to be a specialty at this beautiful winery in historic St. Charles. The ham, along with eggs, fried potatoes, and toast or an omelet stuffed with Brie, bacon, and apple-onion marmalade, provides substantial sustenance for exploring Main Street. Opt for the patio if weather permits; inside, it’s charmingly rustic. And while lunch and dinner are often crowded, breakfast here is slow-paced and thoroughly enjoyable. 501 S. Main, St. Charles, 636-946-9339, littlehillswinery.com.
Roper's Regal Beagle
Yes, like the bar in Three’s Company. It’s Illinois’ homage to Chrissy, Jack, and Whatshername. The action’s only on weekend mornings; by 7 a.m., locals are arriving for renowned French toast. But the eggs Benedict is worthwhile, as are biscuits, fluffy and flaky, smothered in a thick, sausage-fragrant gravy, while a cheddar omelet is cheesier than a ’70s sitcom. The heated patio makes for a breakfast alfresco during all but the bitterest month. Inside, it’s spacious, lively, and fun. 3045 Godfrey, Godfrey, Ill., 618-466-2112, ropersregalbeagle.com.
Mac's Time Out Lounge
Cold beer, hot barbecue pork, and off-track betting under the same roof? Yes, dreams do come true. While the combination would seem to call for a seedy, Damon Runyon–style atmosphere, Mac’s is more Sex and the City upscale: hanging plants, a beautiful patio, and a splendid Sunday brunch. You can find the usual breakfast standards here, including omelets and pancakes—and if barbecue’s on the brunch menu, it’s Super Smokers–like. But the real fun is sipping OJ and laying a bet on that can’t-miss trifecta. 315 Belle, Alton, Ill., 618-465-1006.
BEST BRUNCH IN A BRUNCH-LOVIN' NEIGHBORHOOD
Brasserie by Niche
It might not sound good when you call it fat emulsified with fat and served over fat, but when you call it hollandaise and it comes drizzled over poached eggs and ham in Brasserie’s eggs Benedict, you start to get the feeling that the French knew something about breakfast that nobody else did. And Gerard Craft knows something about Benedicts; he replaces the traditionally lean Canadian bacon with rich, smoky, country ham in Brasserie’s rendition. On a snow-covered day in the Central West End, there are few cozier places than near the windows in Brasserie’s dining room. 4580 Laclede, 314-454-0600, brasseriebyniche.com.
The Original Pancake House
Discerning diners willing to menu-dive past 23 varieties of pancakes will find The Original Pancake House’s hubcap-size baked omelets—a feat of culinary architecture made possible by the humble egg. Browned from the oven and overflowing with cheese and toppings—payloads ranging from veggies to corned-beef hash—each omelet is served with a side of pancakes. It’s so massive, it’s perfect for sharing or to fuel you through a day of manual labor. 17000 Chesterfield Airport Rd., 636-536-4044, ophmo.com.
IN SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT EGGS BENEDICT
BY KATIE O'CONNOR
I’m often asked which is my favorite restaurant, and I’m often hard-pressed to answer. The truth is, it depends—on mood, occasion, craving. What do I like to cook? Again, it depends. Favorite dish? Ah, that one I can answer: eggs Benedict, the classic and delectable combination of English muffin, ham or Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
I blame my mother, who not only introduced me to the dish long ago, but also makes the best version in town, hands down. Her secret, besides perfectly poached eggs, is extra lemon juice in the hollandaise, brightening the buttery, smooth sauce with a lovely light tang.
I make a pretty mean Benedict myself (based on Mom’s recipe, of course), but I’m just as happy to go out for brunch on Sunday mornings, in my unofficial quest to find a restaurant version as good as Mom’s.
The search has brought its highs and lows. I learned early on to avoid Benedicts on a buffet line; there’s simply no way to preserve a runny yolk and silky sauce in a chafing dish, no matter how great the chef. I also learned never to order the dish in a place best known for its slingers (the notable exception being City Diner); I suspect the glue-like stuff most of these spots pass off as hollandaise is gravy tinted with yellow food coloring.
Among the highs are Benedict-esque dishes such as eggs Florentine, where spinach stands in for ham—SqWires’ hearty take offers spinach and steak. Or eggs Oscar, Oceano Bistro’s decadent tweak that adds asparagus and sweet crabmeat. The Piccadilly at Manhattan offers several riffs on the dish, including a delicious and homey version where hash browns replace the English muffin. All tasty, all memorable, but not the classic; the search goes on.
I’ve come close to success, occasionally finding a spot that did the dish proud, only to have it close (oh, Melange, how I miss you!), or as at La Dolce Via, only to find that the dish is excellent, but sporadic on the brunch menu. The version at Scape was oh-so-close, but the buttery sauce, smoky Canadian bacon, and well-cooked eggs just couldn’t overcome an English muffin with the texture and thickness of a bagel. The version at Cielo was even closer, save for the inclusion of grilled tomato. My search is nowhere near complete—there are still countless versions to try—but the closest I’ve found to Mom’s is at Herbie’s Vintage 72, whose kitchen produces a Benedict with eggs the ideal runniness and a smooth, rich hollandaise with a subtle but noticeable lemony tang. So you’ll likely find me here when the Sunday-morning Benedict craving strikes—if I’m not at Mom’s.
Katie O’Connor’s search for the perfect eggs Benedict continues. Got a recommendation? Visit facebook.com/stlmag to share it.
A long counter, piled high with sugary delights, showcases owner Leanna Russo’s belief in quality ingredients and her solid understanding of pastry technique. Baked goods are the stars here: cinnamon coffee cake, banana–caramel–sea salt breakfast bread, and warm pastries stuffed with sweet and savory fillings. Don’t overlook the Something Hot menu: Its excellent biscuits and gravy, simple but decadent creamed eggs with herbs, and daily breakfast casserole demonstrate Russo’s grasp of the savory side of the culinary equation. Same with the hot chocolate—it’s among the best in town. 2200 Gravois, 314-771-3500, thebittersweetbakery.com.
La Bonne Bouchée
A proper French omelet with generous filling and a first-rate croissant aren’t all that await at La Bonne Bouchée. Tender pancakes with a generous serving of fresh fruit and real whipped cream make butter and syrup unnecessary, but the best surprise is the squeezed-to-order OJ—it isn’t cheap ($5), but ah, the difference! A cozy interior, a wee garden at the rear, and loaded pastry cases in front also make for a sweet time. Westgate Centre, 12344 Olive, 314-576-6606, labonnebouchee.com.
Russell's Café and Bakery
Flaky, fruit-filled pastries, Kaldi’s coffee, and hearty breakfast wraps make Russell’s a must for South County breakfast-goers searching for an alternative to the area’s ubiquitous chains. Our advice? Ask for the BLT from the lunch menu—crisp bacon, sliced avocado, and an abundance of lettuce and tomato—made to order on toasted multigrain bread. 958 Brookwood Center, Fenton, 636-343-8900, russellscafe.com.
Granola, pancakes, corned beef hash…don’t let Café Osage’s seemingly standard breakfast fare fool you. This is simple food, yes, but here straightforward names belie thoughtful touches: The granola’s accompanying lemon-curd yogurt; the Greens, Eggs & Ham’s got prosciutto; the biscuits and gravy has creamed chicken, mushrooms, and leeks. It’s all to let the ingredients shine—and what ingredients they are! In season, produce comes from the café’s garden across the street; herbs are grown on the roof. It doesn’t get more local than that. 4605 Olive, 314-454-6868, bowoodfarms.com.
Local Harvest Café
Three-year-old Local Harvest, a spinoff of the same-named grocer across the street, takes pride in sourcing provisions within a 150-mile radius. Weekend brunches here have proven so stellar, it seems everyone within said radius is showing up. The menu is balanced commensurately between vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous options, but when vegan versions of stuffed French toast or chorizo potpie can easily pass for their ambrosial, nonvegan counterparts, who cares? Well, egg lovers might; the classic, farm-fresh, two-eggs-any-style plate sings. 3137 Morgan Ford, 314-772-8815, localharvestcafe.com.
This U. City spot is most notable for its old-timey character, both in its general-store atmosphere (complete with tin ceiling and wooden display cases and shelves stocked with toys, kitchen supplies, and garden gewgaws) and in the kitchen, where chef Cary McDowell transforms farm-fresh eggs and seasonal produce from the store’s Augusta farm into straightforward dishes like quiches, frittatas, omelets, and pancakes. But while the vibe might be old-fashioned, the concept—seasonal, sustainable, satisfying breakfast fare—is decidedly modern. 7213 Delmar, 314-725-7559, winslowshome.com.
While other creperies have come and gone, the second piece of David Bailey’s ever-expanding empire, Rooster, has steadily turned out some of the best crepes in the metro area. And while the restaurant’s favorites—like the Marinated Spicy Chicken No. 2, with its fontina and baby arugula—are good, we think the overlooked breakfast sausage crepe, with egg, Emmenthaler Swiss, and a spicy creamy slaw, is the way to go. Notice how the cheese’s nutty bite melds fantastically with the locally sourced, sage-infused pork sausage from Hinkebein Hills Farm. That magic doesn’t happen by accident. 1104 Locust, 314-241-8118, roosterstl.com.
BLOODY (MARY) FUN AT MOSAIC
We suspect a mad scientist has been let loose in the kitchen at the Des Peres location of Mosaic, and he’s focused his energies on that quintessential brunch drink: the bloody Mary. Of the five Marys on the menu, our favorites are the Inside Out Bloody Mary Martini and the surprisingly good Bloody Bourbon Barrel. The bloody-good fun continues at the weekend Bloody Mary Bar, where you can go garnish-crazy with celery stalks, pickled asparagus, blue-cheese olives, andouille sausage, Cajun shrimp, cocktail onions, and an arsenal of hot sauces. 11925 Manchester, 314- 394-2323, mosaictapas.com/Mosaic-Des-Peres.cfm.
WHEN BREAKFAST'S NOT FOR BREAKFAST
Care to have breakfast in the bizarro world? Well, there’s Rigazzi’s, which opens at 8 a.m., but its menu notes nary an egg or flapjack—although heroes, pastas, chicken dishes, strip steaks, wings, and T-ravs are all available first thing.
Or how ’bout Blueberry Hill? Its bill of fare declares classics like scrambled eggs and biscuits and gravy “Breakfast Anytime”—except breakfast time, since it doesn’t open until 11 a.m.
Why such strange aberrations, especially from two of St. Louis’ most crowd-pleasing institutions? “It’s backwards, how it happened,” admits Rigazzi’s co-owner Joan Aiazzi. Nearby graveyard-shifters, preferring to unwind after work with hot pizza and cold beer, make up the bulk of Rigazzi’s early-bird business. And while the restaurant doesn’t offer breakfast on paper, “we have a chef who’s happy to fix up anything you want,” adds Aiazzi.
Blueberry Hill proprietor Joe Edwards did attempt breakfast service for a couple of years, back when the kitchen was but an unrenovated foxhole. “It became really tough for the kitchen to switch between breakfast and lunch,” says Edwards. “It was hard to abandon breakfast, because it had started to catch on, but we would’ve disappointed more customers if we couldn’t keep up when lunch began.”
Besides, says Edwards—whose first and fourth (yep) meals of the day are always breakfast foods—“Breakfast is always OK.”
WHAT'S UP AT WAT PHRASRIRATANARAM?
Want to make a few bucks? Bet a friend (or almost anyone else in St. Louis) that Florissant is home to a Thai Buddhist temple. Tell them that Wat Phrasriratanaram has provided homemade Thai food one Sunday a month at its “Thai Food Fair” for the past six years. Then take your winnings—and your friend—there. The short buffet line has the basics, like pad Thai, tom kha soup, and various curries, often seasoned just a bit differently like a home cook would. (Think Grandma’s stroganoff, rather than a restaurant’s version.) And most items are $2 to $5: small plates, Thai-style. Afterward, browse the mini craft market or take off your shoes, step inside the temple, and contemplate how lucky you are to have found this place. 890 Lindsay, 314-839-3115, stlthaitemple.org.
BEST NEW BREAKFAST JOINT
Half & Half
Having already wooed us with his take on Neapolitan pizza at The Good Pie, it would be easy to simply say owner Mike Randolph has done it again. Indeed he has, but that doesn’t go far enough, as there’s nothing simple or traditional about his take on breakfast. Simple here means a dish like a veggie hash of Brussels sprouts, spinach, and potatoes served in an iron skillet beneath the most perfectly cooked sunny-side-up eggs you’ll ever see. But nontraditional is really the essence of Randolph’s approach: Recent weekend specials included a Benedict with a choice of soft-shell crab or veal sweetbreads (a simply divine dish); on another weekend, it was scrambled eggs decadently topped with fresh black truffles.
Of course, breakfast is not complete without coffee, and that, too, gets the gourmet treatment. Kaldi’s award-winning barista, Mike Marquard, was brought on board to manage the restaurant and its ambitious coffee program. With an ever-expanding number of brew methods—seven, at last count—and a seasonally revolving selection of single-origin beans from both Kaldi’s and Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee, Half & Half isn’t just one of the best places to get a cup of coffee in St. Louis, it’s one of the best places to get a cup in the country. Period. 8135 Maryland, 314-725-0719, halfandhalfstl.com.
By Bill Burge, Byron Kerman, Rose Maura Lorre, Dave Lowry, George Mahe, Katie O'Connor, Joe and Ann Pollack, and Andrew Mark Veety; Edited by George Mahe