Illustration by Matt Lehman
St. Louis gastronauts of a certain age usually take on a wistful, faraway look when Jefferson Avenue Boarding House is mentioned. It was often referred to as Richard Perry’s, a tribute to its creator, who opened the renowned establishment during that magical year of 1972. The restaurant and his style of cooking were pioneers in New American regional cuisine.
Located in an old storefront corner on South Jefferson marked by green-and-white striped awnings, the restaurant served up succulent versions of what might have appeared on a table in our fantasy of life Back When. Perry’s rendering of rice pudding brought a certain former St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic—who typically avoided the dessert—to his knees.
I seem to remember an upstairs dining room with walls the color of milk chocolate. The feeling was one of lounging on a velvet cushion, with attentive service and no condescension. I still remember a maple-glazed chicken breast, served at brunch, with affection.
The Boarding House embodied luxury—Grandma’s food, far better than even Grandma cooked. What well-fed, cosseted, and spoiled children we all were then.