Many locals remember Port St. Louis in Clayton. Not many seem to recall, however, that the restaurant got its start in a Victorian townhouse in Gaslight Square. In those days, it was one of the neighborhood’s most elegant establishments—no small feat when the competition included Three Fountains. The restaurant, which specialized in seafood, had a nautical theme, down to servers dressed as sailors. In the days before airfreight, fresh seafood was a truly big deal here, and Port St. Louis served it in surroundings that emphasized the luxury.
In the mid-’60s, owner Wade DeWoskin moved the restaurant to 15 N. Central in Clayton, where it became the epitome of New Orleans–style Victorian fancy, with deep-red wallpaper resembling brocade and glittering crystal chandeliers. The servers began wearing black tie, and spotless napery was the unvarying rule. Service was full of flourishes: the simultaneous removal of cover bells for individual plates, an elegant coffee pour from a pot that seemed to be held nearly 2 feet above the cup. It was all very dramatic and left guests feeling as coddled as if they’d been wrapped in swansdown.
Perhaps it was the advent of airfreight, with which fresh seafood became easily available at other high-end restaurants, that spelled the end for Port St. Louis, which sailed away for good in 1991.