Editor's note: St. Louis has always been a brunch-y town. Lately, though, it seems the number of places offering it have expanded geometrically. And in a move that is more than logical, we’re starting to see it on Saturday as well as Sunday. In this ongoing series, Ann Lemons Pollack will be investigating brunch options in St. Louis—and an occasional breakfast joint for good measure. Since Derek and Lucas Gamlin just announced their third CWE eatery (an as-yet-unnamed restaurant inside The Residences at the Forest Park Hotel at West Pine and Euclid), we thought we'd begin our journey at their flagship restaurant, Sub Zero Vodka Bar.
Euclid Avenue in the Central West End has become our equivalent of New York’s Upper West Side, Brunch Central, as it were. On the strip from Washington Avenue to Forest Park Boulevard and the cross streets, there are a dozen or more brunches. This is mostly a good thing, although it’s quickly becoming apparent that valet parking needs to be as available as it would be during the dinner hour. Still, a little pre- and post-prandial stroll encourages both hunger and digestion, right?
Sub-Zero Vodka Bar might not be the first place that comes to mind for brunch. But they’re one of the places serving it Saturday as well as Sunday, with an appealing menu moving well beyond the boring usual, even including an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. This visit, however, we skipped the sushi and went for more common brunch fare.
Yes, the coffee is good. Even better was their riff on the mimosa, called the West End Mimosa, found on their cocktail menu. It includes grapefruit vodka, and for those who skip mimosas (mimosi?) because they feel they’re too sweet, this is a fine choice, beautifully dry. Plenty of other options for bubbly beginnings to the day, too.
A California Benedict (above) starts out with waffle quarters for the base, layering on avocado, tomato and poached eggs. A little chipotle mayo was spread on the waffle, and the hollandaise, a very light version, did have just a little kick to it as well, resulting in a satisfying dish that just happened to be vegetarian.
More waffle? Yes, indeed, a carrot cake waffle (right), although the carrots were roasted shreds strewn over the waffle rather than a carrot-y batter. It was anointed with a cream cheese-maple-cinnamon mixture softer than a frosting but firmer than a syrup, not that there’s anything wrong at all with that. A nice crisp-tender waffle and the combination yielded fine evocative flavors, and aroma as well. There’s a bacon waffle, too (as well as some other options), but a plate of bacon on the side bounced off the sweet flavors very well, good bacon neither over- nor under-cooked.
Perhaps the best entree of the meal was the seafood fritatta (above), the classic Italian open-face omelet. Lobster, shrimp and crab meat were complemented by Yukon Gold spuds, spinach, chunks of avocado and some hollandaise to gild the lily. Seafood is perhaps the ultimate fritatta variety in my book, and this excelled even some of the homemade ones I’ve had.
There was nothing technically wrong with the short rib hash (above) – except that it wasn’t hash. We’re seeing a rash of “hash” that’s chunks of meat and vegetable slightly smaller than what might go in a stew, a broth thinner than a gravy around the solid components and then an egg on top. That’s an okay dish, but it’s not a hash. Here the beef was tasty, and the mushrooms, peppers and potatoes added to the chorus with a richly flavored wine-y broth. But hash shouldn’t need to be served in a soup bowl. Change the name; keep the dish.
The sushi buffet is in the dining room, the chefs on one side of the counter putting more out. Saunter over and take a look before making a final choice for your meal.
Good service, unrushed once the food arrived, patient with our difficulty making decisions. And yes, they do have sidewalk tables. Get there early to avoid the summer sun.
Sub Zero Vodka Bar
308 N. Euclid
Mon - Fri: 11 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. - 1:30 a.m. (brunch 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.)
Sun: 10 a.m. - 12 a.m. (brunch 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.)