Jan 3, 2015

A St. Louis birthday bar sampler

More blurry birthday memories from O’Connell’s, Molly’s and Broadway Oyster Bar

This blog post may come off as being a bit disjointed, but I figure there’s no better way to do my last birthday justice.  In addition, my life has been a bit disjointed lately.  Fortunately, I should have plenty of time to get caught up over the next couple of weeks on topics I've been meaning to post about from last month and the holiday season.   

As my nine faithful followers may recall, my birthday celebration in Saint Louis began with lunch at Zia’s on The Hill.  You may have gotten the impression from my last post that we headed straight to the Soulard Market after that.  You’d be wrong. 

As fate would have it, we made an after-lunch pit stop at O’Connell's, a dive bar/Irish pub just off Interstate 44 and Kingshighway Blvd.  It caught our eye as we entered The Hill neighborhood, and we simply could not pass it up.  

See, I told you we couldn't pass it up. 
As far as Irish pubs in Saint Louis go, O’Connell's is about as authentic as you’ll find.  O’Connell’s has been at its current location for more than 40 years, which was originally a tavern owned and operated by Anheuser Busch.  The bar and woodwork come from O’Connell’s original location and pre-date the move, and the chandeliers actually come from the 1904 World’s Fair.  You simply can’t recreate atmosphere like that.   O’Connell’s also happens to be the only bar I’ve been in with an antique store on the second floor. 

These bartenders know their craft ... and enjoy their bar.
The bartenders and the regulars we met on our early Saturday afternoon visit definitely added to the bar’s ambiance as well.  They sure seemed to be catering to an older clientele at the bar, but everyone was very friendly and eager to share their stories of O’Connell’s with us.  I understand the reviews about the dine-in service aren't all that complimentary, but I can definitely recommend eating and drinking at the bar.  Most of the bar patrons were thoroughly enjoying their burgers, soups and salads.  I intend to return to O’Connell’s soon to give the food a try (their burgers come highly recommended from reviews and the word of mouth we received).

Picturesque parking in Soulard
Not long after our trip to the Soulard Market, we decided to find street parking and explore the Soulard neighborhood on foot.    

Reunited with an old friend ... the Abita Amber, that is.
We intended to do a lot more bar-to-bar hopping, but we very quickly discovered Molly’s in Soulard and, to be honest, were in no hurry to leave. And the primary reasons for that were the cool atmosphere inside the small side bar adjacent to the main courtyard and dining area and the outstanding service we received from the bartender.  It didn't hurt that they had Abita Amber in bottles. 

It also didn't hurt that they offered flights of Irish whiskey.  I know … Knob Creek rye doesn't count, but it we got to choose our substitute when the bartender discovered they were out of one of the Irish whiskeys that usually come as part of the flight. 

To commemorate our achievement of finishing off the flight, we got complimentary mustaches (note that I already brought mine, along with full beard).  I always did suspect good Irish whiskey would grow hair on you.  

Molly’s in Soulard is one more place I have to check out again.  It bills itself as Bourbon Street in the heart of Soulard, and the atmosphere and menu definitely back up the claim. 

Moving on to dinner time, we chose an old favorite of mine – the Broadway Oyster Bar.  And while we're on the subject of adopting a Bourbon Street ambiance, Broadway brings it in droves. 

Outdoor seating in Broadway's courtyard
Our friends Brittany and Marc at Broadway Oyster Bar
We met some friends here for drinks and oysters in the courtyard.  But as you can tell by the blurry quality of the pictures, the day-long party was beginning to get the best of me. 

The inside bar at Broadway Oyster Bar

Perfect view of the main bar at Broadway Oyster Bar 
Our friends soon moved on to a Bottle Rockets concert at another Soulard bar, and we were fortunate enough to find seats at the end of the main bar inside.  I consider this somewhat of a birthday miracle – the place is always so crowded that seats anywhere are hard to come by and the wait time for them can be quite lengthy. 

We kept the Abitas coming at Broadway and decided this would be the perfect place for dinner to finish the night.  On my recommendation, the girlfriend had a bowl of their house soup – crawfish bisque.  I’d put it up against any in New Orleans, and my girlfriend in fact called it “stellar” – one of her favorite ways of giving something her seal of approval. 

What's up, Doc?  My appetite!
I went off the regular menu with a rather daring nightly special – the pan fried rabbit.  They served it with garlic mashed potatoes, Creole-style green beans and a big, fluffy biscuit with honey butter.  The rabbit was juicy, crispy (maybe slightly over-seasoned) and flavorful – not too gamey, not too greasy, but just right!  Someone at Broadway is obviously experienced at cooking rabbit.  And, all of the sides were excellently prepared to complement the main dish. 

Also included on my birthday bar-to-bar crawl were the Social House next to the Soulard Market and the Shanti.  I have to think Saturday afternoons are not the optimum time to visit Social House, as the place seemed quite cavernous and dead.  It surely must attract a late-night crowd, although the appeal of body-painted waitresses during weekdays has me thinking about a second visit.  And, to be fair, the scenery while we were there wasn't shabby (we did skip the bartender’s recommendation to start drinking tequila).

We also quite literally stumbled onto the Shanti's last day of operations.  The live music, crowded beer garden and happy revelers made me wish I had discovered this place much sooner. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a mixed drink by the open fire before moving on.

All in all, I'm not sure I could have packed any more celebrating into one birthday.  It was a fun, full day and night.  And, the girlfriend definitely helped make it all the more awesome.  She knows -- and usually loves -- the kind of places that appeal to this commoner, and it's great to be able to make memories together at these places.  

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...