Review: Grace Meat + Three

This restaurant combines two admired St. Louis icons: fried chicken guru Rick Lewis (formerly of Southern) and the storefront in The Grove where Sweetie Pie’s reigned. Lewis, along with his partner and wife Elisa, offers an array of Southern-style country foods like ‘field peas’ (black-eyed peas) and turnip greens along with a satisfying selection of side dishes that come with each entree. That explains the ‘Meat + Three’ part of the name: You pick a protein, and it comes with two sides, or three for $3 extra.

‘Grace,’ we surmise, refers to the bounty of the land and the higher power that makes it possible. Lewis has structured the space as a communal eating spot, something he did at Southern as well, with many large tables meant to foster togetherness. There are also smaller tables for the less socially inclined.

The interior is somewhat reminiscent of Sweetie Pie’s, but updated with a more open feel. The bar side has a kitschy truck grille over the kitchen window and a dining counter that was full both times we visited. This is also where the ordering takes place—a system where people line up out the door to wait for their turn at the register. The main dining room has been painted deep blue, with nostalgic touches like a stuffed pheasant on one wall and framed paint-by-numbers farm scenes on another.

One big draw, food-wise, is Lewis’ fried chicken, available with heat or without. He is known for comfort food, which at Grace includes pork ribs, fried catfish, mac ’n cheese, greens and roast beef. The latter ($14) will bring back cafeteria memories of sliced roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. The beef was good—from a local farm, served medium rare and overall pretty tender. The gravy was thick, rather than the au jus I recall from the cafeterias of my childhood.

The STL-Style Duroc Pork Ribs ($12 for a third of a rack) were excellent: very meaty ribs with a sugar glaze and great flavor. Also stellar was the Cornmeal Fried Mississippi Catfish ($14), crispy strips of fish with a crunchy coating that are served with ‘Comeback Sauce,’ a mix of mayo, ketchup and Worcestershire. If you opt to get the fish ‘hot,’ ask for the dipping oil on the side so you can control the Nashville-style heat.

Much attention is given to the sides, which underscore all the themes running through this new place: nostalgia, country cooking, food as comfort, etc. My favorite was the Green Bean Casserole, which mixes fresh beans with mushroom soup as a sort of gravy. Topping the dish are crispy shallots reminiscent of those fried onions we liked so much as kids.

The Macaroni + Cheese was mild and creamy, with a mix of gouda and white cheddar. The Smoked Cabbage was tasty, not overdone in terms of smokiness, and the Roasted Cauliflower was excellent, tossed with a pungent pesto. But the Cracklin Corn Bread, which I remember as exceptional from Southern, was dry here. Making up for it, though, was the biscuit crust that topped my Chicken Pot Pie, a dinner special one night. The pie itself, while tasty, had too much salt and pepper.

Don’t pass up dessert. It can sell out quickly, so ask for it at the same time as your meal. Our Banana Pudding ($6) came with a delicious benne seed sugar cookie and gourmet toasted Italian marshmallow on top.

amuse bouche 
the scene | Bustling neighborhood spot with country comfort food
the chef | Rick Lewis
the prices | $9-$19 meals with multiple sides
the favorites | STL-Style Duroc Pork Ribs, Cornmeal Fried Mississippi Catfish, Roasted Caul

food • ŏ • lō • gy
gouda | A yellow cow’s-milk cheese named for a town in the Netherlands
benne | Thin, light sesame seed cookies with a nutty flavor
duroc pork  | An old breed of pig native to the U.S.

4270 manchester ave. | 314.533.2700

Pictured: Rick’s famous fried chicken with macaroni + cheese, three bean salad and cracklin corn bread
Photos: Bill Barrett