West End Pub & Grill
This neighborhood spot is a comfortable hangout with epicurean food. Artsy and a little quirky (there is a door connecting it to The Gaslight Theater, where St. Louis Actors’ Studio performs), this place has a bar room and a quieter dining room, both dimly lit to create a nightclublike ambience.
A new chef, Josh Roland, started in August to kick up the gourmet factor. Roland has a long list of credits, including stints at Balaban’s, Salt, Gordon Ramsey’s Claridge’s in London and Daniel Boulud’s Daniel in New York. He offers a menu of exciting flavors and generous servings.
Our starter of Fried Cauliflower ($7.75) was lightly dusted with flour and pan-seared to a very light crispness. Drizzled with truffle oil and well-salted, the preparation brought out the flavor of the vegetable—and it was at least a half-head of cauliflower, great for sharing. Although Missouri black walnuts were listed on the menu as part of the dish, ours appeared to be the less pungent brown variety.
Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque ($4.25) was similarly teeming with flavor. Creamy (from a vegan cashew cream) and with a touch of heat, it was thick and delicious. Don’t miss the Mussels ($11.95), a Pan-Asian preparation with spice and coconut milk; it’s not the usual creamy version, but rich, brown and very flavorful. The Gaslight Salad ($6.95) showed a talent for presentation. Leaves of bibb and raddichio lettuce were piled into a tower, with sweet potato ‘hay’ and creamy blue cheese dressing on top. A few haricots vert stuck out from the bottom.
Entrees here come with a nice compilation of veggies, making the meal complete, not to mention a good deal. A plate of Steak Frites ($21.95) had hanger steak medallions fanned on top of wilted greens and two delicious sauces, one lightly flavored with blue cheese, another rich and sweet with red wine. The frites (fries) were crisp and crunchy—superior!
There are off-menu specials, like the Grilled Mahi with Honey-Glazed Vegetables ($19.95). Again, it was a great plateful of food, with a generous, tasty fish fillet over wonderful roasted root vegetables like radish, turnip and carrot in a mildly sweet honey sauce—subtle and very nicely done.
Chicken Under the Brick ($18.95) had a half-chicken sitting atop delicious cornbread stuffing. A rich gravy called Jack Daniels Pan Sauce smothered the meat, with a generous bed of haricots verts nearby. Tasty on all counts, although the chicken skin should have been crispier.
For dessert, we tasted Peach Cobbler and Spiced Apple Bread Pudding (each $7.95), both of which had the same subtle touch as the savory foods. In the former, fresh peaches were cooked, with a homestyle dough topping that served as the ‘crust.’ The bread pudding, thick and doughy, was made with fresh apples and cinnamon and sweetened by two scoops of cinnamon Serendipity ice cream. It wasn’t very sweet, but still satisfying with its bread and butter. Delicious all around!
the scene | Cozy neighborhood pub with theater ambience
the chef | Josh Roland
the prices | $4.95-$10.95 starters, $9.25-$11.95 sandwiches, $11.95-$22.95 entrees
the favorites | Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque, Fried Cauliflower, Mussels, Steak Frites, Grilled Mahi Mahi, Spiced Apple Bread Pudding
food • ŏ • lō • gy
hanger steak | A small section of meat from the lower belly considered the most flavorful cut, also known as ‘butcher’s steak’ because butchers were said to take it home for themselves.
mahi mahi | A mild-flavored fish from tropical and sub-tropical waters. Much of it comes from Hawaii, which claims its fishermen use only line-caught methods rather than baits.
blue cheese | Often underrated, this product always has a penicillium-induced mold, but flavors and intensity vary widely. It is not, as some think, an American version of Roquefort, but can come from all over the world.
354 n. boyle ave. | 314.531.4607
Pictured at top: pan-seared arctic char with couscous, roasted beets, dill sour cream and fresh horseradish
Photos: Bill Barrett