Memorable repasts. Meals the majority of us would give most anything to enjoy once more, especially those dished from shuttered eateries. Places that live on in collective memories of foodies who reminisce over dearly departed restaurants and the good eats served. Those memories and histories are the focus of Ann Lemons Pollack’s recently released book, Lost Restaurants of St. Louis, published by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press.
Pollack blended her personal memories and experiences with those of others. Mixing in a hearty helping of history, seasoned with information gleaned from a mortuary of menus, which stretched from late 19th-century culinary landmarks, from Tony Faust’s Oyster House to such mid-century burger dives as Wild’s Palace of Poison. The result: a delicious read that leaves one hungry for the past. Thanks to the stories Pollack spins, providing tasting tidbits about landmark establishments, such as The Pelican, famous for its turtle soup, and built by brewer Anton Griesedieck, and legendary restaurateurs, like Tony Faust.
“Tony Faust was fascinating. He has an interesting story, which includes his friendship with Adolphus Busch,” Pollack said. “Faust and Busch were buddies, which surely helped his business, not to mention one of Faust’s sons married one of Busch’s daughters. No surprise Busch lunched at Faust’s Oyster House, where it was reported he drank wine with his lunch most of the time, instead of beer.”
Fans of The Hill can revisit the tales of Ruggeri’s, one of the first places St. Louisans first experienced eating on The Hill. One of those bygone dining halls still lingering in minds is Ruggeri’s, home to St. Louis’ first – and perhaps only — true celebrity waiter, Micky Garagiola. In the early years, Mickey worked bussing and serving tables with his brother, Joe, who made a bigger name playing Cardinals baseball and as a sportscaster. Another Hill kid working with the Garagiolas boys was Yankee Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra. Some say when Yogi remarked, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,” he was referring to Ruggeri’s.
Lost Restaurants of St. Louis reflects the city’s historic diversity with a geographic mix and price points, a nice mix which strikes an appealing balance.
As Pollack said, “I tried to strike a balance. After all, there were probably more people who ate at Irv’s Grill than at some high-budget fancy places where the coat-and-tie crowd frequented; places like Musial and Biggie’s where the mid-century iconic shrimp cocktail shared the menu with chopped liver.”
Understanding the read could leave one hungry, Pollack included a trifecta of vintage haunts still cooking: Al’s, Bevo Mill and Crown Candy. As a bonus, Pollack added a handful of recipes of which many will be grateful to finally get their hands on. Recipes such as Nantucket Cove’s Mayfair Dressing and the Parkmoor’s Chickburger — simple enough for either the novice or those who cook recreationally. These are recipes worth keeping alongside the memories of the eateries preserved in Lost Restaurants of St. Louis.