Beer at the Boat Show

The St. Louis Boat Show opens tonight (Wednesday, February 26) at 5:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday at America’s Center in St. Louis. I’ve attended the Boat Show many times and always enjoyed it.

motorboat

Along with the boats and the people, there are always special attractions. This year the Dock Dogs will be back. John Godwin of Duck Dynasty will appear Saturday.

This year, the Boat Show features beer sampling on Friday night, February 28, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Anchors and Ales will feature brews from Schlafly, O’Fallon, 4 Hands, Charleville, Morgan Street, Cathedral Square and Shocktop.

Anchors Ales

Cost is $10 at the door (in addition to your Boat Show ticket). Or you can order your Anchors and Ales ticket online for $20 by clicking HERE. (That ticket includes Boat Show admission.) Admission to Anchors and Ales gets you a limited edition sampling glass and ten tickets, each good for a 4 ounce sample.

Hope you enjoy the beer and find the boat of your dreams!

Big Footprint: BlackFinn’s Fatal Flaw?

When BlackFinn opened two years ago, the big story was not its food or drink or its décor, but its huge footprint: two large dining areas, two bar areas, event space and a patio. Its size may be the main reason it closed this week.

BlackFinn’s food was good, if a bit pricey. They carried a decent lineup of beers, enough to make me happy when I attended happy hours and parties there. The restaurant and its bigger bar area (with plenty of screens for sports viewing) looked great.

Was BlackFinn’s location a problem? My guess is probably not. It was at the north end of the Galleria, on Clayton Road, close to Brentwood Boulevard, just off I-170 and Highway 40. (Its sister restaurant Vida Cantina suffered a quick death, just months after opening. Its semi-obscure location, tucked away in a corner next to BlackFinn, was a likely factor in its demise.)

The Galleria may not be as hot a mall as it was in the 90’s, but it still draws large traffic. The Cheesecake Factory, which opened just over a decade ago, thrives in an arguably better spot on the mall campus.

We’ve seen several operators move into St. Louis in recent years with concepts that have had success in other markets. Many have been almost as ambitious as BlackFinn’s owners were. They have invested heavily in equipment and décor and, presumably, are paying high fees for their leases.

“Go big or go home” is a philosophy embraced by Tucano’s, prasino, Bricktops, Central Table Food Hall and McCormick and Schmick, among others.

But larger rooms have to be filled with a steady stream of diners. A slow night at a big place can be costly in terms of food, personnel and heating/cooling costs. Too many slow nights can be fatal.

Lovely Rita?

I tasted beers flavored with peach, strawberry, chocolate, coffee and even banana (!) at this past weekend’s Centennial Beer Festival. A few had citrus tones. Some flavorings were more subtle than others.

Many of those beers can only be found in St. Louis at places like Randall’s, Lukas, Friar Tuck’s, the Wine and Cheese Place, Wolfbrau, etc. Two others whose flavors are not so subtle will be available soon in grocery store beer aisles.

Mang-o-Rita

Following in the path of Bud Light Lime’s successful Lime-A-Rita, Straw-Ber-Rita and Cran-Brrr-Rita, here come Mang-O-Rita and Raz-Ber-Rita.

Raz-Ber-Rita 2

The Raz-Ber-Rita has a tart flavor. But the Mang-O-Rita is very sweet, almost reminiscent of a wine cooler. At 8% ABV, they have a stronger alcohol content than most beer drinks.

The Ritas are hugely popular in the FMB (flavored malt beverage) category, but their flavor profile is quite different from that of mainstream beers. I had my first Lime-A-Rita last season at Busch Stadium. While it has its own virtues and appeal, I wanted beer and Rita did not satisfy that particular thirst.

Bud Light Lime’s Mang-O-Rita and Raz-Ber-Rita go on sale in St. Louis on March 3.

(Congrats, by the way, to Jason Arnold and the folks at Moulin Events for another excellent Festival!)

New Favorite

The ChoriHuevo Torta at Mission Taco Joint in the Loop is something you might want to try. It’s not a menu item I would’ve normally opted for, but I wanted something different when I lunched at MTJ last week.

Torta

It’s made with chorizo sausage, fried egg, jalapeños, cheese, black beans and “garlic lime mayo.” Happily, all those ingredients are served on a roll that complements rather than dominates.

“It’s the closest thing we have to a breakfast item,” said the bartender. (He was my server as we ate at the bar). It’s a very filling sandwich. I ate half and brought the other half to my wife who also liked it.

My son had the Three Little Piggies Burrito (pork shoulder, pork belly carnitas and chorizo queso are the main ingredients) which he loved.

Mission Taco Joint is located at 6235 Delmar, a block or so west of Skinker.

Going Mobile

A Facebook friend posted a pic last week of a local Breadco with promotional signage glued to every table. As many commenters pointed out, it did look a bit tacky.

That afternoon, I went to my neighborhood Breadco and learned the reason they did it. St. Louis Bread Company (AKA Panera) really wants you to know about their new mobile ordering app. They have signage all over the store and, in case you don’t get the message, on your table as well.

“Mobile is the biggest shift in QSR [quick serve restaurants] since the drive thru,” says Taco Bell’s Jeff Jenkins. He was quoted in an article last week from Nation’s Restaurant News. Click HERE to read the article which details the 2014 mobile ordering plans of many fast food chains.

Breadco App

Breadco is testing mobile ordering in St. Louis as well as a few other markets. The mobile app is, so far, only available for iPhone. You can also order from your computer at THIS site.

The app lets you order and pay for your soup, salad, sandwich, etc., then waltz into your Breadco, grab your order from the “Rapid Pick-Up Shelf” and split.

The biggest advantage, I think, is avoiding long lines. I’ve seen lines out the door of the Breadco in my neighborhood in the early morning and at lunchtime. Also, this method should help insure more accurate fulfillment of your order, especially if you have any non-standard requests.

My biggest concern would be ordering a bowl of soup or a panini early in the morning for pickup at 12:15 and have it be lukewarm because it was packaged for pickup at 11:45.

If you are a Breadco customer, download the app to your iPhone (Android coming soon, I’m sure) and give it a shot. There may be glitches as they work to make the process work smoothly. Be understanding.

St. Louis is America’s 2nd Most Romantic City

This designation comes from OpenTable.com, the online restaurant reservation site.

V-day heart

Their criteria: the percentage of restaurants rated “romantic” according to OpenTable diner reviews, the percentage of tables seated for two and the percentage of people who dined out for Valentine’s Day last year.

Here’s their list:

1. San Antonio, Texas
2. St. Louis, Missouri
3. Providence, Rhode Island
4. Atlantic City, New Jersey
5. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
6. Salt Lake City, Utah
7. Columbus, Ohio
8. Houston, Texas
9. Brooklyn, New York
10. Louisville, Kentucky
11. Austin, Texas
12. Ann Arbor, Michigan
13. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
14. Nashville, Tennessee
15. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
16. Boston, Massachusetts
17. Raleigh, North Carolina
18. Santa Monica, California
19. Portland, Oregon
20. Baltimore, Maryland
21. Kansas City, Missouri
22. Indianapolis, Indiana
23. Miami, Florida
24. Los Angeles, California
25. Phoenix, Arizona

St. Louis ranks high on a few negative lists (which will not be enumerated here), so it’s kind of nice to see our city ranked high on a good list! Thanks, OpenTable.com!

i1035 FW1.1

Buy This Restaurant—New Food Network Show

How hard is it to find the right spot for a new restaurant? Ask anybody in the restaurant biz in St. Louis and they’ll probably tell you they looked at numerous sites before making a decision.

A new show on the Food Network shows food and beverage newbies trying to find the right place to launch their enterprises. Buy This Restaurant has a sneak peak tonight, February 3, 9:00 p.m. St. Louis time, on Food Network. The episode will be rerun tonight at midnight.

Buy restaurant pic

Keith Simpson, pictured at right, is a Sacramento based restaurant broker who helps show participants find the right place to set up shop. Like many HGTV shows you may have seen, Buy This Restaurant shows its participants three properties. Each has its respective upsides and downsides.

The women in the photo are Lisa and Kelly who look for a location in Minneapolis to start a bakery in tonight’s sneak peak episode. In the second show, which can be seen Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., Keith helps Joanie and her husband Cary find a bricks-and-mortar spot to open a juice business in Austin.

Click HERE to go to the Buy This Restaurant web page.

Following tonight’s sneak peak, Buy This Restaurant has its official Food Network premiere on Wednesday night, February 5, at 8:00 p.m. CST.