Remembering St. Louis Mall Food

After reading an item in the weekend Wall Street Journal about the demise of shopping malls, I thought about mall food my family and I have enjoyed in St. Louis. Here are some of our favorites.

  1. Cardwell’s At The Plaza. Plaza Frontenac. A favorite during the 90s. Never had a bad meal here.
  2. Elephant Bar. West County Mall. Well, “mall adjacent.” Went there several times with kids, grandkids, in-laws, etc. Generally good experiences except occasionally when they were seriously slammed.
  3. Chevy’s. Crestwood Plaza. Fish tacos. Negra Modelo beer. Yum. Family friendly, to be sure. I remember we waited nearly two hours for a table there one Friday night in 1998.
  4. Casa Gallardo Grill. Galleria. Many great lunches and dinners here. Liked the tableside guacamole prep. Good times!
  5. Houlihan’s. West County Mall. (And other malls, too.) My wife loved their ‘Shrooms. 
  6. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill. Northwest Plaza. Only went there once. With Cub Scouts and families after an outing at Bigfoot HQ. The food was good but the service was spectacular. Lots of people, separate checks and they got everything right. I had a chance to thank Dick himself a few months later during a radio interview.
  7. J. Gilbert’s. West County Mall. Hey, they’re still around! Had dinner there last week. Food and service are great but pricey.
  8. McCormick & Schmick’s. West County Mall. Huge seafood menu. I recall my mother-in-law going there and ordering oysters and being surprised that they were served raw not fried.  
  9. Pasta House Company. Crestwood Plaza. Had many a Pasta con Broccoli at this location. Their Galleria location did a good job as well.
  10. Breadco. Galleria. One of the better Breadcos in town. Waiting in a long line there during Christmas shopping season could seem interminable but led to major gratification when your food was ready. Also was a fan of the Breadco in the old version of West County Mall.

Let’s not forget the food courts. Auntie Anne’s, Sbarro, Chik-fil-A, among many others. Some of those places were pretty good!

—David Craig


Dealing With Inflation

It’s not going away soon. We all need to be careful about how we spend our food and beverage dollars and cents. Here are a few ideas for dealing with inflation.

  1. Indulge selectively. If you enjoy a Starbucks caramel macchiato, have one. Just not every day. Maybe every other day. If you want to dine out at a favorite restaurant, do it. Just maybe a bit less often. Instead of every week, maybe twice a month.
  2. Drink and eat less. Do you really need that second or third margarita or glass of wine or pint of beer? Do you really need EVERYTHING on that burger? Upgrade those French fries to onion rings or sweet potato fries? Nah.
  3. Try something different. Instead of that $30 seafood entrée (which may soon be a $32 entrée), go for the $24 pasta dish. Instead of that $65 bottle of wine, check out that $40 bottle that you may be curious about.
  4. Eat more fruit and veggies, less meat. Not that all veggies are cheap and not all meat is expensive, but careful choosing in the grocery store and in restaurants can stretch your budget and most likely provide you with a healthier diet.
  5. If you’re in a group, pay your fair share of the bill but only your fair share. Don’t always just split it down the middle. If you don’t drink and you’re with someone who has a couple or three cocktails, an even split just ain’t fair. Yes, this is nickels-and-dimes pettiness but nickels and dimes add up.
  6. Don’t give your restaurant server or the checkout clerk at the grocer a hard time about the prices. They are not the ones setting the prices. They are dealing with inflation challenges in their own lives.
  7. Similarly, don’t be chintzy with your tips. If your restaurant meal for two cost $80 in 2021, your 20% tip amount would be $16, right? If that meal costs $100 today, your tip amount goes up too, to $20. 
  8. Take note of the sales taxes being charged. If it’s 9% in your neck of the woods but 13.25% in other areas, that can add up over time. That money, remember, does not go to the restaurant owner or the grocer but to governments or taxing districts.
  9. Keep your eyes out for specials. Half price appetizers during happy hours. All you can eat specials on certain days of the week.
  10. Learn to love leftovers. Last night’s cold pizza, pasta, etc makes a pretty good lunch today. Just don’t warm up fish in the workplace microwave.
  11. Take note of shrinkflation. That’s where the price stays the same but the portion size shrinks. In some cases, it may be a deal breaker. In others, something you can live with.
  12. Eat at Taco Bell (or similar fast food joint) every now and then. You can get a filling lunch or late night snack cheap at many such places.

Coffee Talk

St. Louis’s City Foundry needs a coffee place. Got a decent mocha from the waffle joint but could not track down plain old coffee.

The strongest coffee this side of Cafe du Monde may be at Half and Half in Clayton. It’s good but damn strong.

Best restaurant coffee enjoyed lately was at Kingside in the CWE and Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield Valley. Both serve Dubuque Coffee which is not from Iowa but from Brentwood.

It seems less tacky for Starbucks to raise prices than for them to increase the number of stars required for rewards. Although raising prices as often as they do is a bit tacky.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz prefers his coffee black says a WSJ article about black coffee fans having long waits for their basic brew while baristas fill complex drink orders at Starbucks and Dunkin’.

Two of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in recent times were enjoyed last September and December in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward from the walk-up window at Onesto restaurant. (They just closed the walk-up window which they said was a pandemic thing.)

Although we have some excellent roasters here in town, I have been ordering dark roast whole beans lately from Vermont Artisan coffee. Quality products and quick order fulfillment. 

Highlights and Disappointments from Spring and Summer 2019

Highlight: The burger at P.J.’s Tavern in Kirkwood. Perfectly juicy with a nice slice of cheddar.

Highlight: My wife wanted Cunetto’s for her birthday. A spot we hadn’t visited since the 90s. Food was perfect and the service superb.

Disappointment: The cornbread I had at Grace Meat + 3 was not good. And they charge 2.50 for a 2″ X 2” chunk! They served it right on the tray—no plate. Not even a napkin. That’s lazy. Also, they should be embarrassed to charge 8.00 for a smallish and not very good banana pudding.

Highlight: Dinger’s Donuts at Busch Stadium. I tried ‘em at a Cardinals event for bloggers in 2016 and liked ‘em. The ones I had last week were even better: fresh and warm and delicious.

Highlight: The shrimp at the gulf coast. We went to a shrimp boil at our friends Alan and Donna’s place at Orange Beach, Alabama in April. Amazingly good! I had shrimp and grits at Felix’s Fish Camp in Mobile with friends Joe and Shirley and those shrimp were also several notches better than we get in St. Louis.

Disappointment: Speaking of shrimp, the ones we were served at Rosalita’s in Des Peres had that “previously cooked” flavor and texture. Were they leftovers? Don’t know, but they left much to be desired. Also the chicken breast was rubbery.

Highlight: The cinnamon roll at the IKEA snack bar right past the checkout area. Warm, moist with the right amount of cinnamon and icing. And just a buck!

Disappointment: Finally tried the Swedish meatballs at IKEA. Meh.

Highlight: Crazy Bowls and Wraps. Hadn’t been in years. Stopped in on a whim and got a pretty good meal.

Disappointment: The Chicken Tortilla Soup at Applebee’s in Bemidji, Minnesota. Lukewarm and horrible. I know, I know. We should’ve known better.

Highlight: Breakfast at Snooze in Westminster, Colorado. It’s a chain like First Watch that offers breakfast and lunch. They’re about to open their first KC store. Hope they make it to STL. Food and service were impressive.

Highlight: Pulled pork and ribs on July 4th from Dalie’s Smokehouse.

Highlight: Clam Chowder at 801 Fish in Clayton. Extraordinary! (Finally tried the place during Clayton Restaurant Week.)

More highlights than disappointments so, on balance, not a bad a few months!


In Case You Missed It…

The Midwestern Meat and Drink at 900 Spruce, Downtown STL, offers a Crispy Pig Head for $45. Must order 48 hours in advance.

There’s a joint opening soon on Cherokee that will offer all you can drink booze (not high end stuff of course) for $10/hour, according to an item recently shared on a local food media site. Don’t know all the details but sounds like a mess in the making.

Sad note for all of us named Dave or David: The Jim’n’Nick’s BBQ chain out of Birmingham no longer lists the Hamburger Dave as their featured burger. They now list 3 or 4 different burgers. I’m a J’n’N fan.

The UCP Wing Ding happens Tuesday, August 27 at Queeny Park. It’s a great opportunity to eat a ton of wings for a great cause. Click HERE for info. (I’ll be a judge for the event. Can’t hardly wait!)

The Post-Dispatch restaurant review last week was particularly negative. But the reviewer thought enough of the place to post a review, so there’s a bit of validation. (Sometimes reviewers don’t even bother, figuring a bad restaurant will bite the dust soon enough anyway.) The restaurant can process the criticisms and, if they think they’re valid, act on them. At the very least, P-D readers are now aware of the restaurant and its location.

—David Craig


True Story

A friend and his wife went to dinner on a recent weekend evening to celebrate their anniversary. The food, wine and service at this suburban St. Louis County nice-but-casual restaurant were great. They paid with a card they use only occasionally.

A few hours later they received an alert from the card company about a purchase amounting to several hundred dollars from a national specialty goods retail chain. Which my friend nor his wife did not make.

My friend’s wife suggested he call the restaurant. He called Monday and mentioned what had happened and made clear he was not accusing anybody of anything. He just thought it was something he should mention to the people running the place. The person who answered said she would have the manager call him back.

On Tuesday, the manager did call back and immediately went on the defensive, telling my friend that all his people were top notch citizens and nothing like this had ever happened at his place. My friend repeated that he was not accusing anybody of anything, that he (my friend) just thought that he (the manager) might want to know about what had happened. Again, the manager seemed offended that my friend would offer this information. When the call ended, my friend was just a bit upset at the manager’s attitude.

My friend told me that he will not be returning to the restaurant.


That’s the title of Peggy Noonan’s column in the Saturday Wall Street Journal but I’m gonna borrow it for this post. A few thoughts…

  1. Go ahead and ask the price of those off-menu specials your server is touting. Even if he/she says, “I’m not sure. I’ll have to check.” Let her/him check. It might save you from gulping when the check comes.
  2. Fresh corn on the cob! One of the highlights of summer. Do you put salt and/or butter on yours? Don’t. It’s just as delicious without that stuff. (Or should be, depending on where you’re getting yours.)
  3. Been a pulled pork partisan at BBQ joints for the past several years. But had some very good brisket recently and will be drifting back over thataway in the near future. As long as it’s not too dry.
  4. We ate at an Italian joint in Moab, Utah. We ate at a Mexican joint in Gatlinburg. Regretted both. In resort towns, it’s probably best to stick with the people pleaser types of places.
  5. The most generous tipper I know is my daughter. She works in the industry.
  6. I’ve enjoyed some wonderful pizza in my life. But I wonder if I’m the only person who thinks that pizza, in general, is overrated. And, in many cases, way overpriced.
  7. I’d wager that most beer drinkers don’t give a darn whether there’s corn syrup in the brew. Is that something that concerns you?
  8. I picked up the book American Advertising Cookbooks: How Corporations Taught Us To Love Spam, Bananas and Jell-O at St. Louis County Library. Lots of mid-century promotions for various foodstuffs. Trying to decide if a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich is something I might want to try. Suggested in a Hellmann’s ad.
  9. Here is a list of some of the FRIED things you can get at the Illinois State Fair this year: Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers, Milky Way, Keylime Pie, Pecan Pie, Cheesecake, Pickles, Peaches with Ice Cream, Green Tomatoes, Brownie Bomb, Funny Bones, Bacon Wrapped Oreos, Dough-E-Oreos, More Than a S’More, Red Velvet Oreos, Apple Pie Fries. (From the State Fair website. Fair runs August 8-18 in Springfield.)
  10. For the record, I have no problem with Oktoberfest beers being for sale already in grocery stores. I mean, why not?



Back to the Blog

Haven’t posted anything here in a couple of years.

From July 2016 thru August 2018 we spent most of our time in Birmingham. My dad passed away and we worked on the family home, cleaning things out and getting it ready to sell.

Now we are back in St. Louis. I am retired. Not that I’ll never work for money again but I haven’t for a while now. Since I am no longer doing a radio show and catering to advertisers nor am I currently doing PR, social and other marketing work for any food and beverage clients, I can be a bit more candid with my comments on this site.

Like, for instance, I can mention that the St. Louis magazine A-List party last week was a mess. The food was good and sometimes great. It was wonderful to see some folks I hadn’t seen in a long time. But the timing and the logistics were awful. The Sheldon was a bad venue for this event.

We arrived just before 6:00 p.m. and were told that the food would not be served until 6:45 p.m. because of an awards ceremony. We had not purchased tickets to attend an awards ceremony. We wanted to sample the food offerings. At about 6:20 a woman who was an event official told some of us who were waiting in a long line for drinks that she was going to close the bar so people would go to this awards ceremony. As she surveyed the long lines of thirsty people, she wisely reconsidered.

The food was served on three different levels at the Sheldon. Inconvenient but not something we couldn’t handle. Until we got to the third level. A band was playing. They were good. But they were too loud for that smallish room. It made conversation impossible.

The list of restaurants at the A-List party was impressive. Many of the best new joints in St. Louis. Most of the places offered good representations of their cuisine. A few phoned it in but I won’t name names. We got plenty to eat. And I had a couple of Goose Island beers that were tasty.

I understand that events like this party generate good revenue and visibility for the magazine. In my radio and PR work I have helped plan and execute events. My wife and I chaired a few school trivia nights with hundreds of attendees. So I know that events are not easy to pull off. Still, this one was a mess. (I used a less polite term on Facebook. A term that begins with “cluster.”) Let’s hope next year’s party will be better.

More to come.

—David Craig









Taste Of Maplewood 2017

The list of participants offering food and/or drink at Saturday’s Taste of Maplewood Street Festival is stunning!

Maplewood street #1

Here’s a sampling:

Maya Cafe

Bolyard’s Meats and Provisions

Strange Donuts

Vom Fass

Foundation Grounds

The Blue Duck

The Muddled Pig

Reed’s American Table



Mauhaus Cat Cafe



Gus’s Fried Chicken

The Post Sports Bar

Boardwalk Waffles and Ice Cream

Saratoga Lanes

Prioritized Pastries

Larder and Cupboard

Among others. The event begins at noon on Saturday, May 20 and runs til 9:00 p.m. There is musical entertainment throughout the day.

Everything happens on Sutton, south of Manchester in Maplewood.

How about some candied bacon on a stick?

Bacon stick



Click HERE for more info including where to park.

I am honored to be a judge for the competition among vendors for best sweet tooth item, best savory dish, best cocktail and best overall item. Also judging are Mike Arnold who posts on Instagram and Twitter as @GusGusFunBus and Pat McGonigle, personable newsguy for Newschannel 5 (KSDK).

This is a fun event and it’s not just for people in the Maplewood/Mid-County area. Everybody is welcome.

Maplewood street #2






If You’re Gonna Sell Beer…

Various beers

If yours is a dining establishment that offers beer, make sure your servers know what the story is.

That means they should know what beers you have, which ones are on draft and which ones are in bottles. Even if your waiter/waitress is underage and another employee has to physically deliver the beer to your table, the server should have the proper info.

If your list is longer than just a handful, print it out. If it changes frequently, have your servers write it down. Also, if you’re out of a particular beer, your server should not have to go to the bar then come back to the table to tell a diner, “We’re out of….”

Even if your servers personally detest beer, they should have some idea of the nature of various beers. And with brewers offering multiple brews, they should have some familiarity with the styles and names.

I recently went to a restaurant which offers 7 or 8 beers on draft. Bud, Bud Light and a few craft beers. I checked at the bar before I sat down at a booth and knew which one I wanted. When I told the waitress the brew I desired, she asked, “Large or small?” I inquired, “What sizes are those?” She replied, “I don’t know. I just know the large is a dollar more.” Sigh.

Even if your restaurant is known for wine and/or cocktails, some of us may prefer a beer. If you’re going to sell beer to diners, please care enough to get it right. Thanks!