We are fortunate to have very nice neighbors. One of them is named George. He’s also a St. Louis transplant.
This weekend, we had initially made plans to walk to Bar Les Freres to enjoy drinks and a meal. George had bigger ideas: “Let’s go on a food crawl!” We shrugged. OK! I had to work early the next morning and volunteered to be the designated driver.
Jake and I really haven’t explored many restaurants in downtown Clayton. The parking can be tricky and many of the restaurants seemed fancier than what I’m typically in the mood for. George has further explored Clayton and offered to show us a few of his favorite dishes.
FIRST STOP: Bar Les Freres
We’ve curiously driven by Bar Les Freres many times, eying the big chandeliers and plush curtains. At the recent Tasty Takeover event I recapped in March, at least three chefs on the “chef panel” mentioned Bar Les Freres when someone asked them about their last great meal out. We had to go and at least try a drink. I read somewhere that they served absinthe, too.
George was right about how cool the inside of the restaurant is. “It almost looks like someone’s house.” Yes, someone’s really, really cool house. Like, Bruce Wayne’s house.
The restaurant’s tiny bar was filled to capacity. We told the person who greeted us that we did not have reservations and asked if we could just sit on the patio and order drinks. The weather outside was chilly despite the sunshine. We all had coats, though, and wanted to tough it out. The two servers who helped us on the patio were so welcoming and hospitable. They told us that the patio seats first come, first serve on nice days.
We ordered cocktails and George shared an order of poofy gruyere souffles (gougeres). I chose the La Peche.
I don’t mind spending $11-12 on a cocktail if it’s perfect. This was. The combination of champagne, Grand Marnier and some kind of peach liquor tasted balanced and refreshing. The cheese puffs had a texture like tiny popovers; crisp on the outside and buttery inside. They had the most savory cheese flavor.
We look forward to returning again on a nice day. It was fun to sit outside and people watch underneath a blossoming tree. Plus, it’s obvious the restaurant cares too much to give you something not on point.
*If you want to eat dinner inside, make reservations!
SECOND STOP: Barcelona Tapas
The boys shared a pitcher of sangria with some friends at another table. If you think your party is going to order at least two glasses, it’s a much better value. We tried several tapas and liked everything we tried. Prices were reasonable and portion sizes seemed generous. Fried calamari were crispy and tasted fresh and I especially liked the sweet and savory wine sauce served with dish combining grilled beef tenderloin medallions, spinach, and blue cheese.
Going hand in hand with the food, we loved the vibe. We felt very comfortable sitting at the bar enjoying a meal. The restaurant was packed with people from all walks of life. It just had a really nice vibe.
THIRD STOP: John P. Field’s
Just ordered drinks (and in my case, a soda).
FOURTH STOP: Cafe Napoli
I think the server was a little disappointed when I told her I’d stick with water. “Are you sure you can’t have just one drink?” I replied that I’d already had my one drink of the evening.
“The beef carpaccio here is really good,” said George. He observed that the vibe was more subdued than previous visits. The tipsy, dancing people would come out a little later in the evening. We settled into our seats at a high top table near the bar. Our server let us order the beef carpaccio($14) from the restaurant menu next door. The menu described the garnishes as arugula, parmigiana reggiano, red onion, capers & smoked paprika aoli.
There was enough food for us each to make two bruschettas. The beef was silky and tasted good when combined with the bitter arugula, creamy aoli, punchy raw onions and salty capers. The whole dish tasted balanced and the chef seasoned it really well. Simply stated, it was a darn good dish.
LAST STOP: Tani Sushi Bistro
We knew we had possibly crashed an engagement party when someone’s mom handed us cake. “Are you sure,” I asked? She nodded. “Thank you!” we replied and dug into it with our chopsticks.
Tani is really swanky, incredibly loud, well-dressed, and busy. The first floor was packed to the gills so we tried making our way to the top bar where we found some lounge seats. At bars, it’s often a choice between high tops with stools too tall for short people like me to maneuver or nice furniture set around low tables that make you hunch. We were just thankful to find a table.
George really wanted us to try the flaming “Oh My God” sushi roll, aptly named because, well, it’s on fire. The roll is composed of shrimp tempura, crab shrimp, avocado, spicy sauce, and eel.
The fire lasted long enough for us to take photos. As far as size, the roll is the size of a normal sushi roll. However, it is on fire;)
Everything tasted fresh and I liked all of the sauces. The sauce the roll was sitting in tasted very salty, which might be to much for some, but was OK for my tastes. We actually ordered take-out from Tani when we first moved here. We had randomly found them online and placed an order for pick-up. I’d return for another meal either for take-out or on a quieter night. The Saturday evening club-like atmosphere isn’t my thing, but the sushi roll did taste very good.
Five stops later, we arrived home by 10 p.m. Because we’re old;) There are so many restaurants in the area, it’s hard to know where to start. We had a lot of fun walking around and trying some of our friend’s favorite dishes.